By Melanie LeCroy / [email protected]
Romar Beach Baptist Church and Retreat Center could soon have a new life as a hotel after the Orange Beach City Council approved to rezone the 1.8-acre property.
Romar Beach Baptist Church has faced many trials since its beginning. The original beach front building was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. The church rebuilt and dedicated the current building in 2008. COVID-19 caused a loss of retreat revenue. Then Hurricane Sally caused major water damage to the interior and building systems and destroyed the beach front boardwalk. The damage was estimated at over $600,000.
Repairs have been ongoing for the last year despite being listed for sale for $6.5 million according to a June 15, 2020, article by The Alabama Baptist.
A&R Group in Gulf Shores, on the behalf of Romar Beach Baptist Church Inc., requested the 1.8-acre property be rezoned from RM-2 to PUD for the purpose of converting the existing building into a hotel. The RM-2 zoning did not allow for a hotel but did allow for a condo building. The Orange Beach City Council considered this as a downzoning in the property.
“This is a change in zoning but it’s a down zoning not an up zoning,” said Councilmember Annette Mitchell.
The existing building has five floors and an attached parking garage with two levels. The proposed hotel will be an Aloft by Marriott with 76 lodging rooms. Plans call for extending floors three, four and five over the parking deck to increase the square footage. The Orange Beach Planning Commission and City Council pushed for a coastal look on the exterior of the building. The council did not feel the current plan met their requirement.
The public hearing did have opposition from the neighboring property to the west. Ian and Ben Boles are the owners of Beach Music which has several four- and eight-bedroom duplexes that are used as short-term vacation rentals.
“This is going to be a major detriment to our property. It’s going to be five stories where now it is two stories as far as where our main houses are. It’s going to block out a lot of the view, a lot of the sun. We just feel like it’s wrong and it is bringing in more than what is currently there,” Boles said to the council.
Councilmember Jeff Boyd made a motion to suspend the rule to allow for immediate consideration of the ordinance amendment. The council vote was unanimous in favor. The ordinance amendment was passed unanimously with a condition to enhance the coastal look of the project and submit the revised drawings to the City Council for approval before construction.
During the regular session, the council:
- Passed a resolution appropriating funds in the amount of $217,451.95 to Makos Academics, Arts and Athletics Club.
- Passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a Memorandum of Agreement with the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau to fund athletic facility upgrades
- Passed a resolution adopting the 2021 Baldwin County Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.
- Passed a resolution authorizing execution of an agreement between the Baldwin County Commission, the city of Orange Beach and the Orange Beach Planning Commission concerning subdivision regulations within the planning jurisdiction of the municipal planning commission.
- Passed a resolution declaring city property as surplus and unneeded and authorizing the Mayor and City Clerk to dispose of such property.
- Passed a resolution declaring a vehicle owned by the city as surplus and unneeded and authorizing the donation to the Back Country Trail Foundation, Inc.
- Passed a resolution authorizing execution of a Second Amended and Restated Fiber optics Development Agreement with Island Fiber, relating to “Fiber at Home” services. This increases a loan commitment to Island Fiber from the original $1.2 million in November 2019 to a total of $3.4 million.
- Passed a resolution awarding the bid for Fire Station 5 bay relocations to Sun Coast Buildings in an amount not to exceed $163,200.
- Passed a resolution declaring the Fire Station 5 apparatus bay structure located at The Wharf owned by the city of Orange Beach as surplus and authorizing the sale to Wharf Retail Properties, LLC.
- Passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of two using vehicles for the police department from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs in the amount of $28,000.
- Passed a resolution appropriating funds to South Baldwin Regional Medical Center for the purpose of sponsoring employs appreciation days in the amount of $1,000.