To the editor of THE EAGLE:
On June 23 the Stockbridge Selectmen will vote on a special permit to substantially alter Elm Court and transform it into a 112-room spa of over 100,000 square feet on the scale of Cranwell. It will include a 60-seat public restaurant and a four story annex reminiscent of a Courtyard by Marriott design. The applicant is Front Yard LLC for Travaasa, a subsidiary of Amstar, global real estate developers from Denver.
If the Selectmen allow this special permit to go unchecked it will be a permanent detriment to the peaceful character of our residential neighborhood. Cranwell is on a busy highway; Elm Court is on a designated scenic byway. As residents of Stockbridge we are overwhelmed that our town, traditionally avoiding unnecessary commerce while actively conserving the landscape, would consider allowing a huge commercial hotel to be built on one of its narrow residential roads.
Many people think Elm Court is a done deal. It is not. What is done is only an amendment to a bylaw. That is not a building permit. But the amendment opens the door for investors to develop Elm Court and potentially the DeSisto school. It is up to the Selectmen to weigh the pros and cons of this proposal and decide if it will improve the public welfare and better preserve our heritage.
When fully occupied the expanded Elm Court will have 112 guest cars and 100 employee cars likely resulting in over 600 car trips a day not including the restaurant traffic and delivery trucks -- a substantial increase.
The full effect of this expansion is unknown. What will happen to an Elm Court twice the size if it fails to get sufficient occupancy in an area already saturated with hotel rooms, or if Travaasa fails and/or they sell it to another developer? What will Stockbridge do with a giant parking lot and an empty 96-room four story annex?
Like most residents we would love to see a preserved, functioning and profitable Elm Court -- a boutique hotel in the midst of a superb landscape. Elm Court should be a serene, lovely resort and a historic asset for the entire town.
But this proposed hotel is inappropriate in scale, does not blend in architecturally, and does not belong on a residential street. We urge the Selectmen to deny the special permit and ask Travaasa to reapply with a smaller, less intrusive solution that everyone can support.
Barney Edmonds is chairman of the Stockbridge Housing Authority.