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Taos considers allowing four-story hotels

August 27, 2016 GMT

TAOS — The town of Taos is considering zoning changes to draw modern, four-story hotels to the community.

“From an economic development standpoint, we need to do something in the realm of hotels,” said Louis Fineberg, town planning director, adding that most hotel owners find it difficult to build under four stories.

The proposed zoning changes would allow for the construction of large-scale “Taos-style” hotels that exceed the town’s current height restriction.

The Town Council is expected to consider the changes at a special meeting Monday.

The changes are part of a new “hotel overlay zone” proposed by the town’s planning department.

The overlay would also require that hotels conform to the “Pueblo, Spanish Revival” design. As an example, planners point to the Inn and Spa at Loretto in downtown Santa Fe, which has terraced levels that mimic the iconic buildings of Taos Pueblo.

As proposed, the overlay would have applied only to existing “highway corridor protection district” zones. There are two such zones — one along Paseo del Pueblo Sur near Este Es Road and another on the south side of Paseo del Cañón across from the Taos Youth and Family Center.

In a Thursday news release, the town said it would not ask the council to approve the hotel overlay zone at Paseo del Cañon.

Structures in that zone are limited to 27 feet. The proposed overlay zone would allow for taller buildings that meet certain design standards. The proposed changes would allow for four-story hotels that reach as high as 50 feet.

The overlay would not change the requirements of the zone, but would be in addition to those limitations.

A developer for a Holiday Inn Express at the south end of town who wanted to exceed the current height restrictions had the application rejected by the planning commission.

At a meeting in July, the commission chose not to recommend the application, which proposed an 85-room hotel just north of the Hampton Inn Taos, 1515 Paseo del Pueblo Sur. The hotel would have been 53,000 square feet, consisted of four stories and reached 53 feet.

The planning commission recommended the application be denied. “It was painful not to approve it,” Doug Patterson, a member of the commission, said at an Aug. 3 meeting.

At the same meeting, the town’s fire marshal shared an anecdote that the two-story height limit was put in place because the fire department’s ladder truck could only reach that high. The fire marshal said the department is now equipped to protect structures as high as six stories.

Opponents of the Holiday Inn project spoke against the proposal at the July meeting and applauded the commission’s decision.

At its Aug. 6 meeting, the town’s planning and zoning commission unanimously recommended the hotel overlay zone be adopted by the town council.

This story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister paper to The New Mexican.