Water an issue with new hotel

editor@sierrastar.comFebruary 25, 2014 

Hotel developer-operator Paul Patel feels Madera County is placing unfair demands on his four-story, 108-room Holiday Inn Express he wants to build on the west side of Highway 41 between the Glass Hut and the Oakhurst Fruit Stand — county representatives say they just want Patel to do what state building codes require him to to.

Patel plans on building three hotels on the six-acre site — the first being a Holiday Inn Express, followed by two additional hotels, a 108-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, and a 108-room Hampton Inn.

While the property still needs to be hooked up to Hillview Water Co, the county is requiring an additional 468,000 gallons of water storage for fire protection for the three hotels that total 180,000 square-feet.

Deborah Keenan, Madera County Fire Marshall, said the county is following the State Fire Code that spells out, based on square-footage, what the building requires for water storage in addition to interior water sprinklers. She also noted that Hillview Water Co. can provide about 1,100 gallons per minute of water to the property, but state code requires 3,000 gallons per minute.

“We have been working with Mr. Patel and his design team since last April to mitigate this issue,” Keenan said. “The original proposal required 4,000 gallons of water per minute for the project, but by modifying their building design, they reduced the water requirement to 3,000 gallons per minute.

Keenan said the developer was advised from the start that Oakhurst has a water supply issue.

“Mr. Patel was advised they would have this hurdle to cross,” Keenan said. “We need to protect people staying in the hotel and fire fighters, and reduce the liability to the county.”

Patel said if the water tank and other issues can not be worked out with the county, he will consider moving the the project out of Madera County, to Mariposa County or Fish Camp (in Mariposa County).

“And I’m not joking,” Patel said. “There is no need to waste money on this huge (water storage) tank. If it was necessary, I would be happy to do it, but I feel it is not necessary at all. It’s not a matter of money.”

Madera County Director of Planning and Building Norman Allinder, said his department has worked extensively with the developer over the water storage issue and many other building code and fire code issues.

“Instead of participating in the plan approval process, Mr. Patel is attempting to negotiate items that would undermine basic life safety requirements,” Allinder said. “We have had numerous meetings over the past several months with the project team, and it is unfortunate at this time that the developer is unable to meet the minimum requirements of the 2013 California Building Code, and California Fire Code. We remain optimistic that the developer will at a later date meet the minimum requirements to ensure the safety of the future occupants and existing community of Oakhurst.”

Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler hopes the county and the developer can work things out.

“This project will bring both jobs and tourism revenue to our county so it is my hope that we can work through these issues and see the project move forward,” Wheeler said. “Our staff is committed to working with the Patels, and will do all they can to facilitate the process while complying with necessary safety requirements.”

Although the county planning and building department has issued an “at risk” grading permit, building permits have not been issued and will not be issued until the project receives ‘plan approval,” according to Allinder. Patel said the three combined hotels would provide 100 jobs for the area and $1.5 million annually in Transient Occupancy Tax (bed tax) and property tax for the county.

The hotels are being developed by the Patel family and Paul Patel is the general contractor for the three properties.

When the three hotels open, the 324 rooms will increase the number of hotel rooms currently in Oakhurst (534) by about 60%.

Patel said during the busy season, about 1,000 people will be staying in the three hotels, and those people would be spending a lot of money in the area.

“Many businesses in Oakhurst, especially restaurants, would feel the positive financial impact the people staying in these hotels would bring them,” Patel said.

The Patel family also owns two other Highway 41 properties — the 117-room Comfort Inn (adjacent to H & L Lumber), and the 14-room Hounds Tooth Inn (just south of the Golden Chain Theatre) for two years.

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