WILMINGTON — A controversial project to allow lodging again at 34 Look Road was approved by the Development Review Board in a 3-1 decision.
Neighbors voiced opposition to the project at a DRB hearing in April. The owners, a company named 34 Look Road LLC after the address, needed approval to change the use of the property to allow rentals to groups only with a two-day minimum.
Just one group would be able to rent the inn at a time, Yisroel Teitlebaum of 34 Look Road LLC told the board at the hearing.
After one year of not hosting lodging, Nordic Hills Lodge reverted to a residential property. Neighbors argued the property hasn’t been used as an inn since about 2014.
Lance Shader, an attorney for the applicant, told the board one of the previous owners included “the infamous club ... that went down the tubes.” He was referring to the Hermitage Club, which now is owned by members who bought it in a bankruptcy auction after financial issues plagued the prior owner.
Terry Perkins and Deborah Strawn-Perkins owned the inn before the Hermitage, which used it for employee housing, then the couple bought it from the town in a tax sale in 2019 after the club failed to pay taxes. The couple did not reopen the inn and later sold it to Teitlebaum’s group.
Teitlebaum told the board small weddings, corporate retreats and family get-togethers would be events to be hosted on the property. For occupancy, the property can host a maximum of 88 people and the building for lodging has 31 bedrooms.
According to the decision approved Thursday, the property will not be rented for less than two nights and stays will not exceed 30 nights. The pool can be used from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and only by guests of the property.
At the hearing, Teitlebaum said renovations being made to turn a garage building into a synagogue for guests of the property only. However, that project had not been part of the application.
In its decision, the board said the garage “can only be used as original use of Garage.”
“Any changes to the plans will require an administrative approval from the Zoning Administrator and/or a review by the Development Review Board, in conformance with the ordinance,” the decision states. “[T]he property owner cannot increase the degree of nonconformity on the lot at 34 Look Road; this includes but is not limited to construction of new accessory buildings, new uses, new recreational areas or new dwellings beyond what is already in existence as any changes to the parcel to accommodate increased activities of the lodge will have an undue effect on the character of the area.”
Addressing concerns that lodging would add traffic and noise to the area, Teitlebaum told the board the property would be very busy and possibly full on holidays or weekends during the ski seasons if individuals could rent rooms. With groups only, he said, it will host fewer guests at a time.
In its decision, the board said the property must comply with the noise ordinance since it falls within the residential district.
“Continuous, permanent, ongoing or frequent noise in excess of that of a normal conversation must not exist at the property boundary line,” the decision states. “Recurring periodic or intermittent noises of that of a normal lawn mower at the property line is allowed provided it does not occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. and does not significantly detract or diminish other property’s allowed use or land development.”
Eric Potter, who represented one of the two groups of 10 interested parties or more who opposed the project and lives across the street from the inn, told the board that zoning is intended to stop “non-conforming uses” over time. He noted residential districts don’t allow for the use proposed by Teitlebaum’s group.
“There are at least 12 families who live full time and at least nine second home owners within a half-mile radius who have been accustomed to living in a strictly residential neighborhood where noise, traffic and lighting are at a minimum,” Potter said at the April hearing. “We feel that we have a right to advise the board that we no longer want to have this property run as a commercial inn business and we believe the impact will be nothing short of overwhelming.”
Before the property can be used for lodging, the owners must have all necessary permits in place. The DRB plans to review the permit one year after an appeal date expires and two years afterwards.
Board member Diane Abate, who cast the lone vote against the decision at a meeting Thursday and declined to explain why until the decision was made public, could not be immediately reached.