Abutters rattle off concerns surrounding Elm Court estate project


STOCKBRIDGE -- Scale and traffic were the two negative factors emphasized by a majority of abutters Monday night as the Selectmen pondered a special permit request by a Denver-based developer to renovate the famed Elm Court estate and add a spa, restaurant and 112-room hotel wing.

The board was still discussing the issue before a packed house at Town Hall by presstime.

Balancing those two factors was the conundrum of how to otherwise preserve the crumbling 50,000-square foot building complex.

"There is no way to save this estate if you don't have deep pockets," said attorney David Hellman. Hellman represented Amstar, the Denver-based developer seeking the special permit.

Hellman paraded a host of experts before the board. The basic premise was that several attempts have been made in the decades since Elm Court closed in 1957 to reopen it. None have succeeded. Hellman's point was that his client had the resources to make it work.

Several neighbors of the estate did not dispute that Elm Court needed rescuing. But, they said, adding a hotel with 112 rooms, a restaurant and a spa was a staggering leap in size. Some took aim at a traffic study prepared by traffic consultants Fuss and O'Neill that posited a traffic increase of about 40 vehicles an hour at peak times.

Abutter Ray Wilson told the board that some of those vehicles would be delivery trucks, roaring up a residential road.

Others noted that an increase of several hundred cars a day was unacceptable.

Another neighbor, Julie Evans, presented the board with a petition signed by 79 residents of the area in opposition to the proposal, based on the scale and disruption to the neighborhood.

"I don't want this down the road from me," she said.

Abutter Wayne Lemanski was in favor of the plan. Lemanski, who moved into the area with his wife in 1976, recalled the estate became a haven for vandals and revelers in the years it lay fallow. That became, he said, a potential problem for the police.

The project had the approval of the Conservation Commission and the Historic District Commission.


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