WESTERLY — The Zoning Board is expected to vote next month on whether to approve plans for a 78-seat conference center at the Weekapaug Inn.
On Wednesday the board instructed Zoning Officer Nathan Reichert to develop proposed language for a decision on the plans as well as potential conditions for approval. The board struggled at times last month and again Wednesday with whether it should accept a list of proposed conditions submitted by the lawyer for Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC., the inn's owner. Ultimately, the members asked Reichert to write conditions based on those proposed by the inn.
The conditions, or provisions like them, were incorporated into agreements that Thomas Liguori Jr., the inn's attorney, negotiated with a lawyer who represents 31 neighboring property owners and another lawyer who represents one owner. Those agreements would be recorded in the municipal land records as part of the inn's deed.
The proposed conditions for approval are based, in part, on concerns raised by neighbors about operations at the inn since it was renovated and reopened in 2012. The concerns focused mainly on noise and traffic.
"I have responsible clients that are willing to live with restrictions," Liguori told the board on Wednesday.
By establishing certain requirements as a condition for approval, Liguori said the board would be helping to protect other neighboring property owners who are not parties to the two private agreements.
Some of the conditions proposed by the inn would restrict use of the conference center to 78 people and set parameters for how often the facility can be used during the summer and by whom. Having a conference center would be a way to strengthen the inn's business outside the summer tourist season.
The inn owners have also agreed to have an acoustics expert monitor decibel levels during events, to use sound baffling construction elements and to situate the center on the property so that it acts as a sound blockade. Other conditions include limiting deliveries to smaller vehicles that can circle through the inn driveway, thereby reducing backup warning sounds and safety concerns caused by large trucks backing out of the inn property.
Langdon Wheeler, a principal in Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC, said it would likely take a few tries to get the sound level right. "Ultimately I guess we'll have to have bands without amplifiers if we can't fix i t... but I am confident we can bring the noise on the lot lines down," Wheeler told the board.
Board member James Torres praised the inn's owners for addressing concerns raised by neighboring property owners. "The owners and the community have gotten together and hashed things out so they can live together. I think it's going an extra step for them to want to put this into the special use permit, which I think is admirable to the owners of the Weekapaug Inn because they are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of it and the community will benefit from it," Torres said.
The board concluded the public hearing on Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC.'s application for all purposes other than the board's ongoing deliberations.
The Weekapaug Inn, after extensive renovations, reopened in 2012. Charles Royce and Wheeler, principals of Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC, bought it from James and Dee Dee Buffum, fourth generation operators of the property, in April 2010. Royce was also the primary force behind the renovation and reopening of Ocean House in Watch Hill.