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City hears concerns of overbuilding: Dickinson has 17 hotels with another 10 planned

The City of Dickinson is worried that there will be too many hotels if the growth in the hospitality industry continues at the rate its growing.

At its regular meeting Monday evening at City Hall, Dickinson City Commission members, minus President Dennis Johnson, who was out on a planned absence, invited members of the public and Dickinson's hotel industry to continue a discussion started in a previous meeting.

"It's a lot coming at us very quickly," said Terri Thiel, Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau director. "We look ahead into the future and try to find that optimum balance."

The Commission used the opportunity to listen to the concerns of the hospitality industry and did not make any decisions at Monday's meeting. It is trying to figure out the impact of the growing hotel business on the city's economy, both long and short term.

After August's discussion, some were worried the Commission would put restrictions on hotels coming into the city and obstruct free enterprise.

"Do you start limiting just hotels?" asked Comfort Inn Manager Melissa Johnson. "Or are there other businesses you're concerned about over-growing as well?"

Data compiled for the meeting showed that Dickinson has 17 hotels with 1,332 rooms with another 10 in various stages of planning that would add more than 1,000 rooms.

Other Midwest cities studied by the city in the 30,000 to 50,000 population range had four to 18 hotels in with 166 to 1,600 rooms. Dickinson at the 2010 Census clocked in at 17,787 people. The city believes it has surpassed 20,000 based on billings and other data, and is projected to hit 40,000 in the coming years.

"The only reason this topic I believe came up is that we're seeing the potential proliferation of many motels possibly," said Commissioner Gene Jackson, who was filling in as commission chairman for Johnson. "I don't think as a commission, in my opinion, we want to be so involved in the business aspects of that. In other words, the marketplace has to take care of itself."

Existing hotel owners and managers showed some concern of over-building in the city, and worried what would happen when the need for hotel rooms dissipated as the oil and support industries move to crew camps or permanent housing.

"I really think we need to be careful how many are proposed," LaQuinta Inn and Suites Manager Chris Urban said. "I'm not saying cut it off completely, I'm just saying 10 at once or four at once is a bit over dramatic. I think we should maybe go one at a time as the population is growing."

Urban was also concerned about hotels opening without a national brand and no brand standards to follow.

"I think they need to focus on brand-name hotels, too," he said. "If you have a bunch of no-name hotels coming in here they're not going to put in their marketing efforts to get that hotel going and keep it going. In my opinion they're going to build it as cheap as they can to fill it up with oil field workers and whatever happens, happens."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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