Storm delays decision by Lenox ZBA on controversial hotel project


LENOX -- Developer Joseph Toole will have to wait another week to learn the fate of his proposal for a $10 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Wednesday's snowstorm has delayed by one week the expected decision by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals on the 92-room hotel on a portion of the Brushwood Farms property just north of town.

The ZBA postponed its scheduled meeting on the issue until Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 7:15 p.m. because of the town's snow emergency and in order to give the public an opportunity to attend what could be the climactic session.

When the board reconvenes, it will be sifting through additional letters from attorneys representing Toole and rival developer Vijaysinh Mahida, as well as an advisory memo from the Planning Board and several additional letters from the public.

The crux of the issue to be resolved focuses on the height and mass of the four-story hotel proposed for the commercially zoned site along Routes 7 and 20, across from the Lenox Commons mixed-use complex.

In a Jan. 28 letter to the ZBA, attorney William E. Martin, representing Mahida, argued that the zoning board lacks the authority to grant a special permit for a hotel exceeding two stories.

The proposed Marriott would be four stories, with a maximum height of 48.6 feet on a small portion of the structure at its center. The town's height limit is 35 feet, but waivers have been granted to other developments, most recently a new condo building at Canyon Ranch and the Carriage House reconstruction at Cranwell Resort.

Toole's attorney, Philip Heller, countered in a Jan. 31 response that a provision of the town bylaw dating back to 1970 allows the zoning board to grant a height waiver in terms of feet as well as the number of stories in a proposed building.

The ZBA "has the absolute right to allow greater height when permitting uses in the commercial zone," Heller wrote, "and the height category includes feet and stories."

A vote in favor of the project requires a 4-1 ZBA supermajority. Appeals of a decision to the Berkshire Superior Court or the Massachusetts Land Court can be filed within 20 days of the decision.

Martin, asked by The Eagle whether he would appeal on Mahida's behalf a favorable ZBA decision for the Marriott project, responded:

"My client will evaluate the Zoning Board of Appeals decision when it is issued. However, at this time, we have no intention of appealing whether or not the board approves the project."

Attorney Heller, representing Toole, when asked if he would appeal an adverse ZBA decision, stated:

"If rejected, we will evaluate the decision and determine how to proceed."

According to a tally compiled by the town's Land Use office, 14 letter writers have submitted opinions favoring the Marriott project, while nine have sent in letters opposing it, though one of those contained six additional signatures.

To contact Clarence Fanto:

or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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