Arlington challenges closure notice
The new owner of the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa challenged the city’s authority Wednesday to close the hotel out of concerns for public safety, claiming that the threat of closure has cost the hotel and area economy $1 million.
The action filed with the Hot Springs Board of Zoning Adjustments by Little Rock attorney John K. Baker on behalf of Sky Capital Group LP said the enforcement letter the city’s chief building official issued Aug. 10 isn’t compliant with the notice and order provision of the city’s property maintenance code.
It requires notices to state violations of the code. The enforcement letter said
the city would close the hotel if repairs to the exterior cited in an engineering report the hotel contracted last year aren’t completed by Nov. 8. The city said last week that specific code violations won’t be listed until citations are issued.
A news release Sky Capital issued Wednesday said the letter has harmed the hotel, which, according to property records, was part of the $5.03 million purchase Sky Capital made last month. The Arlington Hotel Co. Inc. financed the sale and holds the mortgage on the property.
The release said Sky Capital is planning a $30 million phased restoration that will allow the hotel to remain open during the renovation.
“The recent negative publicity triggered by the city’s Aug. 10 letter has had a negative impact on hotel operations, with an estimated $1 million in lost revenues and associated losses to area restaurants, attractions and vendors,” the release said. “The Arlington employs more than 200 full-time, part-time and contract staffers and is a large customer of dozens of local vendors that would be adversely affected if the hotel were completely shut down during renovations.”
The filing also challenges the city’s authority to close the hotel, claiming that such action is the prerogative of the courts.
“Only a court — not the city — has the authority to convict and punish violations of the Hot Springs code of ordinances,” the filing said. “Accordingly, the purported decision pronounced in the letter — closure of the hotel — is beyond the city’s authority and is, therefore, illegal.”
The filing claims the Nov. 8 deadline is “arbitrary” and based only meteorological projections that indicate the possibility of freezing temperatures by that date. The engineering report the hotel commissioned after the city sent it a notice of unsafe conditions in June 2016 said the potential for falling brick and plaster is more likely after a freeze-and-thaw cycle.
“(The deadline) is based not on a reasonable assessment of the time required to complete the design, approval and work, but on the entirely hypothetical date on which a forecast weather event is just as likely to occur as it is not to occur,” the filing said.
“Requiring the Arlington to complete not only the expensive, time consuming and complicated design and approval process, but also the actual repairs by Nov. 8 is not only arbitrary but also unrealistic and imposes an undue hardship.”
Sky Capital CEO Al Rajabi said he’s working to get the necessary approvals from the city’s Historic District Commission and the state’s Historic Preservation Program.
“We hope to clear up any and all issues with the city quickly so we can return our focus to restoring the crown jewel of the Hot Springs skyline and tourism industry,” he said in the release.
Neither Rajabi nor the city could be reached for comment Wednesday.