Novick votes no on convention hotel deal

The Portland City Council chamber was full for the discussion about funding the proposed Convention Center Hotel, Sept. 18, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
The Portland City Council chamber was full for the discussion about funding the proposed Convention Center Hotel, Sept. 18, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The city council chamber was full Wednesday as Portland commissioners debated whether to sign off on a proposal for a convention center hotel.

A total of 37 people were scheduled to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

The Metro Council approved the financing plan last month, but the city and county still need to sign off on a new tax-sharing agreement.

That agreement would allow the hotel to pay back a building loan with taxes it collects from room rentals — a deal opponents said is not fair to other hotel operators.

The Portland City Council is the last hurdle Metro Council needs to clear before Metro can begin negotiating with the Hyatt Hotel corporation. At the Wednesday meeting, Metro Council president Tom Hughes said, “Hyatt knows how to run hotels.” If they fail in Portland, he said, it would be the first time it ever happened.

Later Wednesday, city council voted to approve a “memorandum of understanding.”  It outlines their expectations for any final deal between Metro and the developer.  The council added and amendment to that memorandum of understanding asking Hyatt to provide performance updates and financial information once a quarter to a team — including a representative from the city, county and Metro.

Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, July 9, 2013 (KOIN 6 News, file)
Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick, July 9, 2013. (KOIN 6 News, file)

The idea, said City Commissioner Nick Fish, is for the city to make sure the Hyatt’s Convention Center Hotel isn’t undercutting other hotels. Commissioners fear low room rates from the subsidized Convention Center Hyatt could damage business for other hotels in town.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve this memorandum of understanding. City Commissioner Steve Novick was the only “no” vote.

The vote that would give official city approval takes place next Wednesday at the Portland council meeting. That vote would be on whether to approve changes to the InterGovernmental Agreement on how lodging taxes are spent.

With that said, the four city commissioners who approved the memorandum this week said — during the meeting — that they support the project and are also willing to vote “yes” on that IGA next week.

Member of Multnomah County’s board of county commissioners also indicated they’ll vote yes on the issue in its Thursday meeting off SE Hawthorne Blvd.

If approved, it appears all that’s left before construction is Metro Council finalizing a development agreement with the Hyatt hotel chain.


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