The following letter to the editor was written by Wilmette resident Steve Messutta in response to Monday's article Plan Commission Members Voice Opposition to Marriott Construction.
Everyone fears what is not already a known quantity. I fear vacant buildings and a stagnant tax base, especially for our schools, and this is Wilmette School District 39, which is small and our taxes are already pretty steep.
My family lives about a mile north, nestled among Loyola Academy, New Trier West, the Skokie Material Yard, the high tension electric lines and even the State's Northfield salt dome. If you want to see traffic, come by us some school morning or afternoon, or evening or game day. If you want to hear the Edens, feel free.
Earlier: Residents Disagree with Staff Report on Wilmette Marriott
Right now at the proposed site for this Marriott you have a three-story building oriented mostly east-west that reflects traffic noise off the Edens at its residential neighbors to the west. Oh what I wouldn't give to have a relatively taller building blocking some of that noise, but not so close that it cast shadows on my back yard. A few years ago there was talk of "sound walls" along the Edens. Fat chance today.
As a development attorney I know what you can and what you can't do on a site like this, and how long this building has been foundering. If it was really re-tenanted for office use, you'd have constant traffic, in-out, in-out, plus a sea of cars for workers. As a hotel, you normally have a full lot overnight and by morning it's typically empty. Since Old Glenview Road has no direct access to the residential streets to the west, there should be no issue. Just pity the people heading out in the morning at the light on Old Orchard.
As to taxes, office buildings are based on net income and hotels are based on occupancy. The way this building has foundered, it is most likely paying a pittance of what a well managed hotel would pay. So if you want business to help defray school costs and plowing your streets, think yes and don't spite your face.
While I can think of many other reasons to support this upgrade in use, one strikes me as the pure fear factor. Just like so many other businesses today, I think the word "hotel" is about as outdated a word when applied to a Residence Inn, as the word "bakery" is applied to a place like Corner Bakery, Panera or Three Tarts in Northfield. "Hotel" is really a zoning word, cold and stark.
Instead, my family needed interim housing for five weeks back in the late 90s. There was nothing around here. We wound up at a Marriott in Deerfield. It was less a hotel than it was like a condominium with benefits -- common areas, breakfast and afternoon snacks, laundry, other amenities and no association. While I know we have the Hampton Inn and Extended Stay nearby, this provides an alternative and is far more akin to a residential arrangement than it is to a hotel. Since this Marriott will have no restaurant, we're not talking additional traffic.
Yes, what you can't see in front of you might seem scary, but with proper site management, having a good taxpayer and neighbor can be a good thing. Not so scary.
What do you think of the proposed Marriott? Tell us in the comments section.