MANCHESTER - The Design Review/Development Review Board has approved the design for the proposed Hampton Inn and Suite during its meeting June 4.

At its previous meeting on May 14, the board decided to close the hearing on the development review portion of the permit. However, while the design has been approved, with conditions, the overall project itself has not yet been approved. The board has 45 days from May 14 to issue their decision.

Kirk Moore, of BMA architects, started the presentation of the design at the June 4 meeting with an update from the site visit with Hilvale neighborhood residents. The neighborhood is abutting the property.

"We're proposing to put in up to 30 trees to create a screen along the property line," he said. "When we go to construction, we'll be working with Hilvale [residents] on adjoining properties to position them in the right way to give them the maximum screen."

Along with the trees, Moore said they will put up a new fence to add additional screening along the property line and clean out the dead brush and trees. During the project, Moore said they will try to move as many existing trees on the property to the property line as possible.

Ray Beruman, a Hilvale resident, was not at the DRB meeting last Wednesday. However, he was one of the dozen neighborhood residents who attended the site visit. Beruman felt that most of the concerns of the neighborhood were being heard and feels better specifically about the privacy concerns he had. Along with trees and a fence creating a screen, Beruman said he was glad to hear the drainage system will be updated, meaning the flooding that happens occasionally every few years would be prevented.

"They [the Hampton Inn group] made me feel better about the privacy concerns," he said in an interview after the meeting. "I do know living there when we had the Price Chopper [the grocery story proposed to move to the site in 2009] there it was a much different story ... where most of the opposition came from, was changing those zoning laws to accommodate the project. However, I think the Hampton Inn project, they do have...a right to build there...they were very nice to work with."

Beruman said not all the neighbors are in agreement about the project, but that when they bought property abutting a retail area, residents knew they would have to live with some kind of development.

After the discussion of site changes, the presentation moved on towards the design of the buildings. The hotel itself, which is located at the back of the property, is an intentional departure from a traditional Hampton Inn design.

"This is going to be one of the nicest ones [Hampton Inns] I think I've stayed in, most of the ones I stay in...are vinyl siding," Moore said, in the meeting.

A federal style building, featuring clapboard siding, brick and a parapet at both the gable ends, Moore said it fits into what he described as a "Vermont vernacular" style. There are many historic, federal style buildings sprinkled around Vermont, he said.

However, while the board did not disagree that there are federal buildings across the state, they did not necessarily agree that it fit into Manchester. Alan Benoit, a board member, said the parapet at both gable ends was "the 500 pound gorilla in the room."

There was more discussion about the design of the hotel and Moore said the building fit into town, but overall the whole project had a different feel. The discussion then moved onto the retail buildings in the front of the property. Moore presented the proposed siding, trim and colors that would be used on each of the three buildings. Through out this process, has said that personally, he likes to finalize color once the building is up. Colors, he said, may change slightly.

While the board did not dislike the design, they did feel they retail buildings were a little too similar.

"Is there any attempt at articulation, vertically, horizontally?" Benoit said. "I mean to me they look like three rectangular, two story boxes."

Greg Cutler, one of the board members, asked if Moore would be willing to move away from the beige based color template he had shown the board.  After a lengthy discussion about what could be done to help make the buildings look different, the board decided to focus mostly on what is called building "B," or the middle building. The base of the building will be changed from brick to stone, the shingle color will be changed and the awnings will also be different. Along with the changes to this building, the board also asked the window style be adjusted on building "C".

In an email, Moore wrote the changes were minor in nature.

"I think the impact of them is very subjective," he wrote. "Some may thing they are positive while some may not."

The board approved the design, but only contingent on the changes made in the meeting. There will also be a presentation, if the permit is approved, prior to construction and before final design decision are made. Moore said any other changes would be minor, like color.

In other business, the board heard a design and development proposal for a country store that would go into the red building across from Bagel Works which formerly housed Real Sports, and before that, a video store. Their proposal includes adding a new entrance, but keeping the design of the building otherwise the same. The location will also feature some changes to the parking, as well as more greenspace. The board closed the hearing and will issue their decision in 45 days.

There was also a hearing about a change of use permit for Equinox Square Plaza. Jockey is moving from their current location off of Route 7A to a location next to Carters.

"A change of use, retail to retail, the reason we're seeing it, is in the Starbucks findings and conclusions that came out that asked every change of use for that shopping center come before the board," Allison Hopkins, Director of Zoning and Planning said.

The board wanted to make sure, in the case of Equinox Square Plaza, that any permits they issued would keep enough open parking. In the case of Starbucks, the board issued a parking waiver, reducing the number of spaces needed by 40, Hopkins said. Because the location of Starbucks has a drive thru, Pete Keelan and Ed Dublois, owners of Equinox Square Plaza, argued the cafe didn't need as many parking spaces. They also utilize shared parking - the cafe will have peak hours before any of the retail locations open.

Equinox Square Plaza was built before parking regulations were put into place in Manchester. The board discussed how many parking spaces are left at the location - which can be different depending on if taking grandfathered regulations into play. Hopkins said there are approximately 17 to 20 parking spaces left in the shopping center.

"We take the position on this plaza, in the zoning bylaws, if the use has not changed since the building was constructed, you're entitled to forward those parking requirements at the time the building was constructed, as long as that use doesn't change," Keelan said. "This plaza was built prior to parking regulations in Manchester and when we first met with Lee Krohn [former director of planning and zoning] ... there were 62 spots so Lee said since this has stayed retail all the way from 30 years ago, you're entitled to use that entire allocation, which is less than if you applied your current parking standards."

The board agreed with Keelan that they did not want to permit Equinox Square into a place where one store would have to sit empty because of parking issues. Du blois showed the board where the plaza has found some new parking spaces, therefore upping their overall parking quota. The board closed their hearing and will issue a decision about the change of use permit at a later date.