Until I read the press commentary ahead of the hearing and listened to the project advocates yesterday, I believed that what Mr. Basdogan did on his own property was his business as long as it did not annoy the neighbors or pollute the water.
I have changed my mind.
The reasons advocates advance, beyond pure emotional commentary, is increased tax revenue for the town, increased patronage for the downtown stores and 320 new jobs.
I believe that none of these things will materialize, even if the hotel manages to stay in business. Tax revenue will decline from loss of other hospitality businesses as described by Pat Barnett. This loss will at least offset the tax revenue from the proposed project.
Even if, as the applicant claims, the guests at the new hotel are drawn from a different group from that which now visits Manchester, many of the existing clientele will no longer come because the scale of this project will destroy the rural atmosphere and the peacefulness that originally attracted them to visit the town as vacationers and tourists. An additional loss will come from full time residents and second home owners who will leave for other locations.
I know people who are already trying to sell their homes because they expect this project to be built.
The patronage for the downtown stores will not increase because the new hotel guest group will merely replace the group that will no longer be coming to Manchester.
In any case, outlet stores are a declining business because of Internet shopping and other outlet areas such as Lake George. If you want a big hotel near outlet stores, there is one on Lake George, which is as accessible for people coming from Albany as Manchester.
Three hundred-twenty jobs at an 80 room hotel is 4 people employed per room. At $10 an hour this is $320 per room every day just to pay the employees. With the current Vermont average one third occupancy this figure increases to $960 per day before any other expenses of operating the hotel are met. The 320 jobs therefore seem like an unrealistically high number. These 320 jobs will be at the expense of the jobs lost from the other hotels, motels and restaurants which will lose patronage or go out of business, so there will be no net new jobs.
The Transient Commercial Overlay District in which the hotel is to be located is described in the Town Plan on page 82 as follows "These districts are intended for very limited commercial development serving visitors to the region, which maximize aesthetic values while minimizing adverse impacts upon the Town. To help implement this Plan, these districts have been re-evaluated and modified to help clarify land use boundaries and uses."
This huge project with dimensions longer than a football field, 80 rooms and a 160 seat restaurant does not fit that definition.