Developer Toole dismissive of Vermont Marriott design


LENOX -- Prospective Marriott Hotel developer Joseph Toole, in a followup memo sent on Wednesday to the Lenox Planning Board and the Zoning Board, struck back at suggestions that his design be modified to resemble a Marriott in Middlebury, Vt.

Planning Board member Gary Schiff and attorney William E. Martin, representing rival developer Vijay Mahida, have cited the Vermont hotel as a superior design, more in keeping with New England history and character.

But, Toole argued that the Middlebury building is "completely devoid of a clearly identifiable design feature." Addressing Schiff specifically, he noted that the building is three and a half stories, "not two and a half as you stated at last night's meeting."

"The facade uses cheap stock materials, motel windows on the first floor, galvanized steel chimney roof protrusions, and is probably 40 feet tall," Toole wrote.

As for his own project, Toole declared that he is "not willing to eliminate solar panels, destroy the meadow, increase the impervious surface, ignore low-impact development standards and breach a buffer zone to throw a 40-foot hulk out in front while violating the directives of Gateway design standards in the process, which we are respecting although not required to do so."

He also pushed back against the "mistaken notion that our latest rendering is not of ‘traditional New England architectural elements.' "

In a reflection of what some describe as a "hotel war" in the Pittsfield-Lenox corridor, Toole stated: "It is my hope that the threat by Mr. Mahida as publicized in the newspapers is not influencing your insistence on getting the number of stories to three or less, in view of the huge cost to the environment and other implications. At great expense, we have shown a willingness to mostly hide this beautiful design, thus making the massing argument very difficult to understand."

Mahida, hoping to build a Comfort Inn near the proposed Marriott, has stated that if Lenox approves a four-story hotel for Toole, he'll seek the same-sized project.

-- Clarence Fanto

Here are the upcoming chapters in the ongoing Courtyard by Marriott proposal:

n The Zoning Board of Appeals has the sole authority to approve or reject the application for special permits to build the hotel, approve the site, and grant an exemption from the standard 35-foot building height limit in town. A 4-1 supermajority is required for approval. A decision is based on community needs, traffic safety, adequacy of utilities and public services, neighborhood character and social structure, impacts on the natural environment, and economic impact on the town.

n The ZBA will resume its own discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, likely to be followed by a site visit. The board is expected to vote next month following additional meetings.

n The Planning Board, in its advisory role, postponed any potential letter of recommendation or further formal comment until its next meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28

n Letters from the public addressed to the boards are available for review in the land use office at Town Hall on weekdays between 1:30 and 4:30. A PDF document containing the letters can be e-mailed on request by calling (413) 637-5500, ext. 1211.


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