• Developer agrees to rescale Waterbury hotel
     | February 12,2013

    WATERBURY — Historic preservation officials say they are satisfied with a revised plan for a new hotel at the Thatcher Brook Inn that includes more guestrooms but reduced height.

    To meet requirements for historic site protection under Act 250 land use review, the developer is proposing a portion of the historic inn be relocated on the property so a proposed Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel can be rescaled.

    The original proposal called for a five-story, 73-room hotel that integrated two historic structures, the Wheeler House and Wheeler-Aylward House. After disagreement at a public hearing in December in front of a District 5 Environmental Commission panel, the developer brought back changes to appease the state’s Division for Historic Preservation.

    The changes call for relocating the Wheeler-Aylward House, the historic building farthest south on the property, closer to Vermont Route 100 to allow the proposed five-story hotel to be farther from the road. The new building would be four stories, with its lowest level as a parking garage, according to a Jan. 30 letter from the Historic Preservation Division.

    “This will allow the Wheeler-Aylward House to stand on its own, in a more prominent location on the property, and not be connected to the new hotel building,” the letter said.

    Waterbury Planning Commission Chairwoman Becca Washburn said the new proposal calls for 84 rooms, apparently to allow the hotel to bring in more money to offset the cost of the project. Her commission is reviewing the project to ensure traffic concerns are addressed, among other issues. Although the local board has no enforcement power, it could make recommendations to the Act 250 review board.

    “They have shown a tremendous amount of improvement,” Washburn said. “And that’s commendable.”

    The historic preservation office had taken issue with the height of the new building as out of character with the neighborhood in the Colbyville Historic District. Existing buildings in the historical area are only two and a half stories at most.

    Historic Preservation Division staff, however, told the District 5 Environmental Commission that it believes the design changes allow the Act 250 historic sites criterion to be met, and state staffers said the project will have “no adverse effect” on historic resources. As part of a project review process, the state needs to determine that no undue adverse effect on historic sites would occur, and mitigation can be a solution.

    The historic area once was home to a potato-whiskey distillery, machine and blacksmith shops, lumber and clapboard mills, a tannery and a horse barn, among other buildings, according to the State Register of Historic Places.

    Today, a dam on Thatcher Brook and about 10 buildings that have historic significance remain, according to the register.

    david.taube @timesargus.com

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