WPB recommends zoning changes

April 13, 2016 by Michael Green, Executive Editor

On March 15, the Williamstown Planning Board (WPB) recommended that a zoning change to the proposed location of the new Williams Inn be approved at the town meeting. The recommendation followed a public hearing on various zoning changes that represented the first step towards the town’s approval of the Inn.

The change is an expansion of the Village Business district past Latham Street to the area south of Spring Street, where the College plans to build the Inn. Under current zoning laws, the College cannot build the Inn in this location. The proposed site for the Inn is behind the American Legion building, which would be moved if the Inn is constructed.

The Inn zoning change is one of six zoning bylaws that will be discussed at the town meeting on May 17. For the change to pass, two-thirds of the committee must approve.

Even if the change is approved, the town and College will have to take additional steps before the Inn can be built. The town will have to approve a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals and pass subsequent review by the Conservation Committee and the Planning Board.

“We work closely with town boards on all our projects,” Frederick Puddester, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, said. “Based on our work with other projects near the site of the Inn, including Weston Field and the Science Center, we believe we can work with the town boards to get the necessary approvals for the Inn project.”

If the proposed Inn receives all necessary forms of approval, it will open in 2019, following 14 months allotted for design and 18 months for construction. The architect for the project is Cambridge Seven Associates, who also designed the college bookstore that will be built on Spring Street. The design would include a 60-room inn and a 40-room annex that could be closed in a period of decreased occupancy. The project would cost more than $10 million.

At meetings, residents have questioned how the Inn will affect traffic patterns on Spring Street.

“We believe the Inn, as well as the Bookstore, will generate additional foot traffic on Spring Street,” Puddester said. “This will increase the vitality of the street and be helpful to the existing merchants and hopefully attract more businesses. As for cars, our traffic engineer estimated that at peak times, like the summer, we would see an increase of one car per minute [on average] at certain intersections in town, including Water Street and Main Street and also Hoxsey Street and Main Street.”

The current Inn, located on Main Street, will be demolished when the new Inn is built. However, there are no new plans for the lot at the moment.

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