The developer of the Veterans Community Park hotel project hosted two town hall meetings this week to answer questions, squash rumors and increase understanding of the project.
Bob Mulhere represented the developer, Small Brothers, LLC, at Monday’s town hall and began the night with a brief overview of the proposed project; the hotel will have 165 rooms, a rooftop pool and deck, an enclosed parking garage and a 4,000 square-foot restaurant. The developer is also proposing to construct a band shell, water feature and waterfront boardwalk in Veterans Community Park.
Residents then had the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions. One concern that residents had was the height of the hotel, which is greater than what’s permitted by the Land Development Code, but the hotel will be no higher than the neighboring Holiday Inn, Mulhere said; in fact, the developer reduced the height from 95 feet to 94 feet to make it the exact same height as the Holiday Inn.
One resident asked how the hotel’s guests are going to get to and from the beach, pointing out that there’s already limited parking at the beach and building a new hotel on the island will only make matters worse. Mulhere said he suspects the hotel will operate a shuttle service, but he couldn’t say for sure.
Another resident expressed support for the project, but took issue with the design of the park, calling the rendering of the band shell “a shell of what it could be.” Mulhere told him that the design for the park is not finalized, nor will it be without extensive input from the planning board, City Council, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and residents who, in hindsight, should have been informed of the project sooner.
“Perhaps the error was not coming to the community before we submitted an application,” Mulhere said. “Maybe we should have had these meetings before so there’s no sentiment about ‘what happened?’”
And right now that sentiment is strong as some residents and even some city councilors are questioning the origin of the project and City Manager Roger Hernstadt’s authority to negotiate with the developer on behalf of the island’s residents.
“The current process by the city manager to form this alliance [with the developer] is being done without the support of the voters as well as current city councilmen,” councilor Amadeo Petricca wrote in a Sept. 20 letter to the editor.
But Mulhere reiterated what Hernstadt, land use attorney Patrick Neale and others have said, which is that no deal has been struck and the project is not an inevitability.
“You have no obligation to agree to any of this – zero,” Mulhere said. “You just have to decide if you think it’s a good idea because I’m absolutely 100 percent certain that legally you can do this,” he said, referring to speculation that the park’s intensity credits, which the developer needs in order to complete his project, don’t exist.
Planning board chairman Irv Povlow attended Monday’s meeting and confirmed that everything Mulhere said was accurate and the developer has followed the proper procedure for the project.
“I assure you that what he’s presented to you is correct,” he said, “and he’s done everything right.”
The developer has asked for an indefinite continuance on the project and Mulhere assured residents that the project will not go before the City Council until after the Nov. 8 election.