Two inns proposed by one applicant in Wilmington


WILMINGTON -- An applicant came before the Development Review Board this week, requesting permission to change the use of two properties on Main Street for use as inns.

"We’re seeking approval on the renovations we are doing to the Vermont House," said Mike Riccio. He was representing owners LH Vermont House and Lorista Holdings LLC and Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Co.

"We’re seeking approval on the renovations we are doing to the Vermont House," said Mike Riccio. He was representing owners LH Vermont House and Lorista Holdings LLC and Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Co.

On May 12, he explained that renovations at its 15 West Main St. location would mostly deal with the interior. The exterior renovations will have to do with complying with fire safety code.

The Vermont House has been closed since the flood during Tropical Storm Irene. The building was most recently used as a bar but it was an inn at some point in history. The other property that Riccio proposed changing to an inn included three different buildings located at 1, 3 and 5 East Main St. -- directly across the street from the Town Offices.

The DRB closed the hearing regarding the Vermont House, which Riccio said would keep the name. The only change in the front would be the staircase, which is currently made of concrete.

"It’s not true to form historically for the building. We’ll be installing a wooden staircase," said Riccio.

The building’s white clapboard siding will be stripped and repainted while any damaged pieces will be replaced, he told the DRB. A handicap access ramp is planned for the side of the building. The application calls for the maintenance of eight suites and adding two rooms downstairs that would be for handicapped guests. The innkeeper’s apartment will remain on the fourth floor, where it was previously located.

Pending approval, Riccio said the bar downstairs would become a public outing space for guests that will include a television, furniture and gas fireplace. No food will be served at the inn.

"Our feeling is we’re doing several projects downtown. When we get involved, we believe we can make everything successful. For us to bring food into this area when there’s already enough, we’d rather our patrons go to other establishments," said Riccio, mentioning that an application for the Poncho’s Wreck building would be submitted soon. That building, which was formerly a restaurant, was sold by auction late last year.

Lisa Sullivan, owner of Bartleby’s Books next door, was supportive of the Vermont House project.

"It’s good to see the Vermont House up and running again," she said.

Wilmington Works Executive Director Adam Grinold said the downtown organization had petitioned to be an interested party in that hearing and said that the group supported the project and applicant.

The board has 45 days to render its decision on the application but DRB Chairman Peter Wallace said it will be produced quicker than that.

The board recessed the second hearing in order to obtain more details for the East Main Street project. The plan included having 16 hotel rooms plus an innkeeper’s suite.

Wallace asked that Riccio and his partners return with more details regarding fire safety, the right of way in front of the building and their requirements necessary to meeting the Preservation Trust’s historic criteria. The hearing will be re-warned for another date.

According to Grinold, there was a lot of support for the East Main Street project but there was also some angst and uncertainty around it. He spoke of the importance in keeping the building in its authentic historical form.

Wilmington Fire Chief Ken March mentioned his department’s concerns with the conceptual site plans and how certain equipment would get to the buildings in the case of a fire. He wanted to make sure there would be access.

Riccio pointed out that all three structures at East Main Street were vacant and a structure behind one of the properties had a foundation caving in.

"Our intent is to remove that structure and replicate the period date of architecture into that structure," he added.

The plan includes having hotel rooms on the second and third floors with retail on the first floor. Looking from Main Street, the building on the left would be used as a lobby for the hotel. The board was told that the middle building would be restored but kept as a connector building as a way to differentiate the two sides.

"What I didn’t want to see was one big massive structure here. It wouldn’t fit into Wilmington," said Riccio.

He unveiled a new open parking concept that was not previously made public, stating it was only for conversation at that point. The architecture firm Stevens and Associates had designed the drawing, which could create an improved parking situation behind the buildings.

The plan will require more input from both the public and zoning officials. Town Manager Scott Murphy had taken a look at it before the DRB meeting.

"There’s a lot of hurdles for him to clear for that to actually happen. It’s an interesting concept to get additional parking for downtown," he said. "We’re all for additional parking especially if signed properly, lighted properly and it’s creating a good traffic flow. I think the initial plan did that."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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