Williamstown ZBA refuses special permits for new hotel

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WILLIAMSTOWN — After a site visit earlier in the day, and more than an hour of testimony at a Thursday night public hearing, the Zoning Board of Appeals declined to approve four special permits to allow the construction of a hotel at 562 Main Street by a vote of 4-1.

The application submitted by Vipul Patel, who owns the Northside Motel on North Street, sought four special permits to allow the construction of a three-story, 77-room chain hotel.

The nearest neighbors live in Colonial Village. East of Colonial Village, the same board recently allowed developers to begin work on a three-story hotel.

Now someone else was seeking permission to do the same thing on the western side of the neighborhood.

Residents of Colonial Village said that was too many.

Although Patel's team had made a number of changes to their plan to mitigate the neighbors' concerns about noise, lights and traffic, the neighbors pleaded with the board to understand the effect two such hotels would have on their little neighborhood.

Robert Kavanaugh, one of the neighbors closest to the proposed site, read a letter addressed to the board and signed by 53 people — nearly every resident in Colonial Village.

He noted that the property lies in two different land use zones — limited business and general residence — neither of which allows a hotel by right. And the number of special permits was also an indicator that the application would draw extra scrutiny.

"Simply put," Kavanaugh said, "a three-story, 77-room, 44,000-square-foot hotel, with its large-scale operation and night-time activity, noise, and lighting, does not fit within the intended character of the Limited Business district and will be detrimental to the residential neighbors and the town as a whole. The proposed hotel would also undermine neighboring property values and detract from the quaint character the town's tourism industry depends on."

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

One of the required special permits would allow for the hotel in a limited business zone. Another would allow the project to increase impervious surface, or 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 the landscaping requirements.

Board member Larry Wright was unhappy about the potential for increased traffic resulting from two new hotels on the same stretch of road. He noted that the nearby commercial district has a third turn lane in the center, which ends before the proposed site for the new hotel.

"At this point, I think it may be too much," he said. "And for the first time, an entire neighborhood is giving us advice. I think, frankly, we need to pay attention to that."

Another board member, David Levine, said he calculated how many guests the hotel would host in a year. It came to about 23,000 people.

"To have that many transient visitors next to a residential area that has another (hotel with) 30,000 people on the other side," Levine said, "clearly that will have an impact."

Keith Davis was the only board member that voted in favor of the proposal.

He said the set-backs are more than sufficient with the nearest home more than 200 feet from the location of the proposed building, and cited the efforts the applicant made to reduce visibility and noise.

"I don't see how this project will have any impact on this neighborhood," Davis said.

But when the vote was called, four of the five board members sided with the neighborhood.

After the meeting, Patel wasn't sure what he would do with his plan.

"We're going to have to meet and consider what we'll do next, if anything," he said.

There are three other 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 project owner Michael Deep is pursuing for Waubeeka Golf Links in South Williamstown, with up to 120 rooms and up to three stories.

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, for a net loss of about 60 rooms.


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