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Dana Home Proposal Riles Residents

A Lexington woman wants to turn the Dana Home and the house next door into an upscale inn and restaurant just outside Lexington Center, but neighbors are concerned that she's thinking too big.

A proposal to transform the has drawn criticism from neighbors and residents concerned about rezoning the residential property to allow for a more robust commercial use.

Tricia Perez Kennealy, the Lexington resident behind the project, intends to seek Town Meeting approval of commercial development spot zoning for the residential properties at 2027 and 2013 Massachusetts Ave. and develop a 22-room inn with a 14-tabletop restaurant/lounge using the existing structures. 

In response to those plans, a group of residents and neighbors has organized around shared concerns about safety, traffic, parking, noise, lighting, wetlands and other issues that could arise if the town grants spot zoning and the current proposal goes forward.

The two sides came together last Friday, Dec. 2, at the League of Women Voters' First Friday Forum, titled “.”

Kennealy provided an overview of her plans, and responded to a handful of questions. 

A trained chef with a background in finance, Kennealy wants to restore the Dana Home, a former assisted living residence, and the single-family home and barn on the adjacent property to create the kind of upscale inn/restaurant that appeals to tourists and families in town visiting relatives for a special occasion.

The neighborhood group, which calls itself Lexington Neighbors for Responsible Growth, distributed a six-page statement of issues and concerns, many of which relate to the proposal’s scope. “The intensity of the currently proposed hotel-restaurant-lounge operation overburdens the size of the property,” the statement says.

Forum attendees asked Kennealy about parking plans, parking signs, whether the current plans are an all-or-nothing proposal and why she defines the proposal as an inn when anything with more than 15 rooms is considered a hotel under town regulations. 

Regarding plans for posting “No Parking” signs on Mass Ave and meeting the required number of parking spaces, Kennealy said her team would work with town boards to develop plans officials consider appropriate. 

According to Kennealy, the 22-room, 14-tabletop proposal is the business plan makes sense financially for her and her husband, who purchased the property with these plans in mind.  

As for whether 22 rooms makes it a hotel, Kennealy said she believes that distinction comes down to the style of hospitality. “If you want to call it a hotel, you can call it a hotel, but I’m going to call it an inn,” she said.

Kennealy and her team have made the rounds to several town boards and organizations and the concept was well received by members of the local business community and regional tourism industry, who said an inn could enhance Lexington’s appeal as a destination and promote economic development.

Addressing the LWV forum crowd last Friday, Planning Board Chairman Richard Canale explained that, while his board would consider the use as an inn and as a restaurant to be acceptable at the Dana Home location, it is also working with the applicant to address concerns and make sure “whatever goes to Town Meeting is the optimal intensity.” 

Tom Harrington December 07, 2011 at 03:44 PM
The phrase "optimal intensity" obscures the fact that the Town of Lexington is being asked to "rezone" two residential properties to a commercial status to create an island of commercial activity in a residential neighborhood. The response should be a firm "No". In fact, as Mr. Canale appears to imply in by his use of the term "optimal intensity" and many neighbors have concluded based on a lot of study of the proposal, there are serious "site" problems with the current proposal. Indeed, the plans show that the two properties will become primarily a parking lot with dangerous access points onto Worthen Rd and Mass Ave, respectively. What is wrong with the idea of simply converting the former rest home into condominiums as was done for the former Clarke School on Forest Street? The historic corridor between Lexington and Concord does not (thankfully) have commercial development along its length - why let it begin here?
Beth December 07, 2011 at 04:20 PM
When a Town Meeting members family ask for resoning, I would think twice. There is a reason why other developers did not buy the property. They had little hope for resoning. I would consider it a conflict of interest.
Valerie December 07, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Commercial developers should not be permitted to force through a commercial development of this large scope and size, while ignoring repeated public requests to address legitimate concerns about traffic, noise, lighting, parking, and wetlands encroachment. Zoning, planning, and conservation rules exist to protect all Lexington's residents. Even those who wield both money and influence in this town should not be allowed to do an end-run around planning rules that are in place to protect Lexington as a great place to live for all its residents.
Sheila December 07, 2011 at 08:30 PM
Perhaps the neighborhood would fancy a halfway house or low income housing on that site. No need for commercial zoning. Seriously, it is on the well traveled route of tourists, and this town relies on tourism...let's welcome them, and welcome the spirit of a local who wants to make it happen.
Sheila December 07, 2011 at 08:37 PM
By the way, for the Johnny-come-lates to the town, the aforementioned school converted to condos, was the Hancock School. The Clarke is a middle school.
Steven Iverson December 07, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Can it really be considered a purely residential neighborhood? Hayden occupies a large chunk of land nearly across the street, as does the town swimming facility. The site is a stone's throw from Lexington center. It's around the corner from a megachurch, a Walgreens, a Starbucks, a Stop and Shop, and other businesses. Current zoning aside, a reasonable person might describe it as being on the edge of a residential neighborhood -- or in the middle of a mixed-use area.
Carol Dickison December 07, 2011 at 09:52 PM
We meet friends at the Colonial Inn in Concord for breakfast or dinner, and would welcome the opportunity to walk to a similar, but much smaller property. After our meals, we spend time and, of course money, in Concord Center. It would be nice to have that type of choice in Lexington.
Valerie December 08, 2011 at 02:00 AM
The Colonial Inn is in the center of the Concord business and commercial district -- it's a false comparison.
x December 08, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Nothing like this kind of proposal to bring out the NIMBYs. To the credit of Lexington Patch readers, the responses here are balanced. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Bonnie Friedman December 08, 2011 at 01:28 PM
We so need an Inn or B&B in MetroWest. Since the lovely B&B closed in Arlington, there has been no local pleasant option for visitors to stay near our home. My only concern, they would be so busy, that my guests would have to book months in advance.
Beth December 08, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Sheila, you use 'low income housing' to scare residents into accepting a hotel. Interesting idea and can be used by the town to force unwelcomed development to any neighborhood. However, the Town only considers dense low income housing to be placed in less prominent neighborhoods like Busa Farm neighborhood. The Town wants to build a 'friendly' 40B there to save more prominent neighborhoods from potential 40B.
Alan Seferian December 08, 2011 at 05:29 PM
Bonnie: A Google search found three B & B's in Lexington: Morgan's Rest, This Old House, and Fireside. Alan
Tom Harrington December 08, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Mr. Iverson, I am sorry, but I respectfully disagree that we should put current zoning "aside". It is a fundamental fact that underlies the character and geography of the Town. The Town's zoning rules (and processes) have been in place for many years. Let's not sweep them under the rug for convenience sake, or to satisfy the demands of a single property owner's commercial interests. Rezoning, which this plan would require, is not a step to be taken lightly under any circumstances and that is why it requires a 2/3rds majority of Town Meeting Members to approve it. I'd be happy to drive or walk with you around the neighborhood. I understand the argument you are making, but from the perspective of many living in the neighborhood, the Dana Home is a very visible part of our neighborhood, while the Stop and Shop and Walgreens are out of sight and part of the Bedford Street commercial area, not really "in" the neighborhood.
Tom Harrington December 08, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Sometime tone and intent are lost in printed exchanges. I trust that you are not casting aspersions at those who live in the neighborhood by the use of the term NIMBY.
Tom Harrington December 08, 2011 at 05:59 PM
Good catch! Thanks for the correction. The former Hancock School was converted to condos. I think it is great alternative model for the Dana Home property.
Steven Iverson December 14, 2011 at 06:02 PM
To follow up a bit: I visited the web site of a group that opposes the project (lexprotects.com). It says that the group is made up of over 70 residents. The site is full of useful information about the project -- but, in the About US section, it doesn't provide any information about who the members are, who runs the group, or what its funding sources are, if any. When I used the Leave a Reply feature to ask why this information wasn't provided, my post appeared as "awaiting moderation" for a couple of days, and then it abruptly disappeared. Having spoken to a resident recently about her strong opposition to the project, I can absolutely appreciate why neighbors might feel as they do. Shouldn't all parties practice transparency throughout this debate, though? I hope that more disclosure will appear soon at the lexprotects.com site. It would improve what is already a very good source of information.
Patrick Ball (Editor) December 14, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Hi Steven, Thanks for reading and commenting. I believe a number of names were included in the literature made available at the First Friday Forum earlier this month, but I certainly understand your perspective regarding the website. I can also tell you that as our coverage continues, I hope to share more information about both sides of the issue.
Jerry Harris January 28, 2012 at 05:04 PM
We who are concerned over the size and scope of the proposed development support transparency across the board. We were never anonymous when we approached the new owner of the Dana Home in the summer of 2011; nor were we anonymous as we stood up to comment at the various meetings of the Conservation Commission, Planning Board, League of Women Voters, and Tourism Committee. We have updated the site recently to include a subset of names of those who are concerned about aspects of the proposed development. We recognize many of our neighbors do not agree with our concerns. We wish that in the spirit of community civility that we can disagree on topics like these and still remain close friends and neighbors. Jerry Harris
Jerry Harris January 28, 2012 at 05:07 PM
As a courtesy to the Planning Board, we have posted the latest copy of the Dana Home Preliminary Site Development and Use Plan (PSDUP). It can be found at the website http://www.lexprotects.com/. While there, you can also see some animations of how the site may change in appearance if the proposal is approved. Jerry Harris

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