A controversial request for a zoning change that would allow the Dana Home and abutting property to be redeveloped as a hotel and restaurant will go before the Planning Board tonight.
According to the description for Article 34, regarding the Inn at Hastings Park, this request seeks to rezone the property from the present residential one-family dwelling district to a planned commercial development district to allow for renovation and addition to existing buildings, as well as the change in use.
Over the past year, project proponent Trisha Perez Kennealy, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 6 in Lexington, has made the rounds and pitched her project to various town boards. During that time, opposition has mounted, particularly among residents of the neighborhood across the road from the buildings she hopes to transform at 2013 and 2027 Massachusetts Ave.
Now entering the home stretch before Town Meeting, both sides are kicking their efforts into high gear.
For Kennealy, that means gearing up for hearings before the Planning Board and Conservation Commission, as well as meetings with Town Meeting members, for whom the accomplished chef intends to cook dinner at the Dana Home to give them an idea of what diners could expect at her restaurant.
“I’m focused on making sure as many Town Meeting members as possible become familiar with the plan so they can make an educated decision,” Kennealy told Patch recently. “We’re talking about a unique project and a very specific property.”
And for the opponents, a group called Lexington Neighbors for Responsible Growth, crunch-time activities include articulating its opposition to the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Historic Districts Commission regarding the potentially precedent-setting impact of this development.
In its most recent letter to the Planning Board, an eight-page note signed by more than 100 Lexington residents, LNRG summarizes opposition to the project.
Wide-ranging concerns expressed in the letter include traffic safety, intensity of development relative to wetlands, additional visible parking in a historic district and the precedent set by rezoning for specific commercial project in a residential neighborhood.
“We urge you to withhold your recommendation of this project,” the letter states. “Such a responsible approach to community development will ensure that Lexington remains a place in which all of its residents (now and in the future) can enjoy the quality and character of residential live that Lexington currently provides, and that underlie the property values and attractiveness of our town.”
According to Thomas Harrington, a Parker Street resident and member of the LNRG group, the goal is to make sure people understand the real scale of what’s being proposed and to address concerns now rather than assuming they’ll be resolved during the permitting process.
“The power of attractiveness should not give it a free pass without concern for the impact on its surroundings,” said Harrington. “There’s no skirting the fact that this development is embedded in and touches and affects many, many residences. I think there’s been a very strong push to embrace a vision, but there needs to be a clear understanding of the practicality of the site and scale. Whatever happens on that site needs to be fully in line with the bylaws.”
The “Inn at Hastings Park,” as envisioned by Kennealy, would have 22 rooms between the Dana Home and an adjacent four-bedroom house on Massachusetts Avenue; a 14-tabletop restaurant inside the Dana Home and administrative offices in the barn between the two main buildings. She’s uninterested in scaling that back.
“This project is getting a lot of attention because of the prominent location and people feeling strongly about it,” said Kennealy. “It is important to have the scrutiny, and that’s why this works. We obviously included these types of provisions in the bylaws, but sometimes circumstances arise and we need to revise.”
Though there have been vocal objections to Kennealy’s proposal, several members of the local business community have expressed support for the project. At a Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast Forum in October, a famer, airline leader, hotel manager and a regional tourism director, said an inn like the one Kennealy is proposing is exactly what Lexington needs.
“These are the kids of things that revitalize the community and make it worth living here,” Nick Cannalonga of Wagon Wheel Nursery said at the time.