SPECULATOR - The Village Motel will soon become The Village Square, or maybe The Village Plaza.
The tiny five-unit motel on State Route 8 here was recently sold to local entrepreneurs George "Rick" and Lisa Swift, owners of Village Rentals & Sales and Common Grounds Cafe.
The Swifts plan on renovating the property this winter. "The garage will be two retail spaces, one for Lisa, and we're going to carve out another retail space there, a small one, probably about 500 square feet," Rick Swift says.
The larger space will house Lisa Swift's gift shop, which is currently in her cafe across the street.
"The five units of the motel will be converted into a couple of commercial offices," Swift continued. "There is nothing we have to announce yet about possible tenants, but we do have possibilities."
The two two-bedroom upstairs apartments will stay.
A letter of intent from the Swifts was read aloud when the Village of Speculator Planning Board met Tuesday, Aug. 27. In it the Swifts say in the short term they will continue to operate the motel as it is, but plan to have the gift shop and two offices ready by May 1, 2014.
The larger retail space in the current garage will be renovated first, Swift says. The couple also plans on new siding for the building and extending the asphalt parking lot all the way to the eastern property line, about 10 more feet, he said.
"The goal is to turn this into a plaza for shopping and business and improve the appearance of the intersection," Zoning Officer Spencer Tracy told the planning board.
The board is concerned about parking. Member Daniel Burgess said, "They would need parking for the two apartments, at least two parking spaces per unit; the retail store; and the two offices. I don't think there is enough room there. You're changing the use; nothing will be grandfathered."
The board did not know the property has room to extend the parking area. Tracy was directed to research that and the village land use code for how much parking would be required.
There is also room to add parking to the south end of the parcel, Rick Swift said. "I have a 20-foot wide piece behind the apartments going down to John Marsh's [Lakeside Licks] property. I could have parking there if I need to; I don't think we'll need to."
Swift said it was a hard decision to close the motel, especially since most of his snowmobile renters stay here overnight, but another business in town has plans to build a new one -- Oak Mt. LLC.
Mountain Manager Matt O’Brien says, “We are at least a year away from doing anything up here at the mountain. But we are talking about it with between 10 or 20 rooms.”
Resident William Paestella is upset the Village Motel is closing. “It’s sad,” he said. “I feel it is pushing people away from our community.” He is also concerned about parking.
Board Chairman Judy Peck replied, "Even as things are now we need more motel units, but the planning board has no authority to require the new owners to operate the motel."
Tracy said the change of use would not require a public hearing. The board tabled the matter until its Sept. 24 meeting, starting at 7 p.m. at Village Hall.