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Potsdam Zoning Board moves ahead with proposed hotel


POTSDAM — Some residents who attended the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing on a proposed hotel were concerned it may affect traffic on congested Market Street.

The public hearing preceded the board’s approval of an area variance for the proposal to construct a three-story, 95-room Hampton Inn at the site of Ton’s Sports Bar and Scoopuccino’s. The area variance is needed for the site plan’s approval because the proposed hotel would be 44.5 feet tall at its highest point, which exceeds the 40-foot maximum height for its zoning district.

Though no public comments were made, some residents of neighboring residential streets expressed concerns to Frederick Hanss, the village’s planning and development director, that the proposed hotel may increase traffic on Market Street.

“Traffic on Market Street is going to be crazy. It’s already the busiest street in St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Hanss said.

He pointed out Market Street handles an average of 17,000 vehicle trips per day. He estimated the hotel would increase trips on that street an average of 60 to 200 per day.

The hotel plans to be at 60 percent capacity at any given time — excluding the weekends of large events, such as graduation, which may draw more visitors, Mr. Hanss said. If it was at 60 percent capacity and there was one vehicle per occupied room, there would be more than 60 additional vehicles coming and going from the hotel daily, not including employees.

Mr. Hanss said the Planning Board considered an additional access road for residents who live off Sisson Street, but he said it was not feasible.

“It was deemed not workable. There are too many traffic signals on Market Street to begin with,” he said.

At its March 14 meeting, the board will vote on whether to grant a site variance to Jim Sheehan, a local businessman who owns the lots on which the hotel would be built. If the variance is granted, 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 Mr. Hanss.

Mr. Hanss said an area variance pertains to a piece of property rather than a specific developer or business.

The hotel exceeds the 40-foot ordinance largely because of a proposed cornice, a decorative crown on the building’s roof.

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

“For every dollar spent on a hotel room, $1 is spent on gas, food or local shopping,” Mr. Hanss said.

The village’s Planning Board accepted the proposed hotel’s site plan, which was presented by Amy Franco of Clough Harbor & Associates, last week.

Ms. Franco could not provide a specific timetable for the $6 million to $7 million project but said she hopes to move ahead as quickly as possible with the plan.

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

The board also looked at the possibility of expanding a small back road that connects the Asian Buffet and Mongolian Grill to the Potsdam Shopping Center. Board members wanted to see that road extended to reach Sisson Street in an effort to relieve traffic on Market Street. However, the McDonald’s parking lot next door blocks the path for any back road.

Mr. Hanss asked Ms. Franco to reach out to that McDonald’s owner to ask if it would be all right to construct a back road through the parking lot.

“Talk to McDonald’s. They might think it’s a great idea. It gives guests direct access to their property,” Mr. Hanss said. “If McDonald’s agrees to that back road, then that’s something we’d like to see.”

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