Fate of Williams College's proposal for new inn rests with Planning Board

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Editor's note: This article was updated on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, to reflect that the American Legion building would not be demolished by Williams College, but moved to another location.

WILLIAMSTOWN — A proposal that would allow Williams College to build a new Williams Inn on Spring Street depends on a favorable recommendation from the Planning Board.

The board is holding a public hearing Tuesday to make recommendations on several zoning amendments that are proposed for the annual town meeting in May.

One of them is an extension of the Village Business District to include two Spring Street parcels where the college is considering building a new Williams Inn. Both parcels are owned by the college.

"You can't build an inn under what the current zoning is right now," said Frederick Puddester, the college's vice president of finance and administration.

The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. in the Williamstown Elementary School auditorium.

If the Planning Board approves the change, the matter would be sent to the town's Select Board for approval, Puddester said. If the Select Board approves the measure, it could be placed on the warrant for the annual town meeting, he added.

"If we get approval in May from the town, we can begin designing it this year," Puddester said.

The two parcels include a parking lot on Spring Street located across from Tunnel City Coffee and a plot containing several old equipment barns that are located behind the old American Legion building. The Village Business District currently ends at Latham Street, which abuts the parking lot parcel, according to Puddester.

Last year, the college announced that it was interested in moving the Williams Inn from its current location on Main Street to the bottom of Spring Street. A number of Spring Street business owners initially embraced the plan.

Williams College purchased the inn in 2014 from Marilyn and Carl Faulkner, who had run the 124-room lodging establishment since 1979. The inn is currently managed by Stockbridge-based Main Street Hospitality Group, which also runs several other Berkshire lodging establishments.

The Williams Inn has roots in Williamstown that date back to 1869, but the present structure was built on college-owned property at Field Park at the intersection of Routes 2 and 7 for $2.5 million in 1974. Building a new Williams Inn would cost more than $10 million, according to previously published reports.

If the college decides to build on the parcel behind the American Legion, that building would be moved, Puddester said.

"There would be some sort of green space in front of the inn so you could see the inn from the front of the street," he said.

Some public parking could be available at the new inn's parking lot, but any parking proposals would need to meet the requirements of the Zoning Board of Appeals, Puddester said.

Planning for the new inn is in the "early stages," Puddester said, but the college is currently considering the construction of a 60-room lodging establishment that would include a 40-room annex. With an annex, Puddester said the college could close down part of the inn when business declines between November and May.

"The annex may be a separate building, or it could be a part of the existing building so that you could shut off a wing," he said.

If the proposal is approved at town meeting, Puddester said construction on the new inn could begin in 2017. It will take some two years to complete.

"The schedule assumes that there are not a lot of bumps along the way," he said, noting the college may also need permits to build near a creek. "You never know how long permitting will take."

The college plans to demolish the current Williams Inn once a new structure is in place, he added.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.


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