By Tom Eastman
CONWAY — Cranmore Mountain Resort President and General Manager Ben Wilcox says while his resort has no immediate plans to build a resort hotel, it is taking steps to make a zoning change to make it possible.
Toward that end, a resort-led zoning petition was submitted Jan. 4 to the Conway Planning Board by 34 voters — including Wilcox and other Cranmore employees.
It requested to reduce the sideline and roadway setback for resort hotels in the Recreational Resort District from 1,000 feet to 100 feet.
That proposal was reviewed by the Conway Planning Board at its Jan. 28 meeting
Voting to recommend the zoning amendment to voters were board chair Bob Drinkhall, selectmen's representative Steve Porter, and Martha Tobin and Ray Shakir. Steve Hartmann abstained. Kevin Flanagan voted against. It will be presented to voters at annual town meeting April 12.
Attorney Ken Cargill of Cooper, Cargill Chant of North Conway presented the petition on behalf of Cranmore, according to Conway Planning Director Tom Irving.
Irving said Cranmore has already received conditional approval for its Kearsarge Brook condominium project, and those buildings require only a 25-foot setback.
But under current zoning laws, if Cranmore built a hotel structure similar to the condominium buildings, it would require a 1,000-foot setback.
The proposed amendment is intended to correct that.
Irving said he was told the setback requirement goes back to the 1980s "with the proposed Presidential Golf Course on Dolloff Hill Road."
Zoning at that time required a golf course with a resort hotel to have a 1,000-foot setback via special exception. Irving believes it was to protect neighbors in the residential/agricultural district.
"But the recently approved condominiums at Cranmore require only a 25-foot setback. Were the hotel to be identical in appearance but differing only in its use, it requires 1,000 feet, and that seemed a bit excessive," Irving said this week.
Wilcox said it's a matter of preparing for the future.
"We are now in the process of selling condominiums for our Kearsarge Brook project," Wilcox said. "Our current plan does not include a resort hotel.
"That said," he continued, "if the opportunity ever came up to consider a resort hotel, we wanted the option of considering it in the area of our present development. The 1,000-foot setback for a resort hotel would mean that we would have to consider a hotel up on the mountain versus in our existing base facility area. It only makes sense to consider a resort hotel in the area of our main base area where all our utilities and infrastructure lie."
The 1,000-setback requirement came to light during an in-house overview a few months ago, he said.
"We discovered this language in the zoning ordinance and thought it would be forward-thinking to adjust the zoning from a 1,000-foot setback to 100 feet which lets us then consider any future opportunities in our base area," said Wilcox.
He added that the setback distance was never determined with Cranmore's property in mind.
"We have no formal plans to replace any buildings, except for the buildings noted in our Kearsarge Brook project," Wilcox noted.
In other action at the Jan. 28 meeting, the board:
• Voted to recommend an article that would allow crematories in the Industrial II district.
• Voted to recommend to increase the Highway Commercial District on the south side of Route 302 "incorporating that area previously encumbered by the Bypass Overlay District between Route 302 and Eagles Way."
That zoning change would allow the White Mountain Aquatic and Fitness Center to build a facility there, pending successful fundraising and planning approval.
Irving said the board Conway Town Hall will hold a second public hearing Feb. 11 on zoning amendments proposed by the board concerning internally illuminated signs.
"The upshot of it is to allow for the conversion of existing signs from external to internal lighting and providing for new signs to be internally lit — primarily freestanding and wall signs," he said.
The changes are to be acted upon by voters as one warrant article April 12.
The board will also act on a boundary line adjustment request from Joseph E. Sullivan III and BS Investment Property Holdings, Inc. at 46 Locust Lane.
It is also scheduled to address the Mount Washington Valley Regional Collaborative's strategies to support affordable housing and economic development.
For more information, call (603) 447-3855, Ext. 4 or visit conwaynh.org/planning-boards.
- Category: Local Business