From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 36 - November 30, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Motel moratorium proposed

by Cat Urbigkit

The Pinedale Town Council met in regular session Monday evening, with the hot topic of discussion being Sublette County Joint Tourism Board member John Godfrey asking the council to consider imposing a moratorium on any further construction of motels and hotels within town limits. The council declined to take action on the idea.

Godfrey said there is a saying around Pinedale to the effect of “Welcome to Pinedale, hope you can find a place to stay.”

Godfrey said what concerns him, as a resident, is the number of inquiries received about other potential facilities, adding that there has even been some interest in locating a Hampton Inn in Pinedale.

Godfrey asked the town to consider imposing a moratorium on further development of hotels or motels until more thought has gone into the matter.

Offering “a word of caution and concern,” Godfrey said concern is Pinedale’s future as a “ghost town.”

With the 100-room High Country Suites housing facility commonly referred to as the Halliburton Hotel, the council had little to say, Godfrey said, adding that at least in that case the council knew it could be converted into an extended stay motel for the public.

Godfrey said that the council can only react at this point, but if it were to put a moratorium in place until a master plan for such development could be put in place, the council could control development.

Tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy, Godfrey said, so town leaders need to consider what the town will be like once the natural gas boom is over. Godfrey also added that he’s heard talk about building cheaper motels, then plowing them under when boom is over.

“It’s been talked about at fairly high levels,” he said.

Pinedale Town Councilman David Smith jumped on what he called Godfrey’s “about face” on the issue, noting that the community has constantly heard about there not being enough rooms for tourists to have a place to stay in Pinedale, only to now have Godfrey’s call for a moratorium.

“I don’t think it’s been an about-face from our board,” Godfrey said, but Smith disagreed, saying, “That’s exactly what you said”

Councilman Gary Heuck noted that when faced with the proposal to add 60 units to the Best Western, there were several local motel owners who complained that there were too many motel rooms already and the additional rooms could harm their businesses.

“We’ve been over this ground one other time,” Heuck said, adding that the town cannot impede the construction of more motels, if they meet the building codes.

“If somebody wants to come and build a big hotel, let them,” Smith said.

Godfrey said that with the 60-room addition to the Best Western, the opening of the AmeriHost, and the Halliburton facility, the town has 240 more rooms today than when the town relied on tourism to fill motels.

Smith said, “That’s not our problem.”

Godfrey responded, “Our problem is how we want this community to look.”

Mayor Stephen Smith pointed out that the council has to approve any construction over $500,000, which also serves as a sort of check on the system.

Godfrey said the town needs to think about whether further motels would be competition or a liability in the future.

Smith called Godfrey’s idea to restrict development for one segment of the local economy “un-American.”

Smith and Godfrey continued to argue the matter until Mayor Smith called a halt to the discussion and moved the council on to other agenda items.

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