Gateway Hotel Project a Fire Hazard

Tony Mealy, Oberlin citizen

To the Editors:

After attending a recent special meeting called to discuss the Gateway Hotel project, it became very clear that Oberlin College and the city Planning Commission appear to be totally indifferent in regard to local safety or the high fire insurance rates that the city and homeowners pay in this community.

The new facility is over four stories high and plans to have a jazz club bar in the basement storage area with no direct ingress/egress to a narrow sidewalk on East College Street. Most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation of vapors and toxic gases which are lethal.

Having built to the right-of-way, the developer eliminated parking on the south side of the building. In plain English, the code reads: “Fire apparatus access roads shall not be obstructed in any manner, including the parking of vehicles.”

There are over 70 on-street parking spaces on North Main Street that are rarely used during business hours downtown and over 240 off-street parking spaces behind the new hotel. Rather than talking around and avoiding the fire code dictates for hours, the Planning Commission should have spent the time deciding where the new crosswalks and bicycle parking should be placed to best accommodate pedestrian traffic.

October is National Fire Prevention Month, except, evidently, in the city of Oberlin, where we can expect constant requests for higher taxes, increased utility rates and elevated home insurance costs. When will our city leaders start following our professional staff recommendations and take personal responsibility for their bad and ill-considered choices?

The inferno a year and a half ago destroying Oberlin’s all-metal, fireproof Public Works garage and destroying all six of the city’s garbage trucks at a cost of more that $2 million did not help.

I need not mention the six sleeping children that died in the fire of February 1960 at 235 West Lincoln Street, wherein the call to the Oberlin Fire Department was held up by a busy party line. The fire was extinguished within ten minutes of the arrival of OFD, but the children were all dead from asphyxiation.


– Tony Mealy

Oberlin citizen