Hazelett demolishes motel

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A backhoe demolishes the vacant motel on Lakeshore Drive last Friday. Hazelett Corporation, which owns the property, is now discussing potential redevelopment options.(Photo by Colin Flanders)

After demolishing the vacant motel across from its Lakeshore Dr. property, Hazelett Corporations is weighing its potential redevelopment options, company officials say, with the hope of finalizing a plan for the former Beach and Boat Motel property by next building season.

Last Friday, a lone backhoe crunched through the motel’s roof, methodically clearing the lot for the first time since the 1960s, when then-owner Sam Tash tore replaced cottages with the Tash Motel.

Hazelett purchased the hotel in 1972, changed its name and ran the operation until the turn of the century. The motel sat mostly vacant since then — save a few years of hosting a start-up technology company, iTherm Technologies, which was later acquired by the South Burlington-based Dynapower Corporation in 2010, according to Hazelett’s chief financial officer David Diederich.

Now, Hazelett is working to envision a future use for its two parcels there.

“We think it’s a great spot, and it deserves the highest and best use,” Diederich said. “We’re just not certain what that is yet.”

Hazelett employees have already brainstormed future uses for the area. Some potential concepts are a meeting space for employees and that could be leased out to others. Others are a high-end restaurant or an inn, Diederich said.

And while one suggestion — to stack condos in the area — would probably be the quickest way to “make a buck,” Diederich said, the company isn’t interested since that benefits only a handful of people.

He added Hazelett will work through the winter to perform a cost analysis on the various options and hopes to have some direction sometime next year.

Hazelett has yet to submit any formal plans to the town, and any commercial development there would need to go before the development review board, meaning the public would have a chance to weigh in, said Sarah Hadd, the town’s director of planning and zoning.

A backhoe demolishes the vacant motel on Lakeshore Drive last Friday. Hazelett Corporation, which owns the property, is now discussing potential redevelopment options. (Photo by Colin Flanders)

The property falls within the Lakeshore 1 District, which the Colchester Planning Commission ratified last year after an extensive public outreach effort. The new regulations are designed to hold developers accountable for keeping contaminated runoff from entering the lake and aim to prioritize pedestrian, bicycle and boater traffic over automobile traffic. They also encourage preserving and expanding public access to the lake while maintaining or improving views.

The district also has more allowed and conditional uses than prior zoning, while prescribing building design standards.

Hadd said Hazelett was heavily involved in the zoning changes process and hoped its potential redevelopment is a good sign the regulations fit the company’s intentions for the property. She added since the changes were enacted, the town has received interest from a handful of other property and business owners in the area.

Diederich said it’s clear the town is eager to work with Hazelett.

“They were happy to see that we were ready to take the motel down,” he said. “It wasn’t doing the town’s image any good.

“We’re just sorry we didn’t take it down a little more quickly,” he added.