Ar­ling­ton chal­lenges clo­sure no­tice

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID SHOWERS

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.

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