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Rob Levesque of R. Levesque Associates, representing Shield Hotels, presents the proposed zone change at an April 1 public hearing.

Reminder Publishing photo by Tyler Lederer

AGAWAM — Supporters of the hotel proposed for Agawam’s Main Street said at a City Council public hearing that the town needs a place for visitors to stay, and should welcome the economic growth.

“It would be nice for people to stay in a nice place, rather than have to go all the way to Riverdale Road,” said resident Lori Couture at the April 1 hearing. “Get the income here, have the revenue here, support our town.”

Couture also said the taxes from the hotel would go to schools and roads.

The proposed Opal Inn & Suites would have 42 rooms, said Rob Levesque of R. Levesque Associates, which is working with Shield Hotels on the project. It would be “boutique-style,” or smaller than the average hotel, with only three floors. It would be located at 1422 Main St. behind D’ Patron Mexican Restaurant.

Town Solicitor Stephen Buoniconti said the project would bring $150,000 a year in taxes if it is developed as proposed for $5 million. He also said the town doesn’t expect “a huge uptick in either police or fire responses,” nor will it have a lot of new costs for the town.

The public hearing concerned a zoning amendment to change a 12,000-square-foot rectangular sliver zoned Residential A-2 in the back of the 1422 Main St. parcel to Business A. Residents used the March 21 Planning Board hearing as an opportunity to register their opinions on the hotel itself.

Stephen Cincotta, CEO of Clinical Research Management Group at 1408 Main St. in Agawam, said his company consults with pharmaceutical and biotech companies, whose representatives visit for a few days at a time. The hotel would allow them to stay in Agawam instead of in Springfield, he said, where they could then spend time in town.

Debra Desmond, who owns an abutting property, said her big family could use the hotel. She lives in Suffield, she said, and has no comfortable place for them to stay. She said something was needed in Agawam. She also praised the size of the hotel.

“This is small,” she said. “If someone wanted huge, they can go to Springfield or Hartford.”

Opposing the project was resident Linda Galarneau. She pointed to articles in The Reminder where Levesque said the hotel would be for market-rate-paying visitors, but Kenny Patel, of Shield Hotels, said he couldn’t ban migrants or homeless people from staying. She said Shield Hotels might open up to migrants and homeless people as an emergency shelter if the hotel is not profitable.

“Which is it going to be? Market rate or homeless or both?” she asked.

Resident Donald Cook called the project “pie in the sky.” He said after Six Flags closes for the season, there’s nothing to draw people to Agawam. He also said he doesn’t expect people to stay overnight for events at the abutting Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

A total of four people spoke in favor, while three spoke in opposition.

City councilors emphasized that they weren’t voting on whether or not the hotel gets built, just on a zone change.

“We either can be friendly with them and just make the change and that way, we have a better oversight of what’s going on and maybe do a local lodg[ing] tax later down the road, but tonight is only for the zoning,” said Councilor Anthony Suffriti.

Councilor Edward Borgatti said that while he disagreed with the location, he is also pro-business. He said he didn’t want to see the project stop or make it harder for the developers.

Councilor George Bitzas said he understands both sides, but the surrounding area is zoned for businesses, and developers have a right to build there. He said the only thing the council can do is change a small part of the parcel, which he said was in Agawam’s best interest to do.

“I think we are going to make the hotel a lot better,” he said. “It benefits our town and the neighborhood.”

The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the zone change.

The hotel still needs site plan approval from the Planning Board. Shield Hotels will also need to gain approvals from the town Conservation Commission, for environmental compliance, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, to make a curb cut on Main Street, which is a state highway.

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