Hotel lawsuit settlement between Oberlin and college includes parking and fire truck access

By Evan Goodenow -

The Hotel at Oberlin will soon be accepting reservations.

Settlement of a lawsuit filed by Oberlin College against the city April 5 will allow the 70-room hotel to open on schedule next month and replace the Oberlin Inn. City council members approved the settlement Wednesday night.

The hotel at East College and North Main streets is part of a $38 million project that includes the future opening of a conference center accommodating up to 300 people. Construction began in 2014.

The settlement allows for angled parking on East College that the college wanted while providing fire truck access that city officials insisted on.

City officials said angled parking spaces outside the hotel would hamper fire truck access and water pipe connections to the hotel violating the fire code and endangering lives. They wouldn’t issue a permit for sidewalk construction outside the hotel and and an occupancy permit, seeking a 40-foot fire lane with no parking along East College in front of the center.

However, the settlement permits 14 angled spaces on East College while allowing the fire department’s 48-foot aerial ladder truck and its 100-foot ladder to get within 30 feet of the 105,000-square-foot building.

The distance is needed to stabilize the truck when the ladder is extended.

Fire chief Robert Hanmer told council members before their vote that the agreement allows the aerial truck to set up on East College by the Apollo Theater with full access to the four-story building. “It maximizes the use of the ladder from one spot,” Hanmer said.

City and college officials spent about nine hours Tuesday negotiating the settlement behind closed doors at the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. “It’s what I consider a great compromise and an excellent final product, ” acting city manager Sal Talarico told council.

The settlement was also a relief to college officials whose lawsuit demanded financial penalties if the hotel opening was delayed. “We’re very, very pleased,” said Tita Reed, college assistant to the president for community and government relations.

Law director Jon Clark said after the vote that the key to breaking the impasse was Hanmer’s proposal to move the pumper truck fire lane needed for water pipe connections from East College to North Main freeing up the spaces. “Then everything just kind of fell into place,” Clark said.

Other elements of the settlement include a 60-foot, no-parking, fire truck zone, relocation of two fire hydrants of which the college will take ownership, and a 15-foot wide sidewalk on the south side of the building. The college will also pay for an additional communication panel by the hotel lobby to coordinate firefighting.

The settlement ends months of bickering between city and college officials and representatives of Smart Hotels, the project developer.

Before voting, council members discussed the agreement for about 45 minutes in a private session. Council member Sharon Pearson, a college employee, was absent.

The session ended with applause and laughter.

The agreement was also cheered by Matt Adelman, planning commission chairman. Adelman has long contended there is room for parking without compromising safety.

Former fire chief Dennis Kirin, who retired in June, previously said the spaces violated the fire code. Adelman, who said more parking is needed to support East College businesses, praised Hanmer and college officials for compromising.

“I’m glad people are working together,” he said. “Hopefully, that culture continues.”

Evan Goodenow at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter

By Evan Goodenow