A proposed hotel on Elm Street failed to get the support of a majority of the Planning Board, but the project will still move on to the Zoning Board for final approval.
Thursday night the Planning Board heard the proposal for the 104-room hotel at 80 Elm St. – the former Atlantic Battery Company site right behind Target at the Watertown Mall.
The hotel is being developed by Elm Hospitality LLC. Owner Cherag Patel said the hotel would not be full service – no restaurant open (just a breakfast area) and no meeting rooms. He could not say which franchise would run the hotel, but said it would be part of the Marriott, Hyatt or Hilton brands.
The hotel has undergone some major changes since it was first brought forward at a community meeting in January. The orientation of the hotel has changed drastically, said John Cusick from Bohler Engineering.
“The hotel was pushed to the front of the street to activate the front of the site,” Cusick said.
The building features a large glass portion on one corner of the building, and an outside patio has been added.
The design received good reviews, but the location was the sticking point for many.
Elm Street resident Ann Lazzaro said a hotel would be a terrible addition to the street.
“I’ve lived all my life on Elm Street. Putting a hotel, especially at five story woudl tower over existing businesses and homes on Elm Street,” Lazzaro said. “Elm Street is a narrow street, a heavily congested street. The design is fine. Reduce it to three stories.”
The hotel would add about 55 cars during the morning rush hour and 62 in the evening rush hour. Another 75 would be added during the busiest hour on the weekend, according to Jim Winn, traffic engineer from Ron Muller Associates.
Steps would be taken to decrease the impact of traffic. A light will be installed at the intersection of Elm and Arsenal streets, and the developer will pay half the $200,000 cost. Also, a sidewalk bump out will be added on Arlington Street at Elm Street to slow traffic in the area and to make it easier for pedestrians to cross, Winn said.
Eastside Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she opposes the hotel because of where it would go.
“It is a lovely rendering, but not at this location,” Kounelis said. “We are losing the idea of neighborhoods and we need to look at individual locations.”
Not everyone opposed the proposed hotel. Town Councilor Tony Palomba said he thinks it would be a good addition.
“I think great strides have been made,” Palomba said. “With the retail around it, it is a good use of the property, and it is a nice change from what was there before.”
Palomba also added that the town has a hotel/motel tax, and the new hotel would add to the town’s tax base.
The Planning Board had mixed views on the project. Planning Board member Linda Barletta shared some of the concerns of residents.
“I am concerned with the relationship of the building to the environment,” Barletta said. “It is not where it should be for meeting our criteria.”
The board voted 3-2 against recommending that the Zoning Board of Appeals approve the project. Hawes and Fergal Brennock voted to support it, while Barletta, Neal Corbett and Jeffrey Brown opposed it.
The project will move on to the ZBA in June.
This is UGLY. This is the best Watertown can do? Aim low and that’s what you get. Awful, disgraceful.