Hotel Developer Sues ZBA After It Rejected Pleasant Street Proposal

Photo: Michael Colomba at the April ZBA meeting.

Saying it’s a “matter of principle,” the Waltham developer whose proposal to build a European-style boutique hotel at the corner of Pleasant Street and Brighton Road was rejected last month by the Zoning Board of Appeals, has filed a lawsuit in Land Court to reverse the board’s decision, calling the decision “an erroneous application of the law and constitutes an abuse of [its] discretion.”

Michael Colomba said he reversed his decision to place a small grocery store at the location – the former Mini Mart convenience store – after the board’s judgment on April 4 after reviewing the board’s ruling in detail. 

“After the dust settled, I really questioned the board’s process coming to its 3-2 decision,” Colomba told the Belmontonian. 

Colomba is seeking to renovation of the two-building, two-story structure at 334 Pleasant St. –  and offices – into a boutique hotel consisting of 19 guest rooms, a cafe for guests, a fitness room, a business center and offices on the 14,400 sq.-ft. site. Columba purchased the site in September 2015 for $1.9 million. 

Also, Colomba said for days after the verdict, “I received so many phone calls from residents and officials. They said, ‘Michael, this is nuts. How can they say you can’t come here? You need to appeal this’.”

The heart of Colomba’s complaint lies in the board’s view that the town’s zoning bylaws don’t explicitly mention “hotels” as an acceptable application.

“There is nothing in the bylaws that says a hotel can go anywhere in Belmont because there is no reference to a hotel use so how can we even hear arguments for the special permits,” said ZBA Chair Eric Smith in April, ending the meeting before hearing any appeal for four special permits Colomba was seeking to build the hotel. 

In the lawsuit filed April 22 in Land Court, a department of the Trial Court based in the Suffolk County Court House, Colomba claims that while there is no stated use for a hotel, “under the use category of ‘Business’ there is a catch all entitled ‘Other retail sales and services’ which requires a special permit.” 

Colomba told the Belmontonian that the ZBA could not “100 percent say what ‘others’ mean” suggesting this section of the bylaws was taken “word for word” using regulations from other municipalities as a template. 

“It is the town that need to spell out what ‘other’ mean, not me,” he said.

And, in fact, the town bylaws’ general regulations regarding off-street parking includes the phrase “hotels, motels, room and board, other commercial accommodations” thus confirming the town does allow hotels as a use. 

By closing down the process before hearing Colomba’s defense for the special permits was “an erroneous application of the law and constitutes an abuse of discretion” as the ZBA exceed its authority in a “whimsical, capricious or arbitrary” way causing him to suffer damages.

Colomba is urging the court to “issue a declaratory judgment” in his favor, “declaring that the hotel use, with the issuance of a Special Permit, is a permitted use in the town” in addition to “such further relief as justice requires.” 

For Columba, who filed the suit just under the time permitted to appeal such rulings, he hopes the courts will at least allow him to present his case for the hotel.

“I say let the state now decide. I believe that we will get a fair ruling,” he said. 

Vote On Proposed Hotel Delayed Until March Due to Paperwork Snafu

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.