Conservation Commissioners Stephanie Boyd and Philip McKnight review the orders of conditions for the inn project.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — At long last, the new Williams Inn is "shovel ready."
On Thursday night, Williams College received the final regulatory approval it needed to build a 64-room, 60,000-square foot inn at the bottom of Spring Street to replace the current 100-room inn at the Field Park rotary at the junction of Routes 2 and 7.
By a vote of 5-0, the town's Conservation Commission gave its blessing to the project, which includes a renovation and expansion of the college-owned and town-operated municipal parking lot at the south end of downtown commercial district.
The new inn project has been discussed publicly in town since at least January 2013 and required town meeting action to expand the Village Business zoning district to allow its construction.
The Con Comm closed its hearing on the college's notice of intent in its second continuation of a hearing that opened Aug. 10 and after receiving assurances from the town's conservation agent that the town's peer review engineering consultant was confident a few remaining issues regarding the restoration of a stream on the property could be resolved long before that work begins.
"I spoke to [David Nyman of Comprehensive Environmental Inc.] on the phone, and he felt these things were minor and the applicant would address them within the appeal period if your condition was worded as such," Andrew Groff told the commission.
Nyman had a scheduling conflict and was unable to attend the special meeting of the commission, which was called after the panel balked at setting conditions on Sept. 14 because Nyman had not had a chance to review plan revisions that were made to address other concerns he raised about the project.
On Thursday, the Con Comm went point-by-point through a letter from Nyman that expressed his satisfaction with all of those planned revisions save the work on the stream, which is not scheduled to begin until well after the project gets under way next month.
After a mandatory two-week appeal period ends, the college hopes to break ground on the first phase of the project, the redo of the parking lot. When finished, the parking lot will have 200 spaces, up from the current 120. Seventy-one of those spaces will be dedicated to the inn, although during non-peak times for the hotel, those spaces will be available for public parking.
In addition, the parking lot will sit above a new stormwater detention system that will handle runoff from the watershed to the north and west and work in conjunction with a culvert replacement project to carry Christmas Brook east into the Green River.
On Thursday, the Con Comm discussed several of Nyman's recommendations on the parking lot portion that have been incorporated into the final plan, including his thoughts on the types of trees that should be used to prevent root systems from damaging the stormwater detention vessels.
Notes like that have been incorporated into the final plans and drawings that will govern the project. The stream restoration and crossing on the inn's property is still a work in progress, but most of the progress has been made.
"You have a document on commission letterhead with conditions, most of which are from [Nyman's Sept. 21] letter," Groff said. "There's a final condition there that in parallel with David's email would direct your agent, myself, and David to work with the applicant on resolving these three final issues that he discusses in regard to the stream as a condition of the permit."
One of the college's engineers, Jared Gentilucci of Boston's Nitsch Engineering, told the commission he was confident the issues in question could be resolved to Nyman's satisfaction in a couple of weeks, well ahead of the prospective start date for stream work, which would not begin until after construction of the inn itself is well under way.
"That's probably a year out," Gentilucci said.
Con Comm Chairwoman Stephanie Boyd said she would prefer not to leave the stream design issues open-ended for a year and suggested a two-month window for Nyman and the college's engineers to get on the same page.
In the meantime, the rest of the work on the parking lot and inn will be able to get under way and ground will be broken on the former before frost sets in.
"Per our conversation today, [Nyman] understands the construction schedule as well," Groff said. "The college is going to build the building and do all the heavier operations first. Stream restoration is a more delicate operation. That's the final part of the project."
On large projects, like the new Williams Inn or the Clark Art Institute's campus expansion, the town requires a peer review of engineering to support the work of the volunteers on the Conservation Commission. CEI's client is the town of Williamstown, but it is paid by the applicant, in this case the college.
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