Photo: Developer Michael Colomba and his architect Andy Rojas before the ZBA.
To the disappointment of two dozen residents who ventured out Monday night, Feb. 1, to cheer or jeer a proposed new hotel at the corner of Pleasant Street and Brighton Avenue, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals decided to delay by a month acting on the request of a Waltham developer seeking several zoning waivers because he and his team didn’t get their “homework” to the board in a timely manner.
Several ZBA members were a bit ticked off to receive a thick packet of documents including a traffic study just days before the meeting on a subject that is garnering a great deal of interest.
“I object opening this case and to have a public hearing on it,” said ZBA member Nicholas Iannuzzi, noting he did not have time to analyze the case or the traffic study on how many daily “trips” a hotel would generate.
ZBA Chair Eric Smith agreed that he and others received the document packet “quite late” after Jan. 22 and suggested developer Michael Colomba and his team make an introductory informational meeting for the board and residents.
The formal public meeting on the proposed hotel development will be part of the board’s March 7 agenda.
Former Belmont Selectman Andy Rojas, the project’s architect, presented an overview of the project, renovating the two-building, two-story structure at 334 Pleasant St. – the former Mini Mart convenience store and offices – and opening a boutique hotel consisting of 18 guest rooms, a cafe for guests, a fitness room, a business center and management offices on the 14,400 sq.-ft. site.
The building’s exterior will not be altered significantly in an attempt to “express Belmont’s agrarian history.”
Rojas said the hotel would have less impact on local traffic than what can operate on the site “as right” (without needing any zoning change) including a retail store, and will generate tax revenue from lodging and meals “without having an impact on the schools.”
“This is a much quieter use and will be a quiet neighbor” to the surrounding community, said Rojas.
Colomba, who purchased the property last year, said he rented rooms “to a lot of people visiting Belmont” at his first hotel, the Crescent Suite Hotel in Waltham, whether it was for a funeral, graduation parties or visiting patients in hospitals and believes there is a demand for “low key” European-style lodging: just a bedroom setting for people to rest and sleep during a stay.
ZBA members asked Colomba to bring his traffic expert to the next meeting. Smith also asked the team to have “an explanation how in your view how a hotel fits within the bylaw regardless of the merits of the proposal.”
“I’m asking them to convince the board why this rather than another use,” Smith said after the meeting.
For his part, Colomba told the Belmontonian after the meeting he understands why the ZBA will want to scrutinize the project “and we plan to follow as necessary their requests.”
If on March 7 the ZBA doesn’t agree with his belief that a hotel is the best use for the site, Colomba said his fall back plan is to lease the space to one of two firms that want to open a convenience store.
“But I really think that this is a very good venue and the town should consider it. I think it’s a win/win for everyone,” said Colomba.