Milton might do hotel study

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012
— The city of Milton is considering a study that could suggest whether the area near Highway 59 and the future Highway 26 bypass would be a good spot for a hotel.

In a meeting Tuesday, the Milton City Council directed the city to seek proposals for a study that would show, among other things, whether the Highway 26/59 corridor is a suitable location, and whether projected traffic and occupancy demand would support a hotel there.

The city now has no overnight lodging.

Officials have discussed development of a hotel in Milton for years, but new talks have surfaced in recent months amid the pending Highway 26 bypass project.

Preliminary studies by the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism show that a demand for hotel occupancy in the Janesville area has grown while available hotel rooms have tapered off, chamber Director Christina Slaback told the council Tuesday.

The chamber and the city are looking to learn in greater depth what that trend means for Milton, Slaback said.

The study could cost $5,000 to $15,000, officials estimated.

The area surrounding the Highway 26/59 corridor is in a tax increment financing district, which means the city could offer developers incentives to build there once highway construction is completed.

City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said in an interview that the city recently had a "soft inquiry" from a hotel developer who is interested in the Highway 26/59 corridor.

Schuetz said the city has learned that in most cases, hotel developers are investor-generated and franchised out, and most want municipalities to have a hotel feasibility study in hand before they'll consider a site.

A hotel study could take a few months, but depending what the city learned, it might have to act fast, Slaback said. Hotel studies tend to have a shorter shelf life than feasibility studies.

Councilman Brett Frazier, who is director of the chamber of commerce in Oregon, agreed.

The time will be ripe in the next two years for development, with the Highway 26 bypass slated for completion, Frazier said. The city would be wasting time and money if it did the study and shelved it for years.

"It doesn't make any sense to do this if we're not motivated for the recruitment process," he said.

Slaback and Schuetz said the study would be detailed and comprehensive enough that if the city learned that the Highway 26/59 corridor was not suitable for a hotel, it could use it to woo other possible developments, Schuetz and Slaback said.

Mayor Tom Chesmore said the city should be willing to show hotel developers it's serious about spurring growth along the new bypass.

"My personal opinion, if you aren't willing to send out for RFPs (study proposals), you're sending a message that you don't want a hotel," Chesmore said.

Last updated: 8:40 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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