City grants variance for new hotel in midtown area

By HASKEL BURNS,

Plans are underway for a new hotel in midtown Hattiesburg, with Hattiesburg City Council members voting 5-0 Tuesday to allow a variance for four stories – rather than the current zoning that allows three stories – for a proposed Comfort Inn and Suites at the southwest corner of North 39th Avenue and Montague Boulevard.

The Hattiesburg Board of Adjustment had previously voted to recommend the measure, based on a petition filed by owner B.B. Patel. Patel presented the argument that the height variance was necessitated because a three-story hotel can only accommodate 52 rooms, while a four-story hotel would allow for 66 rooms.

“(The current) B-3 (zoning designation) allows for three stories in height, so they are requesting an additional story so they can go to four stories,” said Ginger Lowrey, Planning Division Manager at the city’s Urban Development Department. “A few years back, that property was rezoned from B-2 to B-3.

“The design process has not really even started with us officially – they wanted to see if they could get the height variance before they moved forward with any design process.”

The variance follows two other four-story height variances allowed by council over the past few years: one in August 2013 for the La Quinta Inn on Lundy Lane, and another in December 2018 for the upcoming Avid Hotel at the intersection of North 40th Avenue and Lundy Lane. According to city documents, the Comfort Inn and Suites variance was granted under the Special Privilege criteria, as the “project is not financially viable at less than four stories.”

In addition to Patel’s petition, several property owners in the area – including J. Ward Conville, Mary Moore Conville, Ron Savell and Andy Stetelman – submitted letters to council in favor of allowing the variance.

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