CONWAY — After hours of presentation and discussion, the Conway Planning Board unanimously granted conditional approval Jan. 13 to the scaled down but still controversial Viewpoint North Conway LLC hotel proposal in Intervale.
First proposed to be four stories and totaling 105,836 square feet with 105 rooms, and then scaled back to 9,412 square feet and 98 rooms, the conditionally approved plan OK’d by the planning board last Thursday was for a three-story, 62,205-square-foot structure with 70 rooms and a footprint of 20,735 square feet..
The conditionally approved proposal also includes a 75-seat restaurant and rooftop lounge that would be open to the public. Previous iterations of the plan had it open only to hotel guests.
Developers also got the waiver they sought for building height, to allow for a stairway and elevator up to an observation deck.
“Good luck,” said board chair Ben Colbath to project engineer Josh McAllister of HEB Engineers of North Conway, who had steered the project since his first appearance on behalf of the project in February 2021.
Selectmen’s representative Steve Porter made the motion for approval, which was seconded by Bill Barbin.
Voting in favor were Porter, Barbin, Colbath, Sarah Frechette, Ailie Byers, Erik Corbett and alternate Steve Hartmann, sitting in for board member Eliza Grant, who recused herself because her husband, Mike Grant, had filed a nuisance complaint through attorney Roy Tilsley Jr. of Bernstein Shur of Manchester.
After the 7-0 vote, the meeting was adjourned, with Viewpoint attorney John J. Ratigan of DTC Lawyers of Exeter thanking the board.
Afterward, both Colbath and Porter conceded that although some people, including many abutters, had opposed the building of a hotel at that site — which currently is home to the now-closed single-story, 16-room Intervale Motel — they noted that the town’s zoning ordinance allows for such use of the commercially zoned 3.66-acre lot and that the process worked in terms of give-and-take by the board and the applicant.
“I am grateful for members of the community who came forward to try and affect the change they wanted to see happen. That being said,” said Colbath, adding, “It’s a hard-fought battle trying to make both sides happy with what the developer wanted and what the community wanted to see in place.
“Ultimately it’s a zero sum game,” he said, “so we’re not going to make any decisions that indirectly go against what the community wants, but at the same time we do have to uphold our duty to the town of Conway and the ordinances.”
Colbath noted: “I am grateful the developer was willing to come back as many times as they did as I know that was a lot of work for HEB, and it was probably not exactly the path the developer probably thought it would go and I am glad we were able to enact some of the changes the community wanted to see.”
Porter concurred, saying, “I thought the applicant came back with new and revised plans that met the needs that the abutters and the board had put to them so they were very amicable with some of the concerns with coloring and stuff like that so I feel the board did a great job.”
According to the website opencorporates.com, Viewpoint North Conway LLC includes member Jatinbhal Patel, member/manager Niravkumar Patel, officer Shivam Patel, agent Mark L. Janos, manager/member Pantosh A. Patel and member Vimal Pantel. The LLC was incorporated in New Hampshire in October 2020.
Also expressing general support for how the process worked was litigant Grant. “We never said ‘over my dead body;’ we never said ‘no hotel.’ We just wanted something that was (not as large),” said Grant, who lives across from the 3.66-acre parcel currently home to the Intervale Motel.
In terms of the waiver, McAllister said his client sought it only for a small portion of the building to exceed 40 feet, noting that “95 percent of the building is less than 40 feet (as requested by the board as part of the nuisance complaint filed by Grant with the support of abutters) and 4.7 percent is over 40 feet” at 45 feet.
The original proposal was for a 55-foot-tall structure, which is the maximum height allowed under current zoning, but planners at the board’s Sept. 23 meeting as part of the nuisance complaint sought the 40-foot restriction.
As part of a request by Tilsley, the board approved a condition that a berm be installed on the east side between the hotel and the aburttingIntervale Outlook townhouse complex prior to construction.
Tilsley raised concerns about the proposed roof color of the new hotel, which was depicted as red.
McAllister asked for a recess to call his client and after doing so, came back and said his client was amenable to have a roof in the black/gray scale — and that condition was added to the 20 conditions that were presented by town counsel Peter Malia of Hastings and Malia of Fryeburg and which were then subsequently ratified.
Other approved conditions included:
• Add additional “do not enter signs” on emergency vehicles only on Intervale Cross Road driveway that is to be used by emergency vehicles only and relocate the gate to the Intervale Cross Road property line.
• Of 77 spaces, dedicate central parking spots to hotel guests and to identify that on the plan.
• Close the observation deck at sunset and add to plan that the observation deck will be open to hotel and restaurant guests only and that there will not be food service on the deck.
• Provide snow removal on site if there is a buildup within 24 hours;
• Add a conservation mix to stream buffer area.
• Put in additional planting of arborvitaes to the fence and berm along the east property line.
• Have conditional approval expiration date of Jan. 26, 2023.
The session was held at the Marshall Gym at the Conway Recreation Center and began at 6 p.m. instead of being at Conway Town Hall at 7 p.m.
The gym was selected because based on past attendance at Viewpoint’s appearance before the board dating back to last January, when as many as 100 attended Viewpoint’s appearances before the board, planners had expected a large turnout but only 13 people from the public attended.
The parcel was sold in December 2020 for $1.4 million by the John R. Cannell Revocable Trust.
Neighbor Vanessa Kuemmerle lamented the planned loss of the large maple on the front lawn of the motel.
Others asked whether sidewalks could be built, saying that the area is always busy with people walking from the Scenic Vista to the Trails End Ice Cream Store at the Cannell’s Country Store complex.
But Town Engineer Paul DegliAngeli noted that the town does not have plans to install sidewalks as there is nowhere to anchor them and theat would impact already limited parking at that complex.
At selectmen’s Dec. 21 meeting, DegliAngeli reported to selectmen the findings of a scoping meeting he had had with McAllister and state Department of Transportation officials who indicated that traffic flow in that section did not warrant any improvements by the developer.
Porter suggested at that session that perhaps the town should ask the state to add a roundabout at the Intervale Cross Road and Route 16 intersection in its 10-Year Highway Plan.