How does this all work? Is there a manual for understanding town politics, policies, procedures and life safety? There probably is. In regards to the proposed Viewpoint Hotel, the only information I can make sense of is what I read in the Daily Sun, the filed nuisance complaint publicly available on facebook, the Michael Grant v. Viewpoint North Conway, LLC public letter from the Law Offices of Bernstein Shur, and the engineering plan that is available on the town of Conway website.
This leaves so much room for public speculation. What do the interior common spaces look like? What is the legal capacity of those common spaces? Is there anything that would prevent someone from buying out all the rooms and putting a tent on the lawn for a private event?
Originally slated to have a rooftop lounge and restaurant, those features were reported to be removed from the updated plan, but that still doesn’t answer the question of general common areas and what the potential use of various parts of the property would be.
I’m full of hypotheticals, like hypothetically it would have been amazing for the greater Intervale community to come together and fundraise to buy the hotel from the Cannell family at the time of sale. Maybe turn it into a community area with additional parking for trail access to MWVSTA. If my memory serves, most people I know were in the throes of COVID times and barely remember it coming on the market. But it was, and it sold.
The new owners are legally allowed to do something with the property, I’m not denying that. From what I’m hearing, in addition to the fate of the tree, most people are concerned with the scale and size of the project.
Let's say the Viewpoint is built as proposed, 98 rooms. A newly engaged couple who's dreamed of getting married at the Scenic Vista finds there is a hotel across the street! They send out save the dates and anxiously await their 250-person tented wedding at Viewpoint. They buy out the property, put a tent on the lawn, but wait, where will all the extra cars park? Cars from guests not staying at the hotel, for the vendors involved, photographer, musicians, staff for catering, the entertainment — it’s a 10-piece band and they didn’t carpool!
What is the noise ordinance in that part of town? Do they need police detail for guests heading back to their cars at the Scenic Vista after “Don’t Stop Believing” is shouted across the valley floor?
This is all speculation because I can’t see, find or read anything about what the actual allowed use for the property is? Maybe they can’t ever have a tented wedding? But maybe they can.
I’ve been in the wedding business for over 20 years and watched the wedding industry across New England turn everything from old dilapidated barns, Airbnbs and “boutique hotels” into a wedding “venue.”
I agree with hotel industry Realtor Earle Wason, quoted in the Feb. 23 Sun, where the opening paragraph states, “A project that meets the town's regulations but is just too big for the proposed location. That seems to be the sentiment of planners and residents — and a hotel industry insider — concerning a proposal for a four-story hotel in Intervale.”
In a Feb. 5 Sun article, the headline reads “Planners grapple with scope of hotel project” and notes the project would be out of place with what the Master Plan espouses for that section of town.
“I think this would bring a pretty fundamental change to the Intervale area and the experience of being there for folks who live nearby,” said (then-planning board member) Earl Sires. “And I think it’s really especially important for us to consider the abutters and the impact this might have on them.” Sires said such a large hotel project would set a precedent.
Why can’t the board put a moratorium into effect that would suspend all new development in these very “gray areas” until they publicly present a completed/revised Master Plan for everyone to see and vote on? It’s not like the new owners of the Viewpoint won’t be able to build something; they will!
Timing is everything. It can be the difference of pulling the wool over the town's eyes or being the “victim” of town politics as Conway goes through a much needed, long overdue and critical update to its master plan.
If the developer wanted to be neighborly, perhaps they would consider selling back to the community and finding a more suitable spot for their boutique hotel.
Bottom line, the community is getting the wool pulled over its eyes. A detailed explanation of what this project truly entails would be greatly appreciated from this Intervale native.
Meghan Simone is a resident of Intervale.