Construction begins on New Smyrna Beach's Hampton Inn after 74-day delay

REPORTED FIRST BY NSBNEWS.NET, NEW SMYRNA BEACH'S 24/7 ONLINE NEWSPAPER

Hampton Inn site

Exclusive NSBNews.net videos and photos by Sera Frederick / Compass Construction begins work Monday on the Hampton Inn site on Flagler Avenue. NSBNews.net interviewed the site manager who estimated the outer shell would be erected in eight weeks.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- God created the Heavens and the Earth, beast and fowl and mankind, all in six days. On the seventh day, He rested. New Smyrna Beach officials and the developer with golden shovels broke ground on the Hampton Inn. They rested for 73 days before construction began anew today. Is it divine intervention? Merchants were praying for a miracle. Opponents didn't put much faith in the project to begin with. And city officials? Well, they're still not talking and have been unable to say why it took so long. Mayor Adam Barringer did not return a call for comment nor did he respond to an e-mail inquiry from NSBNews.net.

On the contractor's Facebook page, Amy Patterson of New Smyrna Beach posted a comment at 10:17 a.m. Friday asking: What's the status of the Hampton Inn hotel project in New Smyrna Beach? They even had a ground breaking ceremony. Why have they stopped building the hotel at Flagler Avenue? I really would appreciate a prompt response from you guys, since the city officials don't have an answer for the residents of New Smyrna Beach. Thank you."

Compass responded at 10:58 a.m.: "Funny you should ask Amy, as I am told that you should be seeing dirt moved around Monday!!!"

Two minutes later at 11 a.m., Compass posted an updated comment on the Facebook page: "The Hampton Inn will be gearing up again in the next few days. Be on the lookout for photos! We are appreciative of ALL who have been patiently waiting for this project to get going again!"

NSBNews.net inquired of Compass at 2:51 p.m. that same day with the following question: "What was the reason for the lengthy delay?"

NSBNews.net's question went unanswered and remains that way.

The following day, NSBNews.net asked New Smyrna Beach City Commissioner Jack Grasty about the Facebook news and he declined comment, except to say "I'll believe it when I see it."

Like other city officials, Grasty said he had no idea why it took so long for construction crews to return to the site. Though Sept. 29 was announced as the groundbreaking, the land had already been stripped and trees either pruned back or cut down altogether, according to the approved site plan with the city.

NSBNews.net photo by Sera Frederick / All was golden at Monday's groundbreaking for the Hampton Inn. Among the dignitaries in this photo were (from left to right) Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority Director Nicole Carni, developer David Swentor, Mayor Adam Barringer, City Commissioners Judy Reiker, Jim Hathaway and Jack Grasty, and CRA Chairman Jim Kosmas.

That afternoon, city officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking with golden shovels, along with developer David Swentor. The shovel holders included the mayor and city commissioners Grasty, Lynne Plaskett, Judy Reiker, and even City Commissioner Jim Hathaway, an announced 2012 candidate for the Volusia County Council dist. 3 seat, who has been opposed to the hotel from the onset.

CRA Chairman Jim Kosmas also was a golden shovel holder as was CRA Director Tony Otte.

The Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce also took its turn with golden shovels for photo ops, including Robert Lott, an owner of the now-defunct weekly Observer newspaper, who was forced to leave Flagler Avenue in April because he and his publisher-wife, Michele Lott, got behind on the rent and moved the newspaper operation to their Edgewater home, which is now in foreclosure.

Despite the public relations spin that day, the hype was replaced by silence in a matter of a couple of weeks. And during the course of the two-plus months that followed, city officials had no answers for residents who inquired at public meetings.

Two weeks after the groundbreaking with the heavy equipment gone at that day's end, NSBNews.net spoke with David Swentor by phone from his South Carolina office and he said the work would resume in three weeks. He said the delay was due to hsvong to make off site materials for the hotel. But Since then, NSBNews.net has been unable to reach Swentor, despite ongoing phone and e-mail messages.

NSBNews.net this afternoon interviewed Charlie Faust, the onsite manager for Compass on video through the chain link fence after pulling down some of the black tarp. When asked a reason for the long delay, he responded: "Ah, a bunch of bureaucratic stuff."

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-New Smyrna Beach / Sanford-Orlando metropolitan region via HeadlineSurfer.com. Florida's first around-the-clock newspaper was launched April 7, 2008, in New Smyrna Beach, initially as NSBNews.net and VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Headline Surfer® Publisher Henry Frederick, is recognized as one of Florida's top award-winning cops & courts reporters, who has received more awards for such coverage than any other reporter working in Central Florida. He's the top journalist in the Florida Press Club two years running with seven journalism awards for 15 breaking news and investigative stories, three blogs and top internet site. He's the only reporter to win awards for coverage of the Trayvon Martin slaying as well as the subsequent George Zimmerman murder trial acquittal in Sanford. He's also won state, regional and national journalism awards for his coverage of cops and courts fear 8 1/2 years at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, where he witnessed and reported on the execution of serial killer Aileen Wuornos and covered the civil trial brought by NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt's widow to keep his autopsy files sealed. Before that before he covered cops & courts for Gannett Suburban Newspapers / The Journal News in Westchester and Rockland counties in New York, where he won a highly-coveted Associated Press Award for breaking news. Before launching the 24/7 internet newspaper in 2008, he was an award-winning city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette, in his native Massachusetts for two years, winning a national investigative award on municipal corruption. The first of Frederick's three books, for which he has secured publishing rights, is called "Creepy Ass Cracker" (840 pages, Xlibris), which will hit bookstores in September. His second book, "Wrestling ReWind," is expected to be published in January 2015. The third book is not yet titled.
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