Overruling complaints from a competing innkeeper, the Mountain View City Council on Tuesday approved a new 74-room Holiday Inn to replace a shuttered Denny's restaurant on Leong Drive.
City officials had already approved the three-story hotel in September during an Adminstrative Zoning meeting, but a neighboring hotel appealed that decision to the council days later.
C.K. Shah, who manages the nearby County Inn, asked that the city reject the proposed hotel, alleging it would bring numerous problems to the neighborhood. He cited increased traffic, parking demand and possible environmental concerns stemming from high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the soil and groundwater.
Speaking before the council, Shah said he was also upset the city was willing to bend the rules for the new hotel. His project never received these perks, he said.
"The planning department has decided to change the ground rules that we were faced with, " he said. "When we went through the planning commission, they had rejected everything that they're doing right now."
The city did grant some exceptions to the proposed Holiday Inn, allowing it to be built taller and with less parking than city policies would normally require. Senior Planner Diane Pancholi said that those exceptions were given in exchange for public benefits, including allowing local government and nonprofit groups to use the future hotel's meeting space free of charge. Pancholi said she was confident that all the issues raised by the appeal had already been addressed.
City Council members signaled they agreed with the staff assessment.
"As a small business owner, I'd also be concerned about a competitor moving in next to me," said Councilman John McAlister, who owns a Baskin Robbins shop. "But the items you wish to dispute, I just don't see merit in it."
The council rejected the appeal and approved the project in a 6-0 vote with Mayor Ken Rosenberg absent.
One concern that did prompt a lively discussion was the local Middlefield-Ellis-Whisman Superfund plume of contaminated groundwater. Recent soil gas samples taken from the Denny's site showed considerable TCE contamination, which reportedly stemmed from a leaking sewer line nearby. In some cases, recent soil gas samples from the site were approximately 14,000 times greater than the EPA safety threshold expected to be enforced for the future development.
TCE is a known carcinogen with any means of prolonged exposure, according to the EPA. In Mountain View, the primary risk from the toxic chemical, which was widely used in the semiconductor industry, is when vapors from contaminated groundwater seep through the soil and build up to hazardous levels inside structures.
Nevertheless, EPA officials at the meeting said the project could go forward as long as it included a rigorous cleanup and treatment program. Council members quizzed an EPA representative on the safety concerns at the site.
"In order to build on the property as part of the mitigation measures, we're requiring the reduction of TCE in the soil gas and groundwater contamination," said Alana Lee, the EPA's vapor intrusion project manager. "The concern is the volatilization of TCE into the airspace of the workplace and living space of this new development."
As part of the approvals, the developer will be required to minimize dust and water runoff coming from the construction. In addition, the builder will be obligated to follow a long set of safety protocols for its workers. The developers also must put together a vapor intrusion control plan to show how their building is preventing exposure to toxic vapors. EPA officials will reportedly be monitoring the site to ensure these safety goals are achieved.