Changes Made to Hotel Proposal Do Not Satisfy Concerned Residents

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Despite a local developer’s efforts to redesign plans for a proposed hotel at 80 Elm Street, Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis and a group of East end residents said they still don’t want it in their neighborhood last week.

“It does not belong on Elm Street,” Kounelis said.

The residents and several Town Councilors gathered at he Apartments at Coolidge School’s Function Room on Arlington Street, May 7 for an option neighborhood meeting about the proposed five-story, 104-room hotel. Despite already meeting the required number of neighborhood meetings, developer Cherag Patel held the meeting to address concerns residents had previously expressed. The project is scheduled to by heard at a special planning board meeting on May 21.

Patel’s previous proposal included a small parking lot in the front of the building, which was removed in the new design. Patel replaced the parking lot by moving a portion of the structure from the back of the building to the front. He also added a complementary café are and outdoor lounge for his guests.

While there is still a small amount of parking spaces in the back of the building, most of the 80 spaces will not be moved underground.

Despite the developer’s efforts, Kounelis said she doesn’t think there is anything they can do to change the minds of the Elm Street residents she was representing.

“…The rendering is lovely, the hotel is lovely,” Kounelis said. “But not on Elm Street. It’s too much of a massing of the parcel. It’s supposed to be a stamped size lot, and you’re going to put a five-story hotel with over a 100 rooms. It just doesn’t fit.

“I don’t think, not matter what you do, it’s actually going to change the minds of the resident and the abutters who reside in the area and who earn their livings in the area,” Kounelis said. “If the hotel were situated on Arsenal Street it would be a different story, but not on Elm Street. It doesn’t fit.”

Rena Baskin, who lives on Franklin Street, said she was concerned by how the lighting from the hotel will affect residents.

“I’m just not sure how the lights are going to affect the neighborhood, and I feel bad for the folks that are going to have to look at them,” Baskin said.

Watertown Senior Planner Andrea Adams said that that hotel’s lighting would be an issue she’d be monitoring very closely.

“I’m making sure that all the lights on the site, including any of the ones that are up on the building, except for the signage, that that’s going to be subjected review, are down directed, fully shielded, or covered,” Adams said. “…From the perspective of the pedestrian, you’re not going to have light that is wasting up into the night sky.”

David Gamble, an architectural consultant hired by the town to review potential developments, said that the redesign was an improvement from the first proposal, and that it was following the town’s new design guidelines.

“It’s important to note that this process is actually coming out of aspirations of the residents about raising the quality of development in the town,” Gamble said. “And ensuring that there’s some predictability about developments as it moves forward.”

When pressed by Kounelis about who Gamble was working for, he said that he was paid by the town from contributions made by developers for the review process. But he stressed that he’s not for or against the hotel.

“I’m not a shilling for the developer,” Gamble said.

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