WESTERLY — The Westerly Planning Board has unanimously approved a final plan for the Weekapaug Inn & Cottages to build a 78-seat conference center and hotel building. The plan must still be approved by the Zoning Board of Review.
Items discussed at the meeting on Tuesday included revised architectural and landscapes drawings, based on recommendations of Providence architect Martha Werenfel and Clark Schoettle, executive director of the Providence Revolving Fund, which offers financial and technical assistance related to historic preservation. Werenfels, who has previously worked on the Weekapaug project, was chosen by the board to review the plans, and her services were paid for by the Weekapaug Inn.
“We received architectural drawings from the architect and landscape architect and reviewed them and then met with them on site,” Werenfels said.
“When we met with (them) they had a conversation with us about changes we recommended and very quickly turned around drawings that reflected our recommendations,” Werenfels said.
“I have no problem recommending the approval of this project based on the fact that the design is very well done and it’s compatible with the historic structure of the Weekapaug Inn,” Werenfels said.
Schoettle agreed: ”The architect and landscape architect were very amenable to hearing our comments and I think we had a very collegial discussion. I had several recommendations they concurred with, and they ended up I think with a better plan.”
Schoettle said he also recommended approval of the design.
Board member Christopher Lawlor asked about “fenestration” — referring to the north elevation having no windows.
“In my opinion the north elevation wasn’t the most architecturally sensitive, but because it’s not visible from the Weekapaug Inn or other buildings on site, I felt it was acceptable,” Werenfels said. “Clearly it was done to protect the neighboring property from noise and visual distraction.”
According to Thomas J. Liguori, the Weekapaug Inn’s attorney, neighboring property owners had raised questions about noise, hours of operations and other concerns.
Analyses by sound and acoustic experts were recently conducted to address concerns about noise.
“Not all our recommendations were incorporated into the final design,” Werenfels said, “but my impression was the final design was in keeping with the historical character.”
Liguori noted taht it was “legally advised” that the final plans return to the zoning board if approved by the Planning Board, because the zoning board approved the modification of plans.
A May review by the Planning Board became necessary when former Town Planner Rui Almeida determined that the project should be handled as a major land development. The board had given the project unanimous approval of its development plan in June 2018 and the project was granted unanimous approval to amend a previously issued special use permit by the Zoning Board of Review in March.
The 42,000 square foot inn is owned by Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC and primary principals Lang Wheeler and Chuck Royce. The original plan in 2017 called for the building of free-standing hotel suites or “cottages” and selling them to recover some of the original investment in a $20 million renovation and restoration of the historic structure.
Located at 25 Spray Rock Road, the original Weekapaug Inn was built in 1899 by Phoebe and Frederick Buffum but it was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1938. A new inn was constructed in a location across Quonochontaug Pond in 1939.