Hampton Inn proposal scrutinized at DRB hearing

MANCHESTER - Morality and the pitch of roofs aren't generally mentioned in the same meeting, but it happened Wednesday night. The Design and Development Review Board saw the plans and designs for the proposed Hampton Inn & Suites in High Ridge Plaza. The board chose to close the hearing on the development portion of the presentation, while continuing the design portion at their June 4 meeting. The board now has 45 days to issue a zoning permit.

Everything from the impact on local businesses to what is the "Vermont vernacular" was discussed. Kirk Moore of BMA Architects designed the plans and buildings for the project. There are four buildings in total; the hotel in the back of the five acre parcel and three retail stores in the front near the road.

"[The buildings are] very Vermont vernacular architectural style," Moore said.

All four buildings will have a brick base and a combination of clapboard siding, shutters and other siding. While the retail spaces will feature some new types of siding and have a bit more of what Moore called a "modern, fresh look" the hotel looks similar to the design presented at the preliminary meeting. The board through the brick on the front side of the hotel, which in a previous iteration of the design was stone, was too much of a statement and not seen around town. The mansard roofs featured on the retail spaces was also commented on by the board, as a large departure from the "Vermont vernacular."

Kathe Dillmann, a Manchester resident, said these retail stores looked like something you would find in Phoenix, Ariz.,, Colorado or Albany, N.Y. -- not Manchester.

Meghan Cancio-Bello, a resident of the nearby Hillvale neighborhood, said people do not come to Vermont to stay in a Hampton Inn, they come to stay in small, local kinds of places. She added that on a personal level, she does not want to look at the hotel or have hotel guests looking into her and her neighbors windows.

"This is not going to help out community," she said. "I feel very strongly about it, as a citizen of this town as a native Vermonter. It is not for the good of the community."

Mark Read, another member of the abutting neighborhood wanted to know why the site plan was designed for the hotel to run down the side of the parcel closest to the neighborhood. Moore said this design made the most sense and that the hotel sits back 92 feet from the property line, more than the 15 feet requirement.

There were other questions surrounding traffic in the neighborhood, the view the hotel is blocking and changes to landscaping, like cutting down trees. The board tried to keep the discussion focused on the design. Dillmann specifically wanted to know why the design was discussed first. She said it didn't make any sense to discuss the design before the project was approved.

"If people feel this does not belong - not only in this residential neighborhood, but in the down town core of Manchester ,that needs to be heard," she said. "We need to really discuss it."

Tim Waker, chairman of the DRB, said that this project's approval is not a given. Design is generally reviewed first, as it may have multiple presentations.

When the board moved the discussion along to development, Moore's presentation was once again sidelined by discussion from the audience.

Steven Bauer said he knew this project would cause multiple inns and locally owned motels to close.

"You're adding 20 percent more rooms to the town with 29 lodging establishments you're essentially taking 20 percent of the occupancy away from those 29 properties," he said. "At least a dozen or two dozen of them are closing, they're handing their keys to the bank."

He said that if the two dozen establishments are closed, the town will be ruined aesthetically. Casio-Bello added to the comment, saying this is a moral issue. She asked how The Mullaney Group, the developers of the proposed hotel, could consciously put small business owners out of business.

"I don't understand why consciously, anybody would make this decision knowing that it is going to effect this town and the small business in such a negative way," she said.

Kevin Mullaney, vice president of business development, reiterated what he said at the preliminary hearing, that this property would fill a gap in the lodging community, and not put anyone out of business. Bower and other members of the audience, did not believe Mullaney.

"We all market to families, we all have suites," he said.

The discussion continued, but the board tried to bring the focus back to the zoning application. After Moore finished the rest of the presentation, the board voted to close the hearing and issue their decision within 45 days.


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