LENOX — After nearly three hours of robust back-and-forth, the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a $90 million Blantyre resort expansion plan Wednesday night.

Once new financing is secured, the phased 18-month project would triple the size of the historic property's rooms and suites to 69, adding 20 ownership townhouse units and carving out 14 building lots on part of the secluded 109-acre site for estate homes.

Owner Linda Law's Blantyre Hotel Ventures LLC agreed to a condition of the ZBA's special permit limiting the number of guests at outdoor events to 175, keeping the restaurant open to the general public, and cutting off outdoor amplified music and fireworks by 11 p.m., continuing the same conditions currently in force through the property's previous special permit. Any outdoor event designed for more than 175 guests requires specific approval from Town Hall.

"This is a very well-thought-out, well-planned, excellent project," ZBA Chairman Robert Fuster Jr. declared ahead of the 5-0 vote approving Blantyre's application. He described the plan as harmonious with previous owners' dedication to maintaining the "aesthetic feeling" of the property, completed in 1902.

"I appreciate what's involved in keeping these old estates alive and beautiful," said board member Clifford Snyder. "I'm in favor of it and I wish them well on it."

ZBA member Clayton Hambrick praised the project as "wonderful" and voiced strong approval for Blantyre's application.

Along the same lines, board member Albert Harper said he is "in large agreement with everything. This is an incredible proposal that will go a long way in preserving the Blantyre estate, and it's a very necessary thing to do."

He lauded Blantyre's attorney, F. Sydney Smithers IV of Cain Hibbard & Myers, for a "most excellent proposal and presentation of evidence" and for assembling a panel of experts covering "all the facts necessary to approve this application."

Harper also credited Law "for her devotion in preserving one of our most treasured cottages in Lenox. The Great Estates are one of the things that make Lenox a very special place to be and live in."

As part of the special permit, and after extended discussion, the ZBA also greenlighted a last-minute affordable housing proposal volunteered by Blantyre owner Law and agreed to by Affordable Housing Trust Chairwoman Marybeth Mitts. The agreement calls for renovating an existing home and adding four new building lots on adjacent property owned by Blantyre.

Law said that, based on her consultation with three attorneys, the Blantyre expansion application under the town's Great Estates Preservation bylaw does not require a provision for affordable housing. But, she emphasized her 40-year advocacy of affordable housing and the result of her meeting with Mitts produced an offer "that I think is absolutely terrific."

The affordable housing agreement reached by Law and Mitts at a private Wednesday afternoon meeting caught the zoning board off-guard, though members ended up agreeing that it was a vast improvement over a previous plan unveiled at part one of the special permit hearing, held in Lilac Park on Monday evening.

"The prior proposal was very bare-bones; I didn't even know what it meant," said ZBA member Shawn Leary Considine. "This one seems much more specific, easier to get a handle on."

Harper agreed, stating that Law "has gone way beyond what's actually required of her. I deeply appreciate all the work she's done to make this happen."

The Monday version had involved a $270,000 payment to the town to develop three affordable housing units, also known as "inclusionary development," somewhere in Lenox. The revision offered by Law and ultimately accepted by the ZBA is valued at $995,280, according to Mitts, including an existing 120-year-old house at 38 Patterson Road in Lenox Dale near Blantyre, and units to be built on four adjoining single-family 1-acre lots.

"We're very excited, it's ideal for families, which is the absolute target audience we're looking for," Mitts said. "We'd like to bring more working families into Lenox so they can attend our public schools and enjoy the many services offered by the town."

Early on during the lengthy remote meeting attended by 25 members of the public via Zoom, Law had emphasized the need for a prompt resolution of her special permit application.

"We cannot afford to continue this," she asserted. Noting that the special permit application was submitted in mid-February and briefly was presented to the ZBA in early March, before COVID-19 forced public meetings to be suspended, Law declared: "We need a vote."

In addition to the affordable housing proposal reached by Mitts and Law and approved unanimously by the ZBA, Blantyre must post a public infrastructure completion bond, in an amount to be determined, guaranteeing construction of a new line connecting the property to town water.

Also required is a commitment to upgrade traffic safety at Blantyre Road and Lee Road (Route 20), as outlined by the Fuss & O'Neill traffic study submitted with the application.

The projected revenue to the town from the expansion is nearly $1 million in one-time connection fees, and about $1 million in annual property tax, sales tax and hospitality tax collections when completed.

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