Village continues deliberations on Vilage Country inn application

MANCHESTER VILLAGE - The Manchester Village Development Review Board has recessed a hearing on whether to grant a permit to build an 80-room hotel on the former Village Country Inn property.

The hearing will resume at 9 a.m., Friday, Aug., 23, and will be a continuation of the deliberative session that began Monday night. It will not be a public meeting until the board members come out of their deliberations.

Monday night's meeting was for the purpose of establishing two additional details that the board had requested at the last meeting, on Aug. 5. The board wanted information on the lighting around the proposed hotel, including how late they would be on, and what kind of lights.

They also needed information regarding under which zoning bylaws the applicants were operating, as the property was considered part of the business district, but it was also under the historic and preservation districts.

With regards to the lighting, Clark French, one of the members of the applying party 3835 Main Street, LLC, explained that there would be safety lights on throughout the evening, but those lights were under 37 inches. All other lighting would be off by 10 p.m.

"We have parking lights around the perimeter of the property, and those will be turned off, per the bylaws, at 10 p.m.," said French. "And there will be no lights on after 10, with the exception of, as marked on the plan, as low-ballers, which are 37 inches tall... well below the fence line and the landscaping line... they are down-lights."

The safety lights were required by the bylaws.

There were no comments from either the board or any interested parties regarding the lighting addendum. Pat Barnett, of Manchester View, expressed concern over street lighting by the crosswalk that would connect the hotel area to the parking lot on the former tennis court site.

Mark D'Angelo, project manager with 3835 Main Street, LLC, explained to both Barnett and the board that the streetlights are not under village zoning, and that it is up to the Vermont Department of Transportation to determine if they need to install a street light by their crosswalk. Therefore, they did not know at the time if they would be needing one, and there was not one written into their plans.

Before moving onto the second item they had provided to the board, Georgette Levis, adjoining property owner to the north of the former tennis courts, expressed interest in speaking to the board.

Joseph O'Dea, lawyer for the applicants, objected to the board allowing her interested party status, as she was not established in the prior meeting and not all of the applicants were present to be able to answer any questions she may have as an interested party.

"I don't believe that it's right, at this point in time, for you to introduce new interested parties to the hearing at this juncture," said O'Dea. "To take any other testimony goes beyond what it was recessed for."

The board voted to recognize Levis as an interested party, but stated that the board cannot force the applicants to make any comments or answer any questions posed by the newly recognized party.

However, the board continued to discuss allowing Levis to speak, as the only points on the agenda were in regards to lighting around the property and the discrepancy of bylaws, and her comments were in regards to parking around the hotel and across the street.

After discussion, Levis was granted permission to speak on the topic of parking.

"I'm sure the hotel will be a major success; however, that success should not diminish the value, or the enjoyment, of neighboring properties, or change the character of the village," said Levis. "I am concerned about peacefulness because of the parking lot."

She also directly addressed French and the applicants.

"I guess I'm just disappointed that you didn't talk to me," she said.

After her comments and questions, French responded by firstly apologizing to Levis, saying that they wanted to keep it as open of a forum as possible, and so stayed away from having one-on-one conversations with those involved, in private.

O'Dea then presented to the board, and those in attendance, the addendum he had written, declaring that they were operating under bylaw 4.3, the historic core district.

The village has zoning districts as well as design review districts; the Village Country Inn property deals with section 7.1, which has dimensional requirements as the business district, as well as bylaw section 4.3, which has requirements as the historic and preservation design overlay.

"I think the crux of the issue is that we don't believe that you can satisfy all of the requirements of 7.1 in the historic core, and satisfy the design criteria," said O'Dea.

If the applicants were to operate under the requirements of 7.1, then their application would not meet all of the criteria.

Board member Julie Hanes asked for more clarification on the addendum, because while they were declaring they were operating under bylaw requirements 4.3, they cited other sections of the bylaw in parts of their plans.

"The reason is, if you were to look under greenspace, the historic district doesn't specifically outline greenspace. You have to then revert to [the business zoning]. In the scenario you're looking at here, under the preservation district, where I quoted... 4.4... there was a lack of identification of how the position of the building is supposed to be in the historic core district. But in the preservation district, it outlines how we're supposed to do that."

Board chair Barry Brown asked for clarification from the applicants as to why they could not operate under both the business bylaws and the historic core zoning.

"The [business district] has a 75 foot front yard setback," explained engineer Ellis Speath. "If we were to request to build a building 75 feet back from the street line, we would be denied because of the historic core requirements. The historic core requires us to be close to the street with all our buildings, and not have a bunch of unused space in front."

After hearing from the applicants on both matters, the board began discussing what their next steps are to be.

"It seems to me that the first question that we have to decide as a board is if this thing is going to go at all," said Orland Campbell.

The board then moved into deliberative session to establish under which zoning criteria they would place the applicants. If they decided that 7.1, the business zoning, was the requirement then the applicants would not be able to fulfill its requirements and could then move on to appealing the decision if they desired; if they decided to place the application under 4.3, the historic core zoning, then the applicants will return to hear recommendations and changes from the board before it will be approved.

After deliberation, the board decided that they did not have enough time to come to a decision, and recessed their deliberative meeting until Friday morning.

If a decision is made, the decision will be public knowledge upon the ending of the meeting.


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