Planning Board Closes Hearing, Continues Dana Home Deliberations
With an April 30 date certain at Town Meeting and questions still unanswered, deadlines loom for proponents of the project to deliver final amendments to Article 34 and for the Planning Board to make its recommendation.
The Planning Board last night closed its public hearing on Article 34 and moved a step closer to a recommendation on the controversial proposal to rezone a pair of parcels on Mass Ave and redevelop of the Dana Home as a hotel and restaurant in a residential neighborhood.
Annual Town Meeting is currently slated to take up Article 34 on Monday, April 30, and the proponents have until seven days prior to submit an amendment incorporating feedback from the Planning Board, the public and town staff.
The Planning Board has committed to presenting a report and recommendation to Town Meeting prior to a vote on Article 34, and Chairman Richard Canale said last night that his board should settle on a recommendation no later than next Wednesday, after receiving the project proponents’ amendments next Monday, April 23.
The Vision and The Reactions
The Inn at Hastings Park is Lexington resident Trisha Perez Kennealy’s vision for the kind of New England-style inn notably absent from her hometown.
A Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Kennealy has visions of turning the Dana Home, a former assisted living facility for seniors, and an adjacent property into a 22-room hotel with an upscale restaurant with seating for 54 and a lounge area.
Located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Worthen Road, the Inn at Hastings Park could be a wonderful gateway to Lexington Center and a place residents can recommend to family, friends, clients and tourists looking to stay somewhere with befitting of historic Lexington, according to supporters.
But neighbors of 2027 and 2013 Mass Ave and others who’ve spoken out against the project see a plan too ambitious for the site and residential zone it’s situated in, and which threatens to infringe on wetlands and awaken neighbors with late-night car alarms and drunken conversation.
Many of the same pros and cons were expressed last night by the dozen or so residents who spoke before the Planning Board closed its public hearing.
One supporter said the vision is perfectly in keeping with the town’s historic charm. But another said she doesn’t want to see a colonial tavern operating in her neighborhood.
“Hotels, restaurants and bars make noise; they open early and close late,” said Nancy Lattimore, a Jackson Court resident wary of off-hours conversations and remote car door locks. “After a night of drinking with friends, people tend to talk and laugh loudly. They think everything they say is funny and certainly don’t consider children sleeping nearby.”
What Went Down
At the outset of the April 18 public hearing, members of Kennealy’s team went through some of the changes made to the project’s Preliminary Site Development and Use Plan (PSDUP) and memorandum of understanding (MOU) in response to feedback.
Among the areas covered were language clarifications, streetlights, screening of the parking lot, residential use as a Plan B, trash pickup and the driveway design.
Regarding the residential component—a request to allow for residential use on the rezoned property without a return trip to Town Meeting—representatives from the team explained it is an absolute backup plan in case the Inn at Hastings Park is approved by Town Meeting and the Zoning Board of Appeals, but Kennealy for some reason cannot follow through with development plans.
That didn’t sit so well with Planning Board member Gregory Zurlo, who said he felt Town Meeting participation should be a part of that process and he wouldn’t be comfortable green-lighting residential without knowing what it would entail.
A real sticking point for some was the driveway entrance off Worthen Road. While project proponents said it’s adequate but far from ideal, an animated Jim Williams called the driveway a safety issue that should be prioritized ahead of parking.
Wiliams, a Stratham Road resident who provided his own design alternative, pointed to a memo from John Livsey, the town engineer, who wrote that his concerns regarding the driveway entrance lie with the existing curb cut and circulations along the Worthen Road entrance.
Livsey, in the memo, recommends adjusting the entrance to provide more of a “T” connection with Worthen Road and more of a level landing of the surface. But those recommendations are just suggestions, according to Rick Bryant, the traffic consultant for the project team, and improvements to the entranceway would risk running afoul of the Conservation Commission due to the nearby wetlands.
The driveway issue was also a problem for Canale, the Planning Board Chairman, who said it’s a shame that something that’s been a discussion point since summer remains unresolved just days before an amendment must be made to go to Town Meeting.
But it’s not just the driveway, Canale said. Both he and Zurlo said they would have a hard time making a favorable recommendation based on the information they have available to them at present.
The Planning Board will be looking for an amendment from the project team by Monday, and will meet at 6 p.m. to consider what was submitted and whether they find it to be acceptable. The board also intends to meet next Wednesday, and most likely decide on a recommendation at that time, Canale said.
Article 34 has a date certain of April 30, and therefore the amendment must be in next Monday. There was some talk Wednesday night about whether having more time would benefit the design team or Planning Board, but it didn’t amount to much.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported in this space that the project team intends to submit amendments on schedule for the April 30 date with Town Meeting. That section has been removed due to a reporting error.