Weekapaug Inn owners seek approval for meeting facility to add revenue

Weekapaug Inn owners seek approval for meeting facility to add revenue

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — The owners of the Weekapaug Inn are hopeful that a planned meeting room building will make their venture more successful and help extend the facility’s hospitality season.

Along with a building that would house a meeting area capable of being broken into more than one room and holding up to 60 people, a separate free-standing unit with two one-bedroom hotel efficiency units is also planned.

The meeting structure and the efficiency unit would be built in the place of free-standing hotel suites that had been envisioned when plans for restoration and renovation of the inn were approved in 2007. The suites were never built.

Thomas Liguori Jr., the lawyer who represents Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC, the inn’s owner, and Lang Wheeler, one of the company’s two primary principals, discussed the plans with the Planning Board on Tuesday.

The meeting room would have a footprint of 3,405 square-feet while the other unit would have a 2,420-square-foot footprint. Overall, the two buildings combined will take up less space than the three hotel suites in the original approved plans.

The proposed buildings can be accommodated by the inn’s on-site private sewage treatment plant, Liguori said.

Wheeler told the board that while the inn, which reopened about five years ago, is either cash neutral or making a modest cash profit, the overall project is posting $500,000 annual losses when depreciation and amortization are considered.

“We’ve yet to take a nickel out. It seems to us the key thing we have to do is fill the shoulder season. We should have a business meeting per week in the shoulder seasons,” Wheeler said, referring to the late fall and early spring. The inn is currently closed for a period of time during the heart of winter.

The original plan called for building the free-standing hotel suites or “cottages” and selling them to recover some of the original investment in the renovation and restoration, but Wheeler said he and his business partners were hesitant “to take any money out” of the business at this time.

Charles “Chuck” Royce is Wheeler’s primary partner. Royce was the driving force behind the restoration of the Ocean House and is involved with several other development projects in town.

The partners also considered construction of a larger building to accommodate weddings, but Wheeler said input from neighbors suggested that the meeting room building and efficiency unit building would be less intrusive.

Liguori noted that the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which outlines development and preservation goals and priorities, calls for finding ways to increase the length of stay for vacationers and tourists and encourages local hotels and the owners of other accommodations to serve year-round visitors and travelers. He also related an insight he gained while serving on a town economic development panel.

Local business owners told the panel that they perceived a competitive disadvantage due to a lack of overnight accommodations in the town, he said. Liguori hopes to return to the Planning Board for consideration of the project’s preliminary and master plans on Sept. 19 and to appear before the Architectural Review Board on Sept. 7.

It is unclear whether the project would require a review by the Zoning Board of Review. Nancy LeTendre, the Planning Board’s lawyer, said she believes an application should be made to the zoning board because a meeting room was not included in the plans previously approved by the board.

Liguori disagreed, saying the current plans represent a less intense use. He asked to discuss the situation in the future with LeTendre.

The inn owners hope to begin construction this year, Liguori said.



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