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July 10, 2013

Hotel vote set for next week

SALEM — Circle next Thursday on your calendar because the City Council has marked down that evening for a vote on a key piece of a $46 million downtown hotel development.

If there is strong opposition to a proposal to sell a half-acre of city land to developer RCG, it was not apparent last night at a sparsely attended City Council public hearing.

Even the City Council had a poor turnout, with only seven of 11 councilors present. As a result, the hearing was continued to July 18, with the promise that a vote will be taken that night.

Mayor Kim Driscoll, who proposed the land sale and wants to see the project get moving, rose from her chair several times to question Council President Jerry Ryan about the date for a vote.

“The developer needs to know whether they can incorporate the (city) property into the development ... and move forward,” she said at one point.

“It will be voted on the 18th,” Ryan said.

RCG, the most active downtown developer, came before the city several months ago with a proposal for a 100-room hotel, apartments, retail stores and offices on a 1-acre site it owns at the corner of Dodge and Washington streets. City planners suggested adding a piece of a Riley Plaza East parking lot so the development could be built closer to Washington Street, an idea both the mayor and developer liked.

RCG was the only developer to respond to the city’s legal advertisement to sell the land and abandon part of a roadway right-of-way, proposing $275,000 for the deal, the amount of a land appraisal.

Even members of the audience who spoke in the “opposition” section of last night’s hearing said they weren’t really opposed, just not sure what they thought or not necessarily in favor.

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