A plan to clean up and remove hazardous waste at the site of the former Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs is under review by officials at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Possible asbestos, an unused fuel storage tank and a pile of debris have not left the former site of the hotel’s “Yellow Building”, which burned to the ground on February 27th . In the plan submitted by Gary Hassenflu, the property’s owner, complete debris removal is estimated to take 90 days.
In a letter to ADEQ’s Hazardous Waste Division Chief Tammie Hynum, Hassenflu says his company, Park Residences Development, LLC., will contract with a demolition firm as well as an ADEQ-licensend asbestos remover and inspector. Any segregated waste “will be properly manifested and transported to landfills that have been properly notified of the types of waste to be received,” states the letter.
Hassenflu says in the letter that water left standing in the basement of the building will be pumped out and a 10,000-gallon fuel storage tank on the property will then assessed for its environment impact and compliance with regulations.
In an email, ADEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benanati said her agency has “no knowledge of any health threats” from the debris on site and that “ADEQ staff were on site during demolition and everything was done accordingly.”
Hot Springs City Manager David Watkins, citing the months having passed since the fire and relatively little action made to clean up the debris, described Hassenflu as “a non-player, nonresponsive, invisible.” But he said the state of the former hotel has led to both good and bad outcomes for the city.
“It definitely has created an eyesore that has had an impact, I’m sure, on businesses in the immediate area. And it’s not the kind of visual that you want to have as you enter as you enter Hot Springs from the north, entering into our downtown area,” he said.
Watkins said the Majestic’s partial destruction has also galvanized support for revamping downtown Hot Springs and making any of its remaining decrepit buildings safer.
Hassenflu, declining to comment on the status of the former hotel’s cleanup until ADEQ has approved the plan, told KUAR that before the fire, he had plans to market the property as a “boutique spa hotel.”
In a letter to ADEQ dated June 30th, Hassenflu says “it is our goal to clean up the former “Yellow Building” site so that we can be back on track with our pre-fire redevelopment plan of converting the current structures into a 130 unit spa hotel.”
David Watkins said a new fire code will hopefully persuade other property owners in the area to revamp their unused downtown buildings.
“Between compliance and non-compliance, I think we’re going to see compliance. And we’ve already seen some compliance. Now I’m sure we’ll have some holdouts but I would say right now, we have more cooperative people than non-cooperative,” he said.
The Thermal Basin Fire District Code, passed by the city board of directors last December, calls for property owners to install sprinkler systems on any unused floors of buildings taller than three stories. Watkins said it was meant as an alternative to bringing structures back to building code, which would be costlier. Watkins said about 24 structures in the Thermal Basin District, which encompasses most of downtown, still need to be brought to code.