Lark Hotels seeking to amend zoning ordinance

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 6:00pm
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Lark Hotels, the company that renovated The Surf Hotel this year, is seeking to amend the Town of New Shoreham’s zoning ordinances to clear the way for developing its Gables Inn project on Dodge Street. Under existing zoning laws, the company cannot proceed with construction for the project, which it calls “The Grove,” according to its plans for developing the property.

The company’s proposed amendments application, filed on Sept. 10, “provides amended special use standards for hotels and inns constructed in the Old Harbor commercial district, which will allow the potential construction of new and renovated hotels in this district. Under the existing Zoning Ordinance, as interpreted under existing law by the Zoning Board, there is no realistic way to construct or enlarge an existing hotel or inn in the district.”

The applicant seeks to create an “accessory hotel room, as a new use allowed only by special use permit, and accessory to a hotel, and only in the Old Harbor commercial district. The use is limited in size and number of rooms based on the size of the hotel, which it is accessory to, and the size of the lot on which it is located. It can exist only as an accessory use to a hotel, and its dimensions and massing are subject to massing approval of the Historic District Commission.”

The application notes that amended language for an accessory hotel room would stipulate in the zoning ordinance that it is “a hotel room developed in conjunction with a hotel, which is not accessed from the inside lobby of the hotel and may or may not be freestanding.”

Per the application, “the total number of accessory hotel rooms in any hotel shall not exceed thirty-three and a third percent of the total number of rooms in the hotel.” The application also stipulates that, “No kitchen or food preparation facilities are allowed in individual units regardless of form of ownership and use pattern.”

The reason for Lark’s requested amendment is that the company intends to construct poolside cottages that would meet the new definition of an accessory hotel room, which is not recognized as a use in the zoning ordinance.

The company’s action is aimed at obtaining approval from the Zoning Board of Review for the project, which was granted unanimous final approval (6-0) by the Historic District Commission at its meeting on July 22, 2019.

At its meeting on Oct. 16, the Town Council set the public hearing date for hearing the proposed amendments for Wednesday, Dec. 18. The council must hold a hearing within 65 days of receipt of the application; it is due an advisory from the Planning Board within 45 days, or by Oct. 25; and abutters must be notified 15 days prior to the date of the council’s public hearing.

As to whether it’s typical that a developer seeks to amend a zoning ordinance to suit its specific needs, New Shoreham Building Official Marc Tillson, said, “It doesn’t happen often. Changing the zoning ordinance to fit a specific need; that doesn’t happen often.”

However, Tillson noted that, “Sometimes when a developer is using a local zoning ordinance it doesn’t clearly address what they’re trying to do.” In this instance, “There is nothing in the zoning ordinance that addresses accessory hotel rooms.”

Tillson said the Planning Board and the Town Council will review and discuss the proposed zoning amendments, with public input during public hearings, before they are approved or rejected.

Lark Hotel’s amendments to the zoning ordinance would involve defining an accessory hotel room under section 202, and in a section 312 (E), noting that adding accessory hotel rooms require a special use permit. Two new sections would also be added: section 407, denoting separate standards for hotels in the Old Harbor Commercial zone; and section 408, noting separate standards for inns in that same commercial zone.  

According to the existing zoning ordinance, construction, or enlargement of hotels is prohibited in the Old Harbor commercial district, even on 20,000 square foot lots. The proposed amendment would allow for a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet; a building height limit of 35 feet; the maximum lot building coverage for a main building would be 25 percent, 10 percent for accessory buildings; with 50 percent maximum lot coverage for the property being developed.

Lark’s application for the project involves refurbishing the historic Gables Inn, installing a pool with decking, creating two rental units in an existing barn and employee housing in a relocated cottage at the rear of the property, and constructing four poolside cottages.