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Planning Board: No Direction on Dana Home Before Town Meeting

The Planning Board continued to March 26 its hearing on a controversial request for a zoning change that would allow the Dana Home and abutting property to be redeveloped as a hotel and restaurant.

A Planning Board recommendation on a warrant article seeking to rezone the Dana Home and an adjacent property to allow redevelopment as a hotel and restaurant won’t come until well into annual Town Meeting.

Following hours of questions and comments for and against resident on Mass Ave, the Planning Board on Wednesday continued its public hearing to March 26, at which time the board intends to continue the hearing to sometime during annual Town Meeting April.

By that time, the Planning Board expects they’ll have Kennealy’s team’s response to the Planning Department staff’s responses and suggested amendments to a preliminary site development and use plan (PSDUP). The applicants will also meet with the Conservation Commission in mid-March and should have direction from that board about wetlands concerns on the site.

Cutting it so close to Town Meeting can be a little bit of a concern, Planning Board Chairman Richard Canale said after continuing the hearing Wednesday, Feb. 29. But, this kind of timeline is not totally unusual for a proposal like this one, according to Planning Director Maryann McCall-Taylor.

Outside the auditorium at following the hearing, Kennealy said her team is working on its responses to the staff’s suggestions and questions raised during the hearing and they’re eager to go before Town Meeting.

Public Comments

Opinions were mixed in response to the rezoning request and Kennealy’s plans to redevelop the 2027 and 2012 Mass Ave as an old New England style inn with 22 rooms, a 14-tabletop restaurant and a lounge area with additional seating. 

Achieving those plans would require Town Meeting approval of Article 34, which seeks to rezone the properties from the present residential one-family dwelling district to a planned commercial development district.

A group known as Lexington Neighbors for Responsible Growth had a lineup of speakers who expressed concerns about parking, traffic, wetlands, density, spot zoning and Happy Hours. Many residents also spoke in favor of the proposal, saying an inn and restaurant would be an asset to the community. 

The Planning Board, which considers an inn to be an acceptable use for the property and is now evaluating this specific project, encouraged Kennealy to take the staff suggestions to heart and asked a few questions about parking plans and on-site circulation.

Stratham Road resident Jean Williams said if the proposal goes through it would be a “giant step backward” for public safety. “The many vehicles entering and exiting this restaurant and cocktail lounge … at Happy Hour or during the night” could create a safety issue on Mass Ave and Worthen Road, she said.

Rabbi David Wolfman, an Ingleside Road resident, said an inn like the one Kennealy is proposing would allow people’s families and visitors to enjoy Lexington the way residents do.

“This is a very special place,” he said. “People don’t come to Lexington and want to stay in a Days Inn; they want to stay at a historic inn. … We’re not talking about an outside company coming here and building a chain store. We’re talking about a Lexington family.”

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