SOUTHINGTON — Developers withdrew an application for a five-story hotel at the corner of West and West Main streets after their request for exemptions from zoning regulations were met with hesitancy by zoning officials.
Jaymin Mehta, of Canton, had hoped to build a five-story “micro-hotel” with 80 rooms on the 1-acre site at 17 West St. The proposed building was two stories higher than allowed in the area, and Zoning Board of Appeals members told Mehta’s, representative Sev Bovino, that they were struggling to find a reason to grant an exception.
The application was withdrawn after the meeting late last month, according to Town Planner Rob Philips.
Bovino said Mehta is working on a hotel design that might better fit the site.
“They’re trying to make it work as a micro-hotel,” Bovino said. Since his coming to town 50 years ago, the property has always been a vacant lot. “It is a difficult project to make work.”
Neighbors who came out in opposition to the planned hotel in September were glad it was withdrawn, but still worried about what might be slated for the corner property.
Michelle Ryan, a West Main Street resident just east of the property, was relieved to hear the hotel as proposed wouldn’t be going up.
“I didn’t know how they were going to get 80 rooms there,” she said Friday. “Being so high, they can look right into everyone’s backyard.”
Ryan’s house is separated from the corner lot by a small creek and some trees. The land has been used for parking, she said, which several years ago included noisy refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks that ran through the night.
With a hotel, Ryan was anticipating more noise, traffic, lights and other disruption.
Now she’s wondering what might be proposed next for the adjacent property.
Philips said the property is zoned industrial, which can include factories, hotels and other businesses.
Buildings can be a maximum of 65 feet and three stories. Bovino argued that the hotel proposal met the 65-foot requirement, but that extra floors were needed.
Other uses in the zone include heavy industry, storage or commercial storefronts. Bovino said heavy industry wasn’t right for the neighborhood and that there was little demand in town for storefronts.
“I hope the neighbors realize that (a hotel) is a clean use,” he said.Three-story limit
While 65 feet is higher than needed for most three-story residential buildings, some of the factories in industrial zones, such as the former Pratt & Whitney building, need very tall ceilings. Philips said if the hotel were set back farther from the road, more stories would have been allowed. The lot was too small to push the building any farther back, however.
Applicants have to show a hardship in order to get a variance from the appeals board. Bovino argued that a hotel was an allowed use in the zone, but that a three-story hotel isn’t feasible.
Appeals board members said financial viability isn’t a consideration. Hardships include special conditions or an exceptional difficulty imposed by the regulations.
Lou Perillo, the town’s economic development coordinator, wrote a letter in support of the hotel and its economic benefits to the town’s tax base.
Even if the zoning board had approved the extra stories, the building was still closer to property lines than allowed by zoning regulations. Philips said the developers hadn’t requested those variances before withdrawing the application.
“Apparently they got the message that that wasn’t going to be something that was going to be looked upon favorably,” he said.
The zoning board didn’t vote on Mehta’s request last month and will accept the withdrawal at its next meeting.