Published DateCONWAY — Developers last week introduced plans for Fairfield Inn and a chain restaurant on the former Fandangle's Restaurant site, but one planning board member questioned the wisdom of adding more of those businesses to the North Conway strip.
The planning board was conducting a site plan review meeting on a proposed three-story, 77-room hotel and a 5,060-square-foot, 133-seat chain restaurant. At the meeting, Ashok Patel, chief development officer for Jamsan Hotels, ended months of speculation when he confirmed the hotel brand will be the Fairfield Inn. He said the restaurant brand was still under consideration. He did say Margarita's Mexican Restaurant was a possible choice.
Planning board alternate Ray Shakir wondered why the developers felt the strip needed another hotel and Mexican restaurant when the town seem to have plenty of those while lacking other types of businesses like a VIP Auto Center or a B.J's Wholesale Club.
"I think another hotel would be needed like a hole in the head," said Shakir, adding he was one of the most business-friendly members of the board. "Maybe you could tell me why you think this type of business is appropriate here."
Shakir also suggested North Conway already has about a half dozen Mexican-style restaurants so perhaps another type of restaurant would work better, such as a Greek or Japanese-style establishment.
Chairman Steven Porter told the applicants that they didn't have to answer Shakir's questions. Porter said the planning board had to look at the plan for the site all by itself without regard to anything else in town.
"Our job is not to single out any applicant," said Porter, calling Shakir's question "very inappropriate."
Planner Tom Irving added the town doesn't have a regulation to limit the number of hotel rooms or the quantity of restaurants that can be built, and it might be unconstitutional to do so. But Irving said Shakir's questions were "interesting."
Shakir understood Porter's point but added that Patel might put people at ease by explaining his reasoning for attempting to build another hotel.
Patel answered Shakir's questions. First, he said, there are other Mexican restaurants but none have the particular flavor that will be offered at the proposed site. Secondly, Patel addressed Shakir's question about the proposed Fairfield Inn.
"We do understand there is quite a few rooms in North Conway as it is, but there is a lack of quality rooms in North Conway," said Patel. "We're certainly bringing a very (high) quality product and a quality brand name. And there are people particularly seeking that brand name today."
One of the major issues at the meeting was the applicants' request for a waiver from tree-planting requirements. Under the town's ordinance, about 120 trees would have to be planted for the area that's disturbed. But the applicants proposed to plant only 60 trees.
"You're not getting any sympathy from me," said planning board member Steven Hartmann to the applicants.
Steven Long of Opechee Construction Corp. said the developer could add a few more large trees or use smaller trees. Long said there wasn't enough space to add 120 trees of the size that were originally proposed.
Porter said the Fandangle's property is at the entrance of the Mount Washington Valley, so it's important that the hotel and restaurant look good.
Planning poard member Kevin Flanagan also questioned where there would be space for more trees. He suggested that the building appeared to be too large for the lot.
"The only space I can see is on the roof," said Flanagan.
Another issue was the request for a waiver from the shared driveway requirement. Long said sharing a driveway with TD Bank would cause the bank to lose parking spaces.
Beth Campbell, whose husband Wally owned Fandangle's, said it wouldn't be safe to connect the bank to the hotel because people would try to use the shared drives as a shortcut.
"The cars trying to turn left into that bank parking lot are dodging the two lanes of traffic that are coming to North Conway," said Campbell. "I hesitate to think it would be a good idea to encourage other people to try to enter the property that way."
Former planning board member Bob deFeyter asked the board how it will deal with development's impact on traffic and density. deFeyter also suggested that putting in a provision for connector accesses between the neighboring properties would be good planning.
"It may not make sense right now with the bank and it may not make sense right now with the car wash, but at some time in the future it might make sense," said deFeyter.
Long replied studies indicate the impact from this project would be minimal.
"The increase due to these projects will be 2 percent of the total through those intersections," said Long of nearby intersections.
Bob Gillis, who owns the neighboring car wash, said reducing the number of trees would make sense because there isn't much room for snow storage in that area. He also said the drive between the car wash and the Verizon store was already over congested.
Gillis suggested moving the proposed buildings back 30 feet could make the site more attractive and create room for snow storage.
The applicants would like to have a connection to the nearby mall.
Shakir suggested the tree requirement could be offset if the applicants build a well-landscaped berm to improve the view for passersby coming from the south.
The applicants agreed to do what they could.
"We want this to be well landscaped, well done and very attractive," said Opechee Construction president Mark Woglom, asking the board to work with him. "I don't know if a quantity of trees does that in itself."
The discussion was continued to the Aug. 23 meeting.