Land Use Boards Begin Work on Proposal for Wykeham Rise

Proposed Wykeham Rise, Spa & Inn
Proposed Wykeham Rise, Spa & Inn
WASHINGTON — A project that would bring an inn, restaurant and spa to Wykeham Road in the former site of Wykeham Rise, a private girls’ school, has begun its journey through the Town’s land use boards.

New Yorker Matthew Klauer, who purchased the 27-acre prop­erty in April, has proposed an environmentally friendly, LEED-certified resort for the site. The property, empty for the past eight years, presently con­tains seven buildings, in various stages of disrepair that were in use when it was a school.

The buildings will likely be removed to make room for a main building housing a restau­rant and spa, along with a num­ber of smaller cottages, tennis courts and a swimming pool. But it is the project’s environ­mental aspects that have caught the attention of some.

The plan calls for platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) cer­tification, which requires very specific design practices at four different levels, with platinum the highest rating in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environ­mental quality.

New construction that qualifies for this certification must pass a rigorous examination process to obtain it. The new Wykeham Rise project includes the use of geothermal and solar energy, native blue-stone, reclaimed materials, rain­water recycling technology, envi­ronmentally sensitive lighting and permeable surfaces. The plan calls for the restora­tion of two wetlands areas that have been impacted by a drive­way, building and two tennis courts.

Existing drainage pipes that empty directly into the brook on the property would be removed and replaced with infiltration systems, rain gardens designed to handle the first one inch of roof runoff from all of the pro­posed buildings along with grass-lined swales leading to detention basins. Other wetlands areas will also be restored, according to the plan, with buffers added and increased and the new buildings moved further away from wet­lands areas than those on the property now which will be demolished.

As appealing as the project appears environmentally, howev­er, many Wykeham Road neigh­bors are not convinced. There are a number of concerns about such issues as increased traffic on what is a winding country road.

A number of residents attended the May 19 Zoning Commission meeting to share their concerns with commissioners but were not able to be heard. The commission has not yet scheduled a public hearing on the application and is not likely to do so before it has passed the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Inland Wetlands Commission.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Michael Ajello said the project is scheduled to appear before ZBA on July 17, where it must gain approval for additional lot cover­age. Zoning Board of Appeals meet­ings are always considered pub­lic hearings, he noted, so mem­bers of the public can be heard. The existing buildings, said Mr. Ajello, comprise 10 percent addi­tional lot coverage over the max­imum allowable. This project will require 17 percent additional coverage or 7 percent more than the current buildings.

Should that application be denied, the project could be stopped or at least returned to the drawing board for revisions. The application, also currently before the Inland Wetlands Com­mission, will likely be referred to independent commission consult­ants for review this week, said Mr. Ajello, and a date for public hearing set. That process could take roughly a month.

The Zoning Commission also has an application for the project and could discuss it in June, but will most likely wait until its July 28 meeting following the ZBA hearing. No public hearing has been set for Zoning at this time. Although the project is envi­ronmentally attractive, Mr. Ajel­lo said there are a number of issues still to be addressed such as traffic, noise, lighting, sig­nage, fire protection and special events.

He predicts that this could be “a lengthy process.” The Wykeham Rise School for Girls opened in 1907 and closed in 1988. It became a Swiss hos­pitality training school shortly after, in 1990, for 10 years. It has been vacant since 2000. Mr. Klauer purchased the facil­ity for $2.75 million.

By Ann Compton – Voices

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