KENNEBUNK, Maine — The proposal for an 80-room hotel in Lower Village has been withdrawn, Community Development Director Chris Osterrieder said in an email Friday afternoon.
“The Town of Kennebunk Community Development Department was notified today that Kennebunk Harbor Hotel LLC has withdrawn the request to pursue the contract zone for the property located off Doane’s Wharf Road depicted on Tax Map 88 Lots 66 and 67,” the email read.
It went on to say the site walk scheduled for Aug. 18 had been canceled.
The controversial proposal on Monday night drew more than 75 community members — including members of the Kennebunk and Kennebunkport boards of selectmen, town officials and many Lower Village residents — to a Planning Board meeting where it was first discussed.
The contract zone proposal would have allowed for a year-round, 80-room boutique, “four diamond” hotel, with six residential condominium units, a level of underground parking, a 40-seat restaurant and an easement along shore frontage for a pedestrian waterfront trail. Access to the 17,000-square-foot hotel was proposed off Western Avenue, with one-way traffic out on to Doane’s Wharf Road then to Beach Avenue. There might have been a need for additional off-site parking, developers said.
David Bateman, president of developer Bateman Partners LLC, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Osterrieder said the developers indicated that they were appreciative of the constructive comments that were put forth at the Planning Board meeting.
“They indicated that they gained an appreciation of the issues in the area, but did not seem to feel that it was in the best interest of the community to proceed with the contract zone proposal,” Osterrieder said. “It seems that they acknowledged an uncertainty of what may be viewed acceptable as a proposal and were not comfortable pursuing that until they could get a better handle on that.”
Osterrieder said that once an application is withdrawn the applicant must start anew.
At Monday’s meeting Bateman said the company’s partner in hotel development was Hart Hotels, out of Buffalo, New York. The company operates 11 hotels, including the Portland Harbor Hotel in Maine, he said. The boutique hotels are “non-franchised” and are “very high end,” he said.
Residents, however, were not impressed.
“We’re not the Old Port. We’re not anti-business. I’m just kinda sitting here wondering when does the madness stop in 04043, our beautiful little town,” said Chase Hill Road resident Pat Foley at Monday night’s meeting. “When does an applicant, who wants to create a new business zone in a residential area, get thrown out of the Town Hall by the back of their neck and told, ‘Sorry folks, we’re not going to do it.’ At some point we have to stop the craziness that’s going on in Lower Village.”
Other concerns expressed included traffic, congestion and safety challenges the proposal would bring to an already hectic area; whether such a large facility was actually needed in the area; and why a contract zone should be approved when zoning standards were already in place and the proposal did not meet them.
Following the withdrawal of the application, Foley said, “I’m just as pleased as can be.”
Greg Burke, who lives on Doane’s Wharf Road, called the withdrawal “fantastic news” for the “entire community.”
“Change is inevitable, growth is inevitable, but we’re fortunate enough to live in this idyllic community here. Hopefully we can hold on to it for a few more years,” Burke said. “We’re not anti-growth but we need to be responsible in what we do as well.”