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Hyatt Place hotel planned for Amherst

Controversial plans for a six-story chain hotel behind the landmark Lord Amherst Hotel on Main Street have taken another step forward with Iskalo Development’s announcement that the new hotel will be branded a Hyatt Place hotel, the first of its brand in the region. The hotel would face the high-profile I-290/Main Street interchange.

“Hyatt is certainly a very strong, international brand,” said David Chiazza, vice president of Iskalo Development. “We just think it gives people a choice that isn’t presently available in the market.”

Construction on the 137-room hotel is anticipated for the spring, with a projected opening date of summer 2014. Hyatt Place is considered similar to other “select service” hotels like a Hilton Garden Inn or Marriott Courtyard.

But homeowners who live behind and across the street from the property continue to fight to against the project.

“We’re delighted to let the Hyatt people know exactly what we think about this spot,” said resident Michele Marconi, who lives on Livingston Parkway, where backyards abut the Iskalo parcel.

Neighbors are appealing prior rulings by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals and State Supreme Court that set aside a prior height restriction on the property from 1969 that would have limited any new development on the parcel to two stories, Marconi said.

Residents will also urge the Town Board on Monday to rezone “Mike’s Pond” as fully residential property. The former quarry, which has been transformed into a natural area, separates Livingston Parkway homes from the proposed development.

A residential rezoning would require Iskalo Development to build 65 feet away from the edge of the pond property, instead of only 25 feet away, something Chiazza said his company has already planned to accommodate.

Iskalo Development received some tax breaks for light cosmetic rehab and repair work on the old Lord Amherst Hotel, which was largely completed in May, Chiazza said. Multimillion-dollar plans for a much a more comprehensive upgrade to the independent hotel and the adjacent Sonoma Grille restaurant are also in the works.

The company expects to return to the Amherst Industrial Development Agency for tax breaks on the larger renovation project, though some neighbors say they question the project’s eligibility for any tax breaks.

Chiazza said incorporating the independent Lord Amherst Hotel into a larger “hospitality campus” with a well-known, branded chain and upgraded restaurant will ensure the landmark hotel’s long-term future.