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Potsdam zoning officials OK proposed hotel site plan

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POTSDAM - Village zoning officials gave the go-ahead on the contruction of the proposed Hampton Inn on Market Street.

Project architect Amy Franco, Clough, Harbor and Associates, appeared before the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday to seek an area variance because the proposal for the three-story, 95-room hotel would exceed the 40-foot maximum height for its zoning district.

The hotel exceeds the 40-foot ordinance largely because of a proposed cornice, a decorative crowning on the roof of the building. The cornice, which reaches 44.6 feet in height, is commonly used to mount the main sign near the top of a Hampton Inn.

“The building proportions are the Hilton standard, which form the building prototype. It is a typical building design that is recognized with the Hampton Inn and Suites architectural design,” Ms. Franco wrote in her application for a variance.

The zoning board voted unanimously to grant the area variance to Jim Sheehan, a local businessmen who currently owns the lots on which the hotel would be built - currently occupied by Scoopuccino’s and Ton’s Sports Bar. This way when Mr. Sheehan sells his property to the hotel’s developer, Vision Hotels, of Corning, the developer will be permitted to exceed the zone’s 40-foot height limit, according to Frederick Hanss, director of Planning and Development for Potsdam.

Zoning board members agreed with Ms. Franco, saying the code infringement would not be substantia, and is also necessary because it’s the company’s trademark. “It’s part of the brand,]and it’s not problematic,” board member Bill Vitek said.

“We could ask for a smaller (cornice) but it wouldn’t fit with the rest of the building,” board member Edward Komara added.

The next step in the planning process is for Code Enforcement Officer Larry Colbert to approve the site plans, after which construction on the hotel may begin.

The village’s Planning Board’s accepted the proposed hotel’s site plan last month.

The cost of the hotel is expected to run between $6 and $7 million.

Ms. Franco could not provide a specific timetable for the project, but said she hopes to move ahead as quickly as possible with the plan.

“I think they’re ready to start (construction) pretty much as soon as we can,” Ms. Franco said.

Mr. Hanss commended Ms. Franco and CHA for being very cooperative and communicative throughout the entire planning and approval process. “CHA put out a very well thought-out site plan. That’s the kind of preparation we like to see with an applicant,” Mr. Hanss said. “It just makes the process work a lot better.”

Mr. Hanss was also impressed CHA was able to utilize a triangular lot - as opposed to a more desirable rectangular lot - for the project and prepare an effective site plan that was entirely within the area’s zoning code, not including its exceedingly the code in height.

Mr. Hanss previously noted a recent market study of the village showed a lack of hotel rooms in Potsdam. The study recommended another 80 to 120 hotel rooms in the village, which would benefit the local economy, Mr. Hanss said.

“(Studies show that) for every dollar spent on a hotel roo, $1 is spent on gas, food or local shopping,” Mr. Hanss said.

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