The council spent about 40 minutes discussing the sale of Notre Dame before voting 8-1 to authorize the mayor to begin negotiations.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 in favor of a plan to develop a hotel complex in the long-vacant Notre Dame property.
The council voted to authorize Mayor Thomas Bernard to enter into negotiations with Square Office LLC, which is proposing an $18.5 million hotel at the East Main Street location. The purchase price is set at $253,000.
While there was talk of sending the bid to committee, the council voted in the affirmative after about 40 minutes of discussion. A second land sale to B&B Micro Manufacturing for the city's old salt shed at a price of $75,000 sailed through with little discussion on an 8-0 vote.
Emily Daunis and Daniel Wallis of Square Office are proposing a 64-room hotel using both structures and that would have a restaurant, bakery, spa services, yoga and meditation rooms, heated pool and four penthouses.
The hospitality plans are the latest in the city: the Tourists hotel was recently completed on State Road, a $15 million hotel is planned for Greylock Works and another group was approved for a boutique hotel in the Porter Block on historic Eagle Street.
"North Adams is cooking right now," said Councilor Wayne Wilkinson, a commercial appraiser. He said he's getting inquiries about properties from speculators who believe the city is about to take off. "Whether any of these are built or not ... if we can make some money on this while they're speculating, let's do it."
City Councilor Rebbecca Cohen, the only councilor to vote nay, expressed reservations about the Notre Hotel ("Our Hotel") proposal and was especially concerned how the project would change the largely residential neighborhood.
"I feel as though we truly do need something like this," she said, but added, "I'm not sure if this space is exactly the space I could foresee something like this being erected in the city."
The church property is in close proximity to Colegrove Park Elementary School, would be on an already well-traveled road and possibly affect water pressure. The city also needs low-density housing, Cohen said.
"I would just like a healthy discussion on this," she said. "This will forever change this street."
"We spent $50,000 on this building last year to keep it from falling apart," said Councilor Joshua Moran. "I think this is something that we let the folks who are purchasing it play it out through zoning and planning ... the sooner we're out from this building ... ."
Councilors Jason LaForest and Marie T. Harpin also voiced some concerns but were willing to vote or send to committee if the other councilors wished to review some of the issues raised.
"We have a very strong site plan review process in this city that will address all the concerns we have tonight," said City Councilor Paul Hopkins, a former longtime member of the Planning Board. "I don't know what the purpose would be sending it to committee."
Wilkinson, who had initially said he would support going to committee, changed his mind, picking up on Hopkins' comments.
"We have to have faith in the Planning Board," he said. "At this point, do we have the information necessary to vote on this tonight? ... the amount of money somebody is paying for this is beyond what we've seen in years."
Councilor Eric Buddington also eschewed the need to go to committee, saying the developers wouldn't be able to answer any questions until they had possession of the buildings.
"There are risks but it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling that they're not our risks," he said
Daunis spoke during public comments to assure the councilors and two citizens who live on Pleasant Street that she was aware of what impact the hotel could have.
"I live on Cherry Street," she said. "I walk my children by Notre Dame every day to school ... I've been looking at it considering what could bring some sort of vibrancy to the neighborhood."
The sale of the Ashland Street salt shed was easier, with councilors pleased that B&B was expanding and providing a manufacturing opportunity to diversify the city's economy. Wilkinson said he thought the lot could have been used for a public safety building but had been convinced otherwise. Councilor Benjamin Lamb abstained from discussion and vote because of transactions with B&B. The bid was not the highest but was deemed the best use.
The proposals were reviewed by the assessor, community development officer, chief procurement officer and the mayor. The other church property offers were by David Moresi for $1 that would renovate the school as apartments and church as event space and Eric Rudd for $25,000 with plans to expand his Berkshire Art Museum and use the school for studios and possibly housing.
"This was the hardest of the bids to evaluate," the mayor said, adding the group had "walked away" for a day before coming back to vote unanimously. "We really believe that this was the most advantageous proposal."
The city has purchased Notre Dame in 2008 to save the steeple and with the assumption the buildings would sell quickly but only the rectory was purchased by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Art Foundation before the economic collapse hit.
Bernard said he had also filed a 23B disclosure with the state Ethics Commission because Wallis had been a volunteer on his mayoral campaign. He didn't believe it would be an issue because the proposal had to go through so many layers of authorization, including procurement laws, the review committee, the council, and permitting and site review process.
The city had released the requests for proposals in July on those properties and two more. The former Sullivan School received no bid and the Pownal, Vt., watershed land a low bid that was rejected. RFPs on all of the properties had also been issued in 2017, along with the old City Yard and the Windsor Mill, both of which are nearing sale closure.
Bernard will now enter into negotiations with the purchasers on any conditions. The process could take close to a year.
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- MCLA's Hannah Mazzeo recorded a double double of 13 points and 15 rebounds as the Trailblazer women's basketball team held off a charging Cobleskill team 53-52 Wednesday in non conference action.
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