TAOS – After a community divide was put on full display at a crowded public hearing at a Taos Town Council Tuesday night, the developer of a planned Holiday Inn Express said he will ask the hotel chain’s corporate office if the building design can be reduced from four to three stories. The council voted late Tuesday to defer consideration of the issue until August.
The Holiday Inn would be the first four-story building in Taos and by some accounts would be the highest building in town. The council previously approved a hotel overlay zoned which allows a height of up to 48 feet.
“The last thing I intended to do was to divide this community,” Columbus, Ohio-based developer Jay Batra said in the packed council chambers. “I don’t want this to be a battle, I wanted to win the community. Either do a three-story or let’s not do it at all.”
Mayor Daniel Barrone responded, “Thank you for being the man you are … we need more jobs and I think you are bringing jobs to our community.”
Barrone later issued a statement saying he will work with Batra “to find a design that can be built.”
The Holiday Inn would be located on Paseo del Pueblo Sur, near the southern town limits and next to a Hampton Inn that Batra also owns. Batra also requested that a three-story hotel plan be “fast paced” if he gets Holiday Inn to agree to the reduced height.
Opponents blasted the hotel’s size and its corporate origins. One said the Holiday Inn would convert Taos from a distinctive community “into the Cancun of the southern Rockies.” A speaker from Taos Pueblo described the Pueblo-style design as “corporate colonialism.”
But supporters of the Holiday Inn described existing Taos’ existing lodgings as decrepit and a drag on Taos’ crucial tourist economy and said proliferating Airbnb rentals are driving up housing costs for locals. “Taos needs new hotels,” stated a sign displayed in the audience.
Three Taos police officers stood by. Speaker Bob Silver said, “we don’t really need that.” He congratulated Batra. “We can come together as a community,” he said.