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Fort Lee military hotel wins OK to move forward

An environmental review has cleared the way for a $120 million military hotel at Fort Lee, with the seven-story, 1,000-room lodging center scheduled for a mid-2012 completion.

Opposed by some in the business community, the Petersburg hotel survived reviews by two congressional committees before the Army announced the results Monday of the environmental assessment.

The Fort Lee lodging center will be the largest operated by the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, which provides lodging and vacation destinations around the globe for service members and their families.

The hotel will complement a 700-room hotel on the base to support a huge expansion of Fort Lee, which is about 25 miles south of Richmond. When the expansion is completed in 2011, the base will house once-scattered elements of the military — from Texas to Maryland — on nearly 6,000 acres. The post's daily population, including families, is expected to double to 40,000.

The coalition of hotel developers and small business owners lobbied against construction of the military hotel, which it said undermined private investment anticipating a need reflecting the base's $1.4 billion expansion.

The Hospitality Coalition said its members had invested $125 million alone in building more than 1,000 new rooms in the Petersburg area.

The Army insists it never specifically encouraged hoteliers to build so many rooms. Local and military projections have played down the economic impact of building the lodging center, which was scaled back from an earlier 1,700-room proposal. They contend the expansion will greatly benefit the local economy.