Developers detail income, job benefits of proposed Desisto Estate project

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STOCKBRIDGE — Developers seeking a go-ahead for a $150 million resort, condo and single-family housing complex at the former DeSisto Estate off Route 183 have filed documents with the Select Board outlining their strategy for winning support from the Planning Board and approval by town voters.

Included are projections that the town would get $2.4 million in annual tax revenue from the completed resort, more than $1.2 million in one-time fees, and 115 to 145 year-round and 165 to 220 seasonal jobs.

The packet received recently in Town Hall includes a proposal to revise the Stockbridge zoning bylaws to accommodate the 40- to 50-room hotel in the mansion at 37 Interlaken Road; a public restaurant and event space; 139 condos in six new buildings, which could be rented by owners through the hotel management; 34 clustered single-family homes; and a 15- to 20-acre working farm.

Attorney Jonathan M. Silverstein of KP Law in Boston submitted the documents to the Select Board and provided copies to The Eagle.

Silverstein, a specialist in municipal law, was hired by property owner Patrick Sheehan of the 35-37 Interlaken Road Realty Trust to help propel the project toward a decisive vote at the annual town meeting in May.

The attorney asked the Select Board to refer the proposed Cottage Era Estate zoning bylaw amendment to the Planning Board within 14 days for review, as required by state law. A public hearing must be held within 65 days after the Select Board refers the proposed zoning changes to the Planning Board, according to Massachusetts General Laws.

In order to jump-start the resort proposal first presented informally one year ago, Silverstein plans to seek site plan approval by the Planning Board instead of submitting a special permit application to the Select Board. If the Planning Board does not recommend the project for the annual town meeting, the developers could place it on the meeting warrant through a citizens petition requiring at least 10 signatures.

Approval by voters would need a two-thirds supermajority as required for any zoning bylaw changes.

The 37 Interlaken Project's zoning proposal seeks development rights on the property, subject to site plan approval, in order to maintain and preserve Cottage Era Estate sites as follows:

- Encourage appropriate use of land;

- Increase availability of diverse housing options within the town;

- Increase the town's amenities and recreational opportunities;

- Encourage preservation of large estate buildings, grounds and open space;

- Foster the town's resort and tourism industries;

- Increase opportunities for local employment and increased tax revenue.

The 320-acre former DeSisto property, two miles south of the Tanglewood main gate, is one of three remaining Cottage Era Estates in Stockbridge. The others are Elm Court, where a 112-room Travaasa Experiential Resort is in development, and the Congregation of Marian Fathers site on Prospect Hill.

The zoning revision crafted by Silverstein lists a set of allowed residential and resort uses, including:

- One-family and two-family dwellings and amenities such as a clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts;

- A hotel as well as multi-family resort condominium buildings on properties of at least 100 "contiguously owned" acres, defined as a combination of individually owned dwelling units and units "under the operational control of a managing hotel company, with on-site amenities such as food services, cleaning, recreational uses and other hotel-type concierge services" available to condo owners and renters;

- Accessory resort uses, open or made available to the public, such as conference and retreat facilities for functions, weddings and entertainment; food and drink services including restaurants, taverns/bars, catering facilities and on-site food delivery; indoor and outdoor recreational facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts, golf and walking trails, open-space recreation, spa, fitness and health facilities, retail gift shops and boutiques, and artist studios and galleries.

- Agricultural uses, including a greenhouse, nursery, landscape, gardening, "viticulture, horticulture or floriculture."

The developers' zoning amendment would allow a hotel of up to 100 rooms and suites, one single-family or two-family dwelling per three acres, clustered to preserve open space; and one condo unit per acre of the total land on the property.

A site-plan application to the Planning Board prepared by a registered professional engineer or landscape architect would cover location, size and height of proposed and existing resort structures and a plan controlling grading and drainage.

The application also would cover signs, location, size and number of parking spaces, lighting, landscaping, as well as location of resort utilities, sewage disposal systems and open space.

Also needed for site approval: A commitment to traffic impact studies during construction plus two, five and 10 years after the resort project is completed.

Approval would require a majority of Planning Board members, according to the developers' proposed zoning revisions. An appeal could be filed within 30 days after the board's decision is conveyed to the town clerk.

In a separate document addressed to Town Administrator Danielle Fillio, 37 Interlaken's Project Manager Rob Akroyd responded to the Select Board's request on Nov. 27 for information to support tax revenue and job creation projections for the resort.

Akroyd wrote that the estimates are "conservative" and "we are confident that the actual property taxes generated by this project will be substantially higher."

The projections totaling $2,410,556 in annual revenue include:

- $1,615,900 in real estate and other property taxes;

- $688,656 in total hotel & meal taxes;

- $106,000 in water and sewer user fees.

The developers also estimate a one-time, $1 million fee to the town for building permits and a single water and sewer connection payment of $239,000.

Based on industry standards of three employees per room, Akroyd projected 75 to 100 year-round and 75 to 100 seasonal jobs for hotel operations.

In addition, the developers estimate 25 to 30 year-round and 75 to 100 seasonal positions for conferences, catering and special events, plus 15 year-round and 15 to 20 seasonal jobs for the agricultural operations of the project.

Total job creation is put at 115 to 145 year-round and 165 to 220 seasonal.

"We have based our employment estimates on past experiences with properties of similar high standards, most specifically Chatham Bars Inn and the Wequassett Resort" on Cape Cod, Akroyd said.

He also wrote that the development team remains "available and eager to meet with the Board of Selectmen to elaborate on any of these or any other matters and to generally dialogue with them about our project and the substantial benefits it could provide to the Town of Stockbridge and its residents."

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.

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