The Zoning Board of Appeals heard a split view of the hotel proposed to be built on Elm Street, with most of the those opposing the project living on or near the East Watertown street.
The five-story hotel which would have more than 100 rooms would go right next to the back of Target in the Watertown Mall.
The layout of the hotel on the property has changed so at the building now sits near the street, instead of having a parking lot in front. Also, some of the parking has been put underneath the building.
Also part of the project would be removal of contaminated soil from the site, which used to be home to Atlantic Battery Company and had been a hazardous site monitored by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The hotel would be part of the Hilton brand and would have a small kitchen to allow for extended stay, said developer Cherag Patel from Elm Hospitality LLC said. He added that the rooms would have a full-size refrigerator, a small stove top and a microwave oven.
The Zoning Board had not heard about the kitchens, and Chairwoman Melissa Santucci Rozzi said she would like to see more detailed drawings of what the rooms and kitchens would look like.
Neighbors say the hotel would overwhelm the street. Elm Street resident Ann Lazzaro worried about the impact of the project.
“We have a lumber yard and the Watertown Mall – there is a lot of traffic on the street,” Lazzaro said. “The hotel will tower over the current buildings and homes on the street. Don’t destroy Elm Street by putting that five story building there.”
Developers would contribute to installing a traffic light at the intersection of Elm and Arsenal streets, said Ron Muller, traffic engineer from Ron Muller Associates.
East End Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis said she likes the design of the hotel, but the location does not work so she opposes the project.
“Anywhere else in Watertown this would be a lovely amenity to our community,” Kounelis said.
Another hotel was approved nearby on the corner of Arsenal and Elm streets and some say they would like to see second hotel.
“It adds to some beauty to the neighborhood,” said at-large Councilor Tony Palomba. “It is in an area surrounded by commercial property. I realize there are residences, but it is not plopped in a residential neighborhood.”
Palomba added that Watertown’s tax base would benefit from the hotel, because the town adopted the local-option hotel/motel tax.
Resident Elodia Thomas, who said she does not live in area of the proposal, said she likes the changes that have been made to the project.
“I was concerned when I first saw the design. I believe it has come a long way,” Thomas said. “(Developers) worked with the community and staff. I think it works well with the street.”
Steve Winnick, attorney for the developers, said that while there are some homes in the area, the neighborhood is in an industrial zone. The hotel project, Winnick said, is part of the transition of Watertown’s industrial sites developed in the 1800s and early 1900s, to a modern town.
“We ought to be as sensitive as we can to the people who live there, but we should not allow the residences characterize the zone and preclude this transition,” Winnick said.
The Zoning Board said they want to see more perspectives that show how the hotel would look on Elm Street, and more details of what the rooms would look like. Also, they requested to see the business model for the hotel.
The project will not be heard again until the August Zoning Board meeting.