Shannon Overby, the director of the Conroe Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented the agenda item to council members and urged them to consider the economic incentives for hotel developers.
“In talking with some of the developers, particularly in the Houston area looking to build out here, that sweet spot for the financial requirements of them is about 70 to 85 rooms,” she said.
Since 2017, the city of Conroe has required new hotel properties to have a minimum of 100 rooms in addition to other requirements, such as a pool and a meeting space. This requirement has crippled new hotel development, she said.
“We have not had a single new hotel built in the 2.5 years that I’ve been here,” she said. “Looking at our competitive set, we currently have less than half the number of hotel rooms from our next [competitors, such as] The Woodlands, New Braunfels, San Marcus, Bryan or College Station.”
Council members raised objections over the amendment, and Council Member Duane Ham said he is more concerned over the quality of the hotels that are built rather than the quantity of rooms.
Overby clarified the other conditions of the existing ordinance—such as requiring a pool, meeting space and certain landscaping—should already theoretically draw in nicer hotels.
“I think the purpose of the ordinance was to stop you from having to answer each and every one and determining on a case-to-case basis [what could be developed],” she said. “That would hopefully thwart some of the very limited, less desirable properties.”
Council members also questioned the need for more hotels in the city, to which Overby responded that Conroe has an average hotel occupancy of 68% in the year to date, slightly higher than the state average. This is 12% higher than last year, she said.
In response, Mayor Pro Tem Duke Coon said he is still concerned about the types of hotels that could come into the community and questioned the need for more hotels if the average occupancy is still under 70%.
“The quality of hotels versus the quantity of hotels is important to all of us as we realize land space is limited,” he said.
Council members ultimately rejected the amendment, although several members such as Ham said they are open to more discussion in the future.