Elkins City Council voted this week to authorize spending $19,140 to conduct a feasibility study exploring whether a hotel could be built in the vacant lot behind City Hall.
One council member, Mark Scott of 3rd Ward, objected to the move because he felt the study was not broad enough.
"The scope of work is just to see if it is suitable for a hotel," Scott said during Thursday's meeting. "I would be more inclined to vote for it if it checked for all businesses."
Council approved the expense and a budget adjustment to pay for the study. The contract was awarded to REVPAR International. Scott was the only council member to vote against the measure.
The city has been working with the Randolph County Development Authority to set up the study and assist with the possibility of locating a hotel in the lot. RCDA Executive Director Robbie Morris was on hand during Thursday's meeting and was invited to join the conversation.
"One of the major considerations is what could go there and not go anywhere else," Morris said. "Another hotel cannot go into the railyard because of the restrictive building covenants."
Morris said the parking lot would be a prime location for a hotel if the property is found to be suitable. He said it is close to the downtown area with tourist attractions already in place.
"The American Mountain Theater and the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad can use another hotel," he said. "There is a demand for hotel rooms that meet the expectations of the tourists coming to the area."
Morris said he contacted a hotel developer to look at the lot and give it an "eye test," and was told that a hotel in the lot was possible.
"If we could get a hotel in that lot, it would be a prime spot," Morris said.
Councilwoman Marilynn Cuonzao, 4th Ward, said one of the concerns is that the lot behind City Hall is an important piece of property.
"The fact of the matter is that another hotel cannot go into the railyard, but there can be parking," she said.
Councilwoman and Municipal Property Committee Chair Nanci Bross-Fregonara, 4th Ward, said her committee wants to conduct the study to help council make better decisions on what to do with the lot. She said the committee did not feel comfortable about making the decision of selling or leasing the property without having a study in hand.
"Everybody would benefit from this," Bross-Fregonara said.
Councilman Joe Sabatino, 5th Ward, said the hotel would be a benefit to Elkins as a whole because it would bring more people to the downtown area.
"We really want people to stay as close to downtown as possible, if it is feasible," he said.