Parents in the Birdville school district, upset over plans for an extended stay hotel next to Walker Creek Elementary School, say they will protest the proposal at Monday’s city council meeting.
At issue are concerns that sex offenders could stay at the hotel next to the school, although city officials and the developer assured them that outdoor areas such as the swimming pool would have high fences and would be screened from view.
Jennifer Mathews, who lives in the Home Town development near the proposed hotel site, said she is worried about the safety of children at the school.
“This is the wrong development in the wrong place,” Mathews said, suggesting that the hotel could locate farther to the east, closer to restaurants and stores.
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Monday, the city council will decide whether to approve a request from Cromwell Hospitality to build Towne Place Suites by Marriott, at 9000 Hawke Ave., north of the Home Town development, on the east side.
Mathews has two children who attended Walker Creek but go to Smithfield Middle and Birdville High schools.
“Putting up screening still does not protect our children from sexual predators who could stay at the hotel,” Mathews said.
Earlier this month, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the request on a 4-3 vote, with stipulations that parking be removed from the west side of the property, according to meeting minutes.
Commissioners who voted against the request also cited concerns about emails from the public and the safety of children.
Sanjiv Melwani, a developer for the hotel project said in an emailed statement, “The concerns of our neighbors are the very same we address for our team, guests and asset through our security infrastructure and measures along with our operating and safety procedures.
“Our team is thoroughly trained to be vigilant and, in conjunction with management, pro-actively take decisive steps to deal with safety or security issues. We will maintain close ties with our local law enforcement teams,” Melwani wrote..
City officials said North Richland Hills would benefit from a high-end extended stay hotel that would attract business travelers with an average income of more than $100,000 who want a convenient, homelike place to stay close to amenities such as restaurants, stores and banquet facilities.
Mary Peters, a spokeswoman for the city, wrote in an email to the Star-Telegram that the proposed hotel is in an area zoned for commercial mixed use. It is within walking distance of restaurants and other venues such as the NYTEX Sports Center and the Grand Hall, a banquet and meeting space at the North Richland Hills Center.
It is also close to the North Richland Hills Library and Maker Space, NRH2O Family Water Park and the Birdville school district fine arts and athletics complex.
“North Richland Hills is currently underserved by hotels and in particular by quality hotels such as Marriott, Hyatt or Hilton, which drives business travelers and visitors to hotels outside of our community,” Peters wrote.
Peters added that the city asked the developer not to put hotel room windows on the side of the building facing the school and wants the entrance situated away from the building. The developer agreed to the requests, she said.
Hotels also are aware who comes and goes, as guests are required to show identification when checking in. The school also has security that restricts access, Peters said.
Brett Giese, whose children attend Walker Creek, said although the risk of having a sexual predator at the hotel is small, he is still concerned.
“The hotel would bring in a lot of travelers, it would bring in a lot of transients,” Giese said.
“That is the purpose of an extended-stay hotel.” he said.
The hotel site is also near the playground and the area where children are dropped off and picked up, he said.
Giese said he is not against development but wants the hotel built elsewhere.
Mark Thomas, Birdville School district communications officer, said teachers, administrators and trustees had shared their concerns with city officials, along with parents and community members, and now they’re just awaiting the decision from the city council.
“We don’t get a say in this,” Thomas said.