EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 23, 2013

Neighbors sue to stop hotel near community college

By Shawn Regan
sregan@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Several neighbors including the owners of a nearby gas station have sued the City Council to try to stop a proposed upscale hotel on land near Northern Essex Community College in the eastern part of the city.

The worldwide Lexington by Vantage company hopes to build and open the 60-unit hotel in the fall on Amesbury Road (Route 110) off Interstate 495’s exit 52. The 3.6 acre site is just east of the highway interchange on Route 110, behind a Dunkin Donuts and Mobil gas station at 401 Amesbury Road.

At a public hearing in February, Michael Migliori, a local attorney for the project, said the plan was to begin construction on the $4.5 million hotel this summer. City councilors and city officials praised the project at the hearing. No one spoke against it.

That night, the council gave the developers two permits for the project to go forward. But since then, a group of neighbors sued the council and the developers and asked a judge to stop the project.

The property is owned by PAM Realty Trust. King Weinstein and Stephen Stapinski are developing the hotel under the name Miami Stuart Realty LLC. Patricia Stapinski is the trustee of PAM Realty Trust.

The lawsuit was filed by George and Andrew Wickson, who are the administrators of the estate that owns the nearby gas station, and six additional property owners.

Fred Simmons, one of the plaintiffs who lives at 420 Amesbury Road, did not return a phone call seeking comment from the plaintiffs or their attorney.

The lawsuit, filed April 3, is vague and only says the project should be stopped because the council’s public hearing notice was “deficient” and because the council’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious, and based upon legally untenable ground.”

At an initial land court hearing May 22, a lawyer for the developers asked Judge Robert Foster to dismiss the complaint. The judge declined to dismiss the suit outright, but ordered the plaintiffs to provide more information by June 5 about their claim and what kind of relief they are seeking.

The plaintiffs missed the deadline and were recently given until Wednesday to convince the judge not to dismiss the complaint.

The proposed three-story hotel is to 12 full-time workers and many more part-time positions. It is also expected to generate about $800,000 in fees in property tax for the city over the next decade, the developers said.

City officials said a key part of the project for them is that the developers will pay for Haverhill to bring the city sewer line about a half-mile up Route 110 to the hotel and areas near it. Sewer service is something residents and businesses in that part of the city have wanted for a long time.

“Current businesses in that part of the city have had sewer problems and this will help them,” Stephen Stapinski, who is also the project engineer, told the council at the February hearing.

Councilors praised the hotel project at the hearing.

“It’s a positive sign to have this project at this time, coming out of a recession,” Councilor Michael Hart said. “And it’s an ideal spot.”

Councilor Thomas Sullivan said he lives near the hotel site and that people he has talked in that part of the city are excited about the proposal.

“I really believe in this project,” Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said. “I think it’s really going to change that area of the city.”

Lexington by Vantage operates upscale inns and hotels in key cities around the world and is part of Vantage Hospitality Group, the eighth largest hotel company in the world, according to the company’s website. The company has three hotels in New York, but this would be its first in New England.

The hotel would be the third in Haverhill, joining the 126-room Hampton Inn on Bank Road and the 110-room Best Western on Lowell Avenue.