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Check-Out Time for the Chieftain: Kendal at Hanover Officials Agree to Buy Route 10 Motor Inn

  • Anthony Locke works at the front desk at the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover last week. “This place, it is my home,” he said, “so I do kind of feel sad about it being sold.”(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Anthony Locke works at the front desk at the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover last week. “This place, it is my home,” he said, “so I do kind of feel sad about it being sold.”(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Snow covers the pool behind the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover last week. The inn’s owner intends to sell the building and 10-acre property to Kendal at Hanover. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Snow covers the pool behind the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover last week. The inn’s owner intends to sell the building and 10-acre property to Kendal at Hanover. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anthony Locke strips beds at the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover. Locke’s family owns the establishment. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Anthony Locke strips beds at the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover. Locke’s family owns the establishment. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Anthony Locke works at the front desk at the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover last week. “This place, it is my home,” he said, “so I do kind of feel sad about it being sold.”(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Snow covers the pool behind the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover last week. The inn’s owner intends to sell the building and 10-acre property to Kendal at Hanover. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Anthony Locke strips beds at the Chieftain Motor Inn in Hanover. Locke’s family owns the establishment. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Hanover — Officials at Kendal at Hanover have agreed to purchase the nearby Chieftain Motor Inn, with the sale expected to close in early September, according to an announcement released by the inn late last week.

Rebecca Smith, executive director at the continuing care retirement community, said there are no definite plans yet for the 10-acre property, which sits just north of Kendal on Route 10.

The inn owners approached Kendal officials about purchasing the property about two years ago, Smith said. After much consideration, the board of directors decided to purchase the property. “The board feels that the property is important for our future, and it wouldn’t be wise or prudent” to pass up the opportunity, she said.

In the announcement, inn owner Joseph A. Roberts said the decision was “painful but necessary.” He said the emergence of several new hotels in the area “severely eroded our customer base.”

The Chieftain had been “attempting to rezone our property for over 10 years … for a proposed expansion and modernization project.” Voters last year approved rezoning the area from Rural Residence to General Residence 4, which allows special exceptions, including hotels and continuing care retirement communities, but competing hotels had already moved into the region.

Roberts could not be reached for comment Friday.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said the “biggest challenge with the property, one of the reasons why rezoning was often discussed but never pushed forward,” was because the town’s water and sewer lines stop at Kendal.

Griffin called the Chieftain a “really neat institution” that is thought of fondly by Dartmouth College graduates.

“I’m sure you will have a legion of Dartmouth alums who will be sad to see that motel go,” Griffin said. “During certain times of the year, particularly when there are things happening at Dartmouth, they are packed. … It’s really a special small motel, what you would think of in today’s terms as a boutique hotel.”

Anthony Locke, a member of the family that owns the motel, was working the front desk Friday. He agreed that the motel, built in the early 1950s, was a favorite for people with ties to Dartmouth.

Jerry Mitchell, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1951 and has lived in Hanover for 40 years, said that although he had never had the need to stay at the motel, he and his wife would often go there to pick up out-of-town visitors who were coming back to visit campus.

“We were over in Woodstock (Thursday) and learned that Bentleys is out of business, and then we pick up the paper and learn that Fire Stones has declared bankruptcy,” he said, referring to two restaurants in Woodstock. “Now, the Chieftain has been there, what, 50 years? … It’s been there a while. As far as I could see, there was always people there, so the thought that comes to my mind is, what is Kendal going to do with it?”

That’s still to be seen, said Smith, who expects Kendal officials “should have some plans for what we would like to do” in 12 to 18 months.

Kendal has hired Virginia-based research firm Brooks Adams Research to analyze the needs and desires of those on Kendal’s waiting list and future applicants, Smith said. The results “will indicate to us the demand for senior housing and life care communities, etc., and we’re also looking at the needs on our current campus.” Having the Chieftain property, she said, will allow “a more thorough and complete view of our next steps as we do this study” and develop a master plan.

Zoning rules allow for a continuing care retirement community, but the limit is 250 residential units — a threshold that Kendal has already reached. If Kendal were to expand that type of housing, it would likely need to seek rezoning, both Smith and Griffin said. Griffin said that would also hinge on whether Kendal combined the two properties into one or kept them as separate parcels. Smith said it’s “too preliminary to know what we would ask for.”

“We’re not going to be lessening or taking buildings down on this campus or making this campus smaller,” she said.

Kendal residents were notified of the purchase plan during a meeting March 6, she said, and while some residents expressed concerns, the response was generally “very positive.”

Smith declined to disclose the purchase price because of a confidentiality clause in the sale agreement. The two parties reached an agreement in January, she said.

According to Hanover assessing records, the Chieftain sits on 10.7 acres of land and is assessed at $1,388,700, including a $670,200 land assessment and $718,500 building assessment.

In the announcement, Roberts said he decided to sell the inn to Kendal because he believed the property would be taken care of, a sentiment Smith said she agreed with and appreciated.

“I know they will respect the property and protect the river I love,” Roberts said. “Although we have had many inquiries from large hotels, I believe that Kendal’s respect for community values and love of Hanover make it a great fit for both our community and my neighbors.”

In the announcement, Roberts also said “the town’s recent decision to allow a new rowing dock approximately one mile from our property was truly the final nail in the Chieftian’s coffin.”

“The existence of a new rowing dock eliminates the Chieftain’s ability to offer rowing services to our community,”he said. “The loss of this potential revenue stream eliminates a critical component of our growth strategy.”

Griffin disputed that characterization.

“I wouldn’t agree with that,” she said. “The dock at Wilson’s Landing is limited in terms of what it can be used for, and the challenge, the conundrum we faced … was (Roberts) had hoped that really could become dock central for all the teams, but it was tough for the high school to invest money in a public high school dock that would be placed on private property, for fear the property could be sold and that dock (would be) no longer accessible.”

Prior to hearing the wording in the news release, she said the motel had become an important place for “the rowing community that loves it,” and suggested that looking for ways to continue the dock and river access was something that the town was interested in.

“There’s a hope on the part of some, can we some way maintain that river access?” she said.

Locke, the family member and housekeeper, spent time Friday staffing the front desk and tidying up some of the motel’s 23 rooms, each one with a bright yellow door glowing against the motel’s blue granite exterior. After working there for the better part of five years, news of the motel’s closing was a little sad, he said.

“This place, it is my home,” he said, “so I do kind of feel sad about it being sold and having to step away from it, so to speak,” he said.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.