Critics: No Cheap Hotels on Rt. 28

A plan to build a low-budget hotel along Rt. 28 in Sterling is finding opposition, both in county government and in the industry.

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has scheduled a Dec. 2 vote on Sandpiper Hospitality IV’s application for a special exception to build a 126-room hotel just north of Sterling Boulevard on the west side of the highway.

Critics say the proposed hotel lacks amenities, such as a restaurant, that should be expected by visitors staying in the Rt. 28 corridor. That concern carried weight with the county Planning Commission, which last month voted 5-3 to recommend denial of the application.

It also has the attention of county supervisors.

“This hotel in my mind—and I don’t think I want to call it a hotel, I think that is being generous—is not compatible with any of the other ones in this area,” Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said during a public hearing on the project last week. He and other supervisors said the hotel didn’t fit with the vision they’ve established for development along Rt. 28.

Representing Value Plan extended-stay hotel chain’s management company, Colleen Gillis said the 3-acre tract was not large enough to accommodate a restaurant or other amenities and that the Rt. 28 market already was well-served with higher-end hotels.

Opposition also is coming from Visit Loudoun, the county’s tourism agency. In a letter to supervisors, President and CEO Beth Erickson urged the board to stick with plans to promote the development of full-service hotels with at least 200 rooms in the corridor. She also raised concerns that the introduction of a low-cost hotel could result in a setback for the county’s hotel industry, which is showing a slow rebound, both in room rates and daily occupancy, following the recession. At an average daily rate of $111, Loudoun hotels charge nearly double that of Value Plan hotels in other areas.

A representative of property owner Stephen V. Mullaney raised an entirely different concern, however.

Attorney Benjamin D. Leigh said the hotel fits well on the property and that Mullaney had rejected other uses, such as warehouses. He questioned whether the price charged for rooms should be an element of debate in review of a land-use application. “My client is extremely concerned about an improper basis for a zoning decision being made on anti-competitive sentiment,” he said.

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