Hotel hearing recessed

MANCHESTER - Following a meeting that drew a crowd of more than 40 people on Sept. 25, the District No. 8 Act 250 Commission recessed the hearing involving Vermont Turquoise Hospitality, LLC and their proposal to construct an 80 room, Turkish-themed hotel and spa near Manchester Town Hall.

The Act 250 Commission is awaiting the submittal of additional information from the applicants - which include Alpaslan and Leyla Basdogan, Suzanne Tremblay, and others, according to the hearing recess order. The Act 250 Commission was also awaiting the submission of testimony from Patricia Barnett, co-owner of the Manchester View Motel, and Manchester residents Lynn Thompson and Richard Smith pertaining to Criterion 10 - conformance with the Town Plan. According to Act 250 district coordinator Warren Foster, the commission had received written testimony from Smith on Tuesday, Oct. 8 - the deadline - but not from Barnett or Thompson.

Once the hearing is closed, Foster said that a decision on the project should be issued within 45 days - or around mid- to late November, Foster said.

The town gave the applicant approval to move forward with the project, but they still do not have permission to build, according to Manchester Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Lee Krohn.

A zoning permit that was approved by the Manchester Development Review Board was appealed by Manchester resident Carol DuPont. However, the appeal has currently been put on hold until the Act 250 decision is rendered, Krohn said.

"The appeal was temporarily put to rest because the applicant still had to file for Act 250 and I think there was an implicit presumption that if it were approved by Act 250 that that would likely be appealed as well and since both appeals go to the Environmental Court then a consolidated trial could take place," Krohn said. "It's all in the interest of judicial economy as they call it."

Even if a future decision by the Act 250 Commission is not appealed, the zoning permit has already been appealed to the Environmental Court. What impact that could potentially have on the project remains to be seen, but Krohn said it has the potential to significantly delay the start of the project.

"It can be a most unfortunate length of time. It can literally take years," said Krohn. "Personally I find it frustrating that it takes so long to get these things processed, heard and decided because I think people deserve an answer; yes, no or otherwise."

Krohn continued to say that there have been cases that have languished in a court for a variety of reasons, from one side elongating the process to difficulties scheduling a trial date.

The potential construction of the project has caused mixed feelings among members of the community. Some, such as DuPont, believe that it will have a negative impact on the town while others believe that it could perhaps be beneficial.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, DuPont said she believed the business community would take a hit.

"[The impact is] going to be on the rest of the businesses since we're a hospitality center. That's what Vermont has decided to do," DuPont said. "It's going to take care of, or knock out, some other businesses that have been here that the people have been hanging on by their fingertips for years."

Project manager Robert Jones has told town officials on multiple occasions that they expect a sizable portion of the hotel's clientele to come from Europe. However, DuPont questioned how viable that would be as a means of filling rooms.

"Even if you're making very good money in New York and you have your kids in college or you have your kids in private school or whatever you're not apt to take as many trips," said DuPont. "And if you do ski, and you're coming from Europe; if you're European you ski Switzerland or you ski Vail. I don't know if you'd come here to ski. I mean truly I don't know. To me it just doesn't make good sense. I could never market something and just expect to pull one type of clientele."

DuPont - an owner of a nearby residential property - said another concern centered around possible contamination of wells that were close to the proposed location of the hotel.

While DuPont felt that the construction of the hotel could have serious negative implications for the town, Linda Benway, co-owner of Casablanca Motel, believes that the town could benefit from the project in a number of ways. Not only would the hotel provide additional rooms for travelers, but Benway believes that it would increase the number of people living in the region as a result of their employment at the establishment.

The hotel project's supporters anticipate the construction of the hotel would result in the creation of about 320 new jobs. However, filling those jobs though may be difficult, Benway said, as she has found it difficult to find qualified workers in the hospitality industry. Part of the reason, she believes, is due to the type of jobs themselves as well as people being unable to support themselves on minimum wage.

Having the new building in town would not only increase tax revenue as far as rooms sold, Benway said, but also in property taxes.

Additionally, Benway believed the hotel would result in a trickledown effect that could benefit other areas of the community.

"The restaurants, and the shopping and the cultural activities and the services that are provided in our area," Benway said. "There should be an increased need for all of those things."


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