WESTERLY — The Weekapaug Inn's long journey to gaining approval for a proposed small conference center is continuing.
The Planning Board, during its May 21 meeting, unanimously approved the Weekapaug Inn & Cottages LLC's combined master and preliminary plans for the proposed 78-seat conference center and a hotel building consisting of two one-bedroom units. The latest 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.
Thomas Liguori Jr., the lawyer who represents Weekapaug Inn & Cottages, provided an initial overview of some of the project's history on May 21 and reviewed previously submitted documents showing that the inn property had significantly less impervious surface now than before it reopened in 2012 following extensive renovations. The board eventually agreed that Liguori did not have to provide a complete overview since the board had previously reviewed the project plans.
Board member Richard Constantine said an analysis conducted by a sound expert "looks very promising" in assuring that concerns raised by neigbors about sound at events conducted under a tent at the inn would be addressed. Constantine asked whether anything could be done to guard against sound drifting out of a particular part of the tent.
Timothy Foulkes, an expert with Sudbury, Mass.-based Cavanaugh Tocci, an acoustics consultancy agency, said other noise baffling measures and positioning of speakers should protect the neighbors from sound problems.
"That can be evaluated and changes made if necessary," he said.
Liguori noted that a condition of the zoning board's approval requires monitoring of sound at outdoor events. "It has a provision that once the meeting house is built and activities and weddings conducted, that a monitoring and revision process" would be in place, Liguori said.
Liguori negotiated agreements between the inn and more than 30 neighboring property owners to address the neighbors' concerns related mostly to noise and traffic.
The Planning Board also selected three architects to review Weekapaug Inn & Cottages' plans. One or more of the architects will be hired to perform the review on the board's behalf, and will be paid by Weekapaug Inn & Cottages.
Board member Jason Parker asked whether interim Town Planner Benjamin Delaney could approve potential changes recommended by the architects, but Scott Levesque, the board's lawyer, said the board's regulations place severe restrictions on the town planner's ability to make administrative approvals without previous board approval.
The board is expected to consider an application for final approval in June. The conference center is intended to help the inn bolster business during the non-summer shoulder season months.