Hampton Inn appeal clarifies concerns

MANCHESTER - An appeal filed against a local permit allowing a Hampton Inn and Suites stresses landscaping and streetscape issues.

The appellant filed a statement of questions in Vermont Superior Court Environmental Division on July 24. The appeal was filed by Steve Bauer, an owner of the Inn at Willow Pond, on behalf of a group of local lodging establishment owners.

When asked to comment on the appeal, Bauer said it was filed due to inconsistencies between the proposed project and the town plan and zoning bylaws.

In the statement of questions contained in the appeal, the lack of a landscaping plan, as well as impact to views of Equinox Mountain and Mother Myrick Mountain were some of the groups concerns, as well as the impact to traffic.

In regards to the landscaping plan, the document states that an application needs to have an existing and proposed landscaping plan, which the document states the application is lacking.

"This [landscaping plan] is needed for the Town to make a decision on the impact on streetscapes," the statement of questions reads. "Nowhere in the Manchester Zoning Ordinance does it say the Applicant can determine whether or not a particular planting (e.g. trees) are removed or stay."

As a part of the permit, the Mullaney hospitality group agreed to try and save as many existing trees as possible. Both the DRB and planning commission brought up this issue. For trees that cannot be saved, they will be replaced with an "appropriate caliper" tree, as stated in their permit, Allison Hopkins, zoning administrator and director of planning said.

The statement also included the issue of blocking Mount Equinox. In a planning commission hearing July 18, Bauer raised this issue as well.

"(The) Application should include, but does not, sight lines and elevations to the ridgelines which is necessary to evaluate the impact of the new larger buildings on blocking the pedestrian and vehicular views of the Equinox Mountain and Mother Myrick Mountain ridgelines, which impacts the Appellant as an individual and as a tourism based business owner dependent on scenic streetscapes," the statement reads.

Traffic conditions were discussed at length in both DRB and planning commission hearings, where Bauer and others voiced their concern that the addition of the Hampton Inn and Suites, as well as the three new retail buildings would negatively impact traffic flow. That is reiterated in the statement of questions, including concern that a bicycle traffic study was not presented in the application. Also concerning traffic is that the redevelopment of this location could result in unsafe conditions.

"No increase in width of the traveled way, buses turning in with wider turning radius, new drive thru traffic across the street, increased bicycle traffic, etc...indicated that the current design will lead to unsafe conditions.

At the same time the statement of questions became a matter of public record, Kevin Mullaney, vice-president of Mullaney Hospitality Group, issued a statement regarding the appeal on Thursday.

Mullaney said in the statement that the Mullaney Hospitality Group met with Steve Bauer earlier this week and proposed the formation of a lodging association to assist all owners to increase their occupancy.

"This proposal is effective until August 4, 2014 and is contingent upon the dismissal of the appeal to the Superior Court/Environmental Division and all other actions delaying the project," he said in the statement. "Should the offer not be accepted, all proposed association funds will be allocated instead to legal efforts to overturn the appeal."

The Mullaney Group is committing in excess of $35,000 to the lodging association effort effective immediately, should the appeal be dropped, according to the statement.

As of press time, the Mullaney Hospitality Group did not have any further comment regarding the appellants statement of questions. Steve Bauer, along with approximately 10 other lodging establishment owners did not have further comment either. Both groups will respectively release statements early next week, they said.


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