About 300 angry Woodley Park residents, charging that Sheraton Park Hotel officials had failed to live up to promises made to the community two years ago, voted at a community meeting last week "to oppose in all legal and political ways" the hotel's plan to replace its present building with a new 1,500-room hotel and convention center.
Residents said the large hotel, which holds frequent conventions, creates traffic problems and takes up all available parking spaces, should not be in their residential area. But the residents said they were willing to live with plans the hotel peresented at a community meeting in February 1977.
According to William H. Carroll, who heads a community task force set up to work with the hotel, those plans called for the retention of 95 percent of the existing trees, an inner loop to keep cars going from one part of the hotel grounds to another off local streets and at least 850 parking spaces in back of the hotel.
At last week's meeting, however, Carroll and other task force members told residents that the hotel would not agree to put those points in writing and that revised plans were "grossly inimical" to the neighborhood.
The revised plans, said Carroll, showed a parking lot on what is now the hotel's front lawn facing Woodley Road. Only part of the inner loop is now proposed to be built and the number of parking spaces has been reduced to 750.
When task force member Lindsley Williams showed the crowd the revised drawing and a drawing presented by the hotel's architect in 1977, the reactions were angry. People in the audience commented that the new plan would destroy trees and make the front of the hotel "look like a shopping center parking lot."
"Are you willing to fight this?" task force member Leila Smith asked the crowd.
Members of the audience cheered, signed up to help in the effort and contributed about $200 for printing expenses. Several people indicated they were willing to make substantial contributions to a possible legal war chest.
Carroll said the group would fight the hotel by political pressure and by attempting to stop its demolition and building permits. Demolition of the present hotel building, built in 1918, is to begin next Wednesday. Part of the new building, which is already under construction, is to open in September. The entire new structure is to be completed next spring.
Hotel officials did not attend the meeting, claiming in a letter to the task force that the flyers advertising the meeting to the neighborhood were "inflammatory."
A spokesman for Sheraton said in a telephone interview that, due to the new construction, four acres that had previously been occupied by buildings in the 12-acre complex would be returned to landscaping.
"We have every intention of continuing the joint discussions," said the spokesman, Penny Cummings. "Our policy is coexistence with the neighborhood."
Cummings added that the hotel was "not eager to debate the community through the newspapers."
She did say, however, that in hotel files there is no mention that 95 percent of the trees would be saved, although the hotel intends to stand by its pledge to retain a park-like atmosphere. She said plans for the inner driveway loop appeared on earlier architectural drawings but new plans called for a partial loop with an underpass.
As to parking, Cummings said the hotel would include as many parking spaces as zoning regulations required. She also said that although the present fountains will be removed to make way for construction, new fountains in another location are to be included in the plans.