Lancaster City Council approves Marriott hotel expansion

LANCASTER, Pa. - The City Council Tuesday night approved a proposal to expand the Marriott hotel at Penn Square.

The council approved the $30 million project after a lengthy public hearing that featured a faulty projector that caused delays and a power outage at City Hall.

The buildings at 14, 16, and 18 King Street will be demolished to make way for the hotel tower.

The members of the public who spoke out urged councilmembers to table the discussion or reject it outright. Under the agreement between the city and developers, the tower will be exempt from property tax.

Former Lancaster Mayor Art Morris spoke at length trying to convince the city not to proceed because of the exemption.

But hotel supporters pushed for its approval, saying the new hotel tower would help the city reach its goal of attracting larger conventions and more of them.

"There needed to be nearly 500, or maybe in some instances, maybe a little more convention-quality hotel rooms," Tom Smithgall, with High Associates, said, citing a 2012 Wells Fargo study on the matter. "The number one deficiency they said was that we didn't have those walkable hotel rooms."

Under the agreement, the city is slated to receive revenue-sharing payments. Some of that revenue would be distributed to the School District of Lancaster, Mayor Rick Gray said.

But opponents pointed out that the current Marriott tower, which opened in 2009 under the same type of agreement, has not yielded revenue-sharing payments to date, and is not guaranteed.

Construction could begin before the end of the year. The tower is expected to open in early 2018.