Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Highlights of the Planning Board Meeting

One of the projects discussed at last night's Planning Board meeting was the hotel proposed by the Casetta Group for 601 Union Street, the former Elks Lodge. The project required a use variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, and during the ZBA's review of the project, Walter Brett, who owns the historic house at 611 Union Street, expressed concern about the negative impact the additional buildings to be constructed behind the municipal parking lot and his house would have on his quality of life.

At their August meeting, the Planning Board decided to make a site visit to Brett's backyard. They also asked that the applicant to create a rendering of the proposed building from the vantage point of the rear of 611 Union Street. The site visit took place on August 19, and at last night's meeting Kristal Heinz, attorney for the applicant, presented the rendering (below) showing the view of the proposed buildings from Brett's backyard. 

It was suggested that a row of trees might be planted along the hotel's property line to further screen the buildings from view. Gary Mead of the Casetta Group suggested that the trees might interfere with the fire lane, and he needed to consult with code enforcement and the fire department. The applicant also presented a new aerial view of the site map.

It appears that Brett is now in discussion with Casetta in an effort to solve the problem. A public hearing on the project has been scheduled for November 14.

Amendments to the site plan for the hotel proposed by the Galvan Foundation for North Fourth and Warren streets were also presented at last night's Planning Board meeting. As it turns out, the amendments consist of changes to the site plan resulting from alterations in the design agreed to during the review of the project by the Historic Preservation Commission. The biggest change seems to be the decrease in the number of hotel rooms--from 32 to 30--that happened because Galvan agreed not to add a floor to the townhouses on North Fourth Street and a change in the square footage of the restaurant space. The renderings below compare the design that existed when the Planning Board granted site plan approval in September 2022 and the design that evolved during the HPC review.

Although the Planning Board has already held a public hearing on the project, it was decided there would be another public hearing on the amended site plan. The hearing will take place at the Planning Board's October meeting, scheduled for October 11.

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