Some neighbors feel overrun by hotels in Williamstown

Two projects look for balance with residents, growing economy

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WILLIAMSTOWN — To the consternation of neighbors, a second hotel has been proposed for Main Street, just a couple of blocks west of another site for a new hotel.

Like the hotel concept for 430 Main St., the proposal is for a three-story chain hotel at 562 Main St. Unlike the plan for 95 hotel rooms at 430 Main, the proposal for 562 Main is for 77 rooms.

The proposal comes from Vipul Patel, who also owns the Northside Motel on North Street, adjacent to town hall.

A number of neighbors of the property, in an area known as Colonial Village, had already been concerned about the first hotel project just over their eastern border north of Main Street. Then came the second proposal for a spot just west of the neighborhood.

"We're getting squeezed by hotels in a district that doesn't seem right for it," said Ben Sosne, a resident of Colonial Village. "We seem to be in the process of being overtaken by a growing commercial district."

"I'm very concerned about this project," said Robert Kavanaugh, another resident of Colonial Village. "We just don't think it fits there. The front of the building will be facing back yards on Berkshire Drive so a number of us are very concerned."

The proposal for the hotel at 562 Main St. calls for a building 43 feet tall. It includes three stories, 77 rooms, 44,000 square feet and 83 parking spaces on a 3.7-acre parcel.

The project must secure four special permits, noted Andrew Groff, director of community development for Williamstown.

One special permit would allow for the hotel in a limited business zone. Another would allow the project to increase paved area beyond 15 percent of the parcel. A third special permit would allow the building to exceed the 35-foot height limit.

The last special permit would allow for alternatives to landscaping requirements.

A third of the project is in the general residence zone, while two thirds of it is in the limited business zone to the west.

There are three smaller hotels in close proximity to this location: The Willows is two lots to the east, The Orchards is just down the street and The Maple Terrace Motel is across the street.

Two other major hotel projects include the resort hotel venture that Michael Deep is pursuing for Waubeeka Golf Links in South Williamstown, with up to 120 rooms.

The other is a proposal for a new Williams Inn at the bottom of Spring Street. That proposal is for a hotel with roughly 65 rooms. The current Williams Inn has 125, so this new proposal would be a loss of 60 rooms.

Don Dubendorf, the attorney representing Patel, said the owner has taken great pains to alleviate the impact on Colonial Village by locating the structure more than 200 feet from the western border of the neighborhood and more than 100 feet north of Main Street. Special lighting plans, vegetation buffers and limited sign use are part of the effort to reduce visibility of the project to nearby residents.

"There has been a lot of focus on screening," Dubendorf said. "There has been a lot of sensitivity to the neighbors' concerns, and a lot of effort to communicate with them."

He noted that all the new hotel activity coming to Williamstown is a reaction to the changing hospitality market and increasing numbers of people traveling to the region.

Groff said that until recently, there had been little new hotel activity in Williamstown since the mid-1980s, when the Orchards was built on Main Street.

Patel has already appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commission.

Meanwhile, neighbors are still concerned.

"We're feeling a sense of loss of a nice, little, residential neighborhood," Kavanaugh said. "It's a nice setting, but we're going to lose that feel when we're bookended by large new hotels."

The Zoning Board of Appeals is set to consider the application again May 18. If the board approves the application and the permits, there would be an appeal period of 20 days, during which the applicant can pull a building permit and proceed with compliance review and construction documents.


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