MANCHESTER — Two more Depot Street motels have sought permits to convert their lodging operations into workforce housing for Stratton Mountain Resort.
The Econolodge, at 2187 Depot St., and Chalet Travelodge, at 1857 Depot St., presented applications to the Manchester Development Review Board for workforce housing under the adaptive reuse provision in the town land-use ordinance. Both motels are owned by LLCs whose principal is Jaydeep Gandhi of Manchester.
Both motels, on the upper stretch of Depot Street, would offer single or double occupancy for the ski resort’s workers. Gandhi, who presented the plans along with Abby Chaloux of MSK Engineers, said he will house 12 workers in single-occupancy units at the Chalet, and another 41 workers in single- and double-occupancy rooms at the Econolodge.
The Chalet Annex, at 1778 Depot St., already has been tentatively approved with conditions as workforce housing by the board. Its 31 single- and double-occupancy units are expected to house 65 workers.
It’s the second year Ghandi has contracted with Stratton Mountain Resort to house employees. The ski area handles the rental arrangements, Ghandi said. Last year it partnered with Southern Vermont Transit’s “Moover” bus service to run a free shuttle back and forth from Manchester to the resort daily, with stops at the the motels.
Gandhi said both motels would operate as workforce housing from Nov. 1 through April 16, and revert back to guest lodging for the rest of the year. He also said he was willing to consider continuing the Chalet Annex, which he also owns, as workforce housing after the ski season ends. But the board advised him he would have to come back with another application to make that change.
“I want to see how many inquiries I get,” Ghandi said. “If it’s valid and reasonable, I can come back.”
However, the housing for Stratton workers takes the motels out of consideration for the state’s general assistance program, which expanded its eligibility during the first year of the COVID pandemic to house people who otherwise had no place to stay. The state said last month it is winding down the expanded eligibility for the program as federal money runs out.
As was the case last year, those GAP program tenants must now find somewhere else to live.
Mokanna Weir, who reached out to the Journal, said she’s a single mom with three children, has a disability from birth and presently does not have a job or access to child care. A former White River Junction resident, she’s been living at the Chalet Annex since June, when she was advised by the state that the room was available.
“When I first emailed, no hotel I called nearby had room. I called Brattleboro, Bennington, Rutland, etc. However, last night I heard from one that has room, but it’s in Barton, a pretty long drive — three and a half hours away north,” Weir said. “All in all, we will head that way if the rentals I’ve been applying for somewhat closer don’t work out.”
Gandhi said he also had general assistance tenants who needed to leave for the program last year, and said he gave them advance notice that their rooms would be needed. He does not plan to participate in the program next year.
“The reason I wanted to notify them earlier was tourists are coming, and it’s harder to find accommodation,” Gandhi said. “If I give them earlier notice, they’ll be able to find a place.”
Both locations have more than one curb cut — two at the Chalet, three at the Econolodge — and the board asked Gandhi if he could remove one from each property.
Manchester Planning and Zoning Director Janet Hurley explained Thursday that the town typically wants to see one curb cut per lot to help make roads safer. Fewer opportunities for vehicle turns means lower chances for a collision with an oncoming vehicle, Hurley said.
Gandhi said he would be willing to try reducing by one entrance at both locations, but added that the center curb cut has been used by 18-wheelers turning around in his lot.
Gandhi is seeking waivers for both properties over the lack of kitchen sinks in the rooms. As an alternative, both properties have fully appointed communal kitchens, Gandhi said. There are also mini-refrigerators in the rooms, Chaloux added.
In other business, the board completed open hearings on the following permit applications:
• Andrew Comeau, doing business as Aloyicious, is seeking to erect a shed across from his home at 1174 Beech St., where he would sell frozen deep-dish pizzas.
• Mark Greenberg, the owner of properties at 557 Depot St. (the Village Market) and 575 Depot St. (the Firefly Restaurant), has proposed a change of use and design plan review for the properties, with streetscape and parking improvements envisioned.
• Manchester Elementary Middle School has requested a permit to build a pavilion on the school property to be used as an outdoor classroom.