Residents voice concern over extended stay hotel proposal under consideration in Port Arthur

Published 12:20 am Thursday, January 18, 2024

PORT ACRES — A Texas developer looking to turn a long vacant building in a residential area into an extended stay hotel is facing opposition from residents.

Farhan Coker is requesting a zoning change from the current low-density residential to commercial retail zone for property located at 2689 65th St. in Port Acres. The site was formerly Gaspard’s Nursing Home and later as Shepherd’s Inn Gaspard Center Hospitality House, where people would stay while visiting an inmate locally.

At a recent public hearing Coker said he understands the concern from Councilman Harold Doucet has for the residential area but the commercial structure was already on the site, vacant and subject to being vandalized.

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Coker said in hindsight he should have done a better job at feasibility of the property before the purchase. “Obviously I had a rude awakening when I went to turn on electric power and the city said that’s not how this works,” Coker said.

His hope, he said, is to fix up and beautify the property, making it safe and secure while helping with the city’s need for housing.

Aries Milo, senior planner with the City of Port Arthur, said the purpose of the commercial retail zone is to provide a location for commercial and retail activities, and these locations are typically along major thoroughfares and highways.

This is bothersome to Doucet, as the area surrounding the prospective project is residential.

Several residents spoke in person and one via Zoom to voice concerns and ask leaders to reject the zoning change.

Lifelong resident Chuck Vincent is familiar with the property and as a state licensed air conditioning and refrigeration technician has been inside the facility when it was the nursing home and later as an extended stay facility.

Every air conditioning system in the building has mold and asbestos and mold, he said, and the structure should be torn down, he said, adding he doesn’t feel it would be an asset to the community.

Anthony Finn, who lives adjacent to the property, said the roads in and near the property are not suitable to handle traffic. He likened the roads to a third world country with potholes and areas that are caving in.

The other issue occurs when it rains.

“When it rains and fills the ditches you can’t flush the toilets. If you have lots of people in that building, just like the nursing home did, they were always having backups, like Shepherd’s Inn, they had backups,” Finn said. “If they get more people in here, we’re all going to have more backups for a long time.”

Resident Gloria Sanchez is also against the zoning change, saying the street is already in bad condition and can’t afford to have more traffic.

Rachel Nunez, who moved down the street from the site last October said she would love to see the city thrive and grow but as the mother of six children, she worries about the traffic.

No decision was made on the zoning change during Tuesday’s council meeting. City leaders will place the item on a future agenda for final vote.