Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Town manager Hoch's comments to Williams about proposed 100-room inn on Spring Street -- Problem with Option B seen; concern about Main / Water streets intersection congestion

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Major changes in parking at the bottom of Spring Street could occur if a plan by Williams College to erect a 100-room hotel is approved by Town Meeting voters in May, according to an analysis by Town Manager Jason Hoch.

In a Nov. 13, 2015, email to James Kolesar, a college official, Hoch commented on a "pre-regulatory" filing of plans for the hotel as drawn for the college by its architects, Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc. -- the same firm which has designed a new bookstore building for which construction is about to begin.

UPDATE: In a presentation to the town's planning board on Tuesday, March 15, Williams said it is currently considering submitting "Option A" (image above right).  The planning board voted, 5-0, to recommend that the town's voters approve, at May town meeting, a zoning change to allow Williams to proceed with formal planning of the hotel project.

The "town parking lot" at the bottom of Spring Street is actually on land owned by Williams College. Hoch suggest the relocation of Walden Street if a hotel is built in order to create a single, four-way intersection at the bottom of Spring Street.  "Option B seems very problematic from a traffic perspective with congested drop off and bus loading areas," he writes.

There is no suggestion in the "pre-regulatory" filing that Cambridge Seven consider any other locations for an inn in town other than the two sites at the end of Spring Street. Williams has said that it would close and raze the current Williams Inn if it gets voter permission for a zoning change to build an inn on Spring Street.

Here is a text of the email. To view the details "pre-regulatory" filing submitted last year by the college to the town, click HERE.

Town Review Comments – 13 November 2015
From: Jason Hoch
Date: Fri, Nov 13, 2015 at 9:18 AM
Subject: FW: Inn site study
To: Jim Kolesar

Jim –

Thank you for the opportunity to review the site study for the Inn. Our staff has reviewed the report with an intent of offering general observations about findings and potential areas for further study before finalizing. We did not review it as a full pre-regulatory type filing as we understand this is a draft and there is ample time for formal review later.

The most notable issue of concern is the further deterioration of service at the Water/Main intersection.

I am happy to discuss the items noted below in greater detail with the project team or to provide additional clarification. Further, please feel free to attribute any of these comments and subsequent analysis that may be added to the report as resulting from the Town of Williamstown’s informal review if it is helpful to differentiate from the College’s initial plans.

Land Use

One of the key recommendations of the 2002 Master Plan is that the Village Business District needs to be gradually expanded to accommodate more business space as this is lacking in town. Additionally, tourism should be pursued as a major avenue of economic development. Option A seems to accomplish these goals more effectively than Option B as it preserves the Town Parking Lot as a future site for mixed use development once the parking situation is addressed by using another site in the future for parking. A mixed use building at the Option A hotel site would be less ideal than on the Town Parking lot site as a mixed use building would more heavily rely on pedestrian traffic. A hotel on the other hand is an ideal anchor institution and generates its own pedestrian traffic and is ideal for the Option A site as long as steps noted in the report to ensure pedestrian connectivity are taken into account.

Both Police and Fire Departments expressed concern about fully restricting the existing Denison Park Drive such that the hotel has only one main access in Option A. They would prefer having a secondary access. This can be a bollard protected emergency only lane similar to the installation at Weston Field. The same observation holds for the Annex as shown in Option B.

The Fire Department notes that access to two sides of the buildings is necessary for appropriate fire protection. In both options, the annex shows little to no accessibility for fire lanes.


Placing the hotel at the Option A site preserves more of the existing traffic pattern and does not force as any vehicles towards the Hoxsey Street intersection which will be difficult to improve from a LOS perspective.  ased on the report, one can surmise that the proposed Walden Street extension to South Street could  enhance LOS at all area intersections.

The Town needs to consider methods of improving upper Water Street due to the serious LOS at this area.  itigation might have to be considered during a hotel permitting process, as this LOS will decrease further.

A roundabout could be a major improvement to the Water Street intersection. Traffic volumes at this  ntersection however, are near the upper limit for capacity of a single lane urban compact roundabout on a  eak hour basis. This should be studied further. From a design perspective, a significant amount of pavement  lready exists at the Water/Main/Waterman intersection and could likely be reconfigured without significant  oss of additional land or existing parking on Water Street.

Option B seems very problematic from a traffic perspective with congested drop off and bus loading areas.

The report notes that the existing Latham / Denison/ Spring / Parking lot intersection is problematic, and  angerous for pedestrians. Serious design attention must be paid to this site in the development process. If site A is selected the College could consider relocating Walden Street during the process of reconstructing and expanding the Town parking lot to create a 4 way intersection with significantly improved site lines. This approach, when combined with the separate Walden Street Extension could provide one continuous through street from Water Street to South Street which could offer an overall reduction of volume on Main Street.

Wetlands & Site Technical Analysis

Guntlow’s wetlands report is excellent and captures the concerns shared by the Community Development ffice and he Conservation Commission when the project was discussed last year.

We have no comments on the geotechnical work.


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