WEST JEFFERSON — At the West Jefferson Board of Aldermen’s special meeting Monday, Nov. 25, the Old Hotel building was the subject of an intense public hearing before the board decided whether or not to add “boutique hotel” to the community shopping zone designation. Alderman Jerry McMillan was not in attendance.
The board would be voting on a recommendation from the WJ Planning Board, who met Nov. 5. The Planning Board defined a “boutique hotel” as “a small, stylish hotel with less than 30 rooms,” and unanimously approved a recommendation for the aldermen to approve its addition to community shopping.
The building was sold by the Woodie family to Bridgetree Investments Aug. 1 for $800,000. Bridgetree owner Mark Beck said he plans to transform the building back into a historic, functioning hotel, which will take roughly two-and-a-half years of renovations.
The sale led to a complaint from the owners of The Hotel Tavern, Guion & Lyle Enterprises, on Aug. 29, alleging that Bridgetree Investments, Jo Ann Woodie, Billie Jo Woodie, Deborah Woodie Ellis, David Ellis, Sharon Woodie and Woodie Investments, the Old Hotel’s former owners, conducted unfair and deceptive trade practices and breached their contract, among other claims, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.
The complaint led to countersuits from both Bridgetree and the Woodie family. In their Oct. 29 countersuit, the Woodies denied the existence of The Hotel Tavern’s 2018 lease, while also accusing them of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, conversion, trespass and abuse of process. Bridgtree made accusations against Guion & Lyle Enterprises of breach of contract, civil conspiracy, trespass, damage to property, unjust enrichment, abuse of process, libel, slander, permissive waste and fraud, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.
West Jefferson Town Hall was packed with people, essentially turning into standing-room only by the time the meeting started. The crowd included people in support of either side, as well as some who just wanted to watch what happened. Before the floor was opened, Mayor Dale Baldwin made it clear to those in attendance that the meeting would have nothing to do with parking, saying there was a rumor going around claiming otherwise. After asking for silenced cell phones, the floor was opened.
One person to speak was Billie Jo Woodie, former co-owner of the Old Hotel.
“My grandfather purchased the Old Hotel in 1917, with the intentions of running it as a business, and a hotel here in the town,” Woodie said. “It’s been in our family the entire time, it has been part of our family.”
Woodie said it was hard for the family to decide to sell the building.
“It was probably one of the biggest accomplishments and things my father was most proud of,” Woodie said. “He always loved this town and wanted to turn the hotel back into a hotel. When he passed, we had a series of events that happened and we were financially unable to do that. We made the decision to put it on the market to sell it. We gave the Tavern the opportunity to purchase it and keep their business open.”
Woodie described how excited the family was that Beck purchased the building, seeing out her father’s vision.
Hotel Tavern co-owner Andy Guion calmly disputed Beck’s ability to turn the building back into a hotel, pointing to a zone ordinance requiring a parking area for a project such as the hotel’s renovations. Guion said there’s no room for parking, which would not allow Beck to add the rooms needed for it to be a hotel.
Soon after, Beck went to the podium. Beck spoke about his past work to preserve and reinvigorate historic buildings such as the Old Hotel. He said he was not a big corporation doing it for the money, but for a love of history. Beck added that parking would not be an issue, saying he could tear down the wooden patio and use that space, along with an alleyway.
A second member of the Woodie family also took to the podium later in the hearing, Jo Ann Woodie.
“I would just like to say, on behalf of my husband, Bill Woodie, and my two children, I have been hurt so badly by this,” Jo Ann Woodie said. “You can believe what they say, you can believe what we say or whatever, none of you know what has been going on. None of you.”
Once the public hearing was over, the board of aldermen went into its regular session. Alderman John Reeves made the motion to approve the addition of “boutique hotel” to the community shopping zone designation, which was seconded by Alderman Rusty Barr. The board voted 4-0 to approve the addition.