2017-10-05 / Front Page

New Hotel Plan Moves Forward

By Bob Rulli


Hotel Proposal An architectural rendering of a proposed 57-room boutique hotel prepared by Group One Partners of Boston is slated for the corner of America’s Cup Avenue and Long Wharf. The building, with its contemporary design, would have ground-level parking under the building that vehicles can enter via Long Wharf, while accessing the hotel and other amenities from America’s Cup Avenue. The proposed project meets all applicable zoning ordinances and would require no zoning relief from the city. The current building is owned by Long Wharf Holding LLC, and is presently occupied by the law firm of Corcoran, Peckham, Hayes and Galvin, P.C. with retail stores located on the ground level. Hotel Proposal An architectural rendering of a proposed 57-room boutique hotel prepared by Group One Partners of Boston is slated for the corner of America’s Cup Avenue and Long Wharf. The building, with its contemporary design, would have ground-level parking under the building that vehicles can enter via Long Wharf, while accessing the hotel and other amenities from America’s Cup Avenue. The proposed project meets all applicable zoning ordinances and would require no zoning relief from the city. The current building is owned by Long Wharf Holding LLC, and is presently occupied by the law firm of Corcoran, Peckham, Hayes and Galvin, P.C. with retail stores located on the ground level. Plans to construct a 57-room boutique hotel on the corner of America's Cup Avenue and Long Wharf took a first step forward on Oct. 2, when the Newport Planning Board unanimously voted to approve a demolition permit for the existing two-story, brick-facade building.

Board Chair Kim Salerno recused herself from the hearing on the permit due to a conflict of interest. Attorney Michael Miller representing the property’s owners, Long Wharf Holding Company, LLC told the board that the application was “straightforward and simple in comparison to other proposals.”

The hotel, according to Miller, would have 57 full-size rooms and suites, meet dimensional requirements of the zoning ordinance, include full-size rooms in accordance with zoning requirements, and would meet new flood zone provisions.

“In short, no zoning relief is needed. The project is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan and is permitted by right,” Miller told the board.

Miller told the board the project will include 40 parking spaces on site under the new building and would utilize 20 spaces at the city-owned Gateway Center, adjacent to the project. Miller explained that the zoning ordinance allows projects that abut city-owned parking facilities to utilize spaces in those lots to meet a project’s parking requirement.

While acknowledging that the ordinance is in fact in effect, board member Melissa Pattavina expressed concern that “much of the zoning ordinances are out of date and not always consistent with the city's comprehensive plan.”

“[The city is] looking for grant money to hire a consultant to conduct a review of the zoning ordinances,” said City Planner Christine O’Grady, in response to Pattavina's comment.

Then, a demolition plan will be submitted to city hall for approval, as well as the review of a development plan and a letter of agreement from the city to utilize the Gateway Center parking lot.

“Our conversations with the city have all been favorable, and once all plans are approved and agreements in place, demolition would commence within 60 days,” Miller said.

Following the demolition permit hearing, a discussion regarding the permit process was on the board's agenda. Although determining future use of the property is outside of the planning board’s purview, several board members still addressed the topic.

Acknowledging it was not the board’s function, board member Tanya Kelly said she still believes the board should be able to consider next steps. “When it comes to demolition permits,” Kelly said, “I want us to put planning back into the planning board.”

Board member Jeff Brooks disagreed. “I don't believe the board should even be considering demolition permits,” he said.

Regardless of rumors that changes to the demolition permit process are underway, O'Grady told the board that the City Solicitor is currently reviewing proposed changes to the permit process.

Without being specific, O'Grady said that, conceptually, a new process would involve review by her office along with the Historic Planner Helen Johnson, the Zoning Officer Guy Weston and possibly the Zoning Board of Review. Any change to the permit process would require City Council approval. In response, Pattavina suggested, and the board agreed, that a letter from the Planning Board be drafted and reviewed, and then sent to the City Council, outlining their concerns about potentially being left out of the process.

In other business, Pattavina gave an update on the “Bring Your Bag” initiative, which Newport adopted this summer, requiring the use of reusable shopping bags. Pattavina told the board that 375 bags were distributed to students and families at the Pell Elementary School recently and that they were well received.

Pattavina also told the board that an additional 175 bags were being distributed to the city's afterschool program, where meals from the Rhode Island Food Bank are handed out to students on Fridays. The reusable bags will be used as part of the program, she said.

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