Hotel, medical building, restaurants proposed for Newtown Bypass site
NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP - During his regular board of supervisors briefing, Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler outlined a developer’s plans to build a four-story, 110-room hotel, along with two stand-alone restaurants and a mediFal offiFe building on a 10-acre wooded parcel at the intersection of the Newtown Bypass and Lower Silver Lake Road.
“It’s an upscale type of facility that is being proposed,” Fidler told the supervisors at their June 12 meeting.
Fidler said that at the planning commission’s June 4 meeting, IHM Properties’ presented sketch plans for the planned complex, which is intersected by PECO’s high-tension electric lines. The public utility has a 150-foot easement on the property, which also includes a stream and woodlands.
According to Fidler, developer Monty Patel and his attorney, Ed Murphy, have acknowledged that flood and traffic studies, as well as tree counts, would be needed before any fully-engineered development plans are submitted to the township. A number of variance applications would also have to be filed with the Zoning Hearing Board.
Fidler noted that several planning commission members had voiced concerns about intense development on the site.
“They would like to put 10 pounds in a 12 pound sack,” Fidler said of the developer, “that’s business I guess.”
The township has been resistant to building fast-food-type restaurants with drive-through windows on Office Research (OR) zoned land, which includes the nearby Newtown Business Commons.
Fidler said that the planning commission had informed the applicant that requesting two ‘pad’ sites for restaurants may spark some opposition, especially if fast food eateries were eventually proposed.
However, the planning commission chairman told the supervisors that the developer is only considering family-friendly restaurants with no drive-through service for that location.
In addition Fidler said that IHM Properties promised to comply with Newtown’s signage regulations.
Fidler also explained that the planning commission had discussed access to the proposed complex, as well as offering pedestrians a way to walk between the hotel, restaurants and medical office building.
As far as the planned hotel, Fidler said that the developer’s engineer, Heath Dumack, had selected this specific location because of the underlying rock surface which is needed to support a four-story structure that doesn’t have a basement. The suggested hotel location is also not as visible from the bypass.
Fidler stated that the commission had informed IHM Properties of the township’s resistance to building restaurants along the Newtown Bypass.
According to Fidler, commission members had suggested that Patel might instead want to locate both restaurants inside the hotel, or seek zoning relief to place only one restaurant in a separate building.
Fidler told the supervisors that the developer already hired a traffic engineer, but that no preliminary study has been done to determine if Lower Silver Lake Road would need improvements.
He also said that the commission did not express any strong opposition to the hotel concept, as long as Patel complies with township ordinances.
“He will have to secure specific zoning variances, with or without the township’s blessing,” Fidler added.
Fidler pointed out that several companies in the Newtown Business Commons have expressed a need for more hotel conference space in the immediate area.
The planning commission chairman said that the developer has not yet negotiated a deal with a major hotel chain to manage the proposed facility, but once the township has approved the concept, Fidler said Patel “will shop it around.”
According to Fidler, the commission had some minor concerns about parking spaces needed for the three different planned uses, especially if the medical office building has evening hours and there are parking con- flicts with the hotel and restaurant patrons.
“The applicant was very understanding in listening to our suggestions and concerns and taking our comments under advisement,” Fidler said. “They will come back at a future date when they are ready to move forward.”
Meanwhile, the supervisors hardly commented after the planning commission chairman’s update.
Supervisor Rob Ciervo noted that the applicant wanted a number of impervious surface and parking variances.
Ciervo asked, “What was the commission’s overall take on the amount of variances and how it seemed that every single variance was basically designed just to get more and more uses on this site?”
“There was some concern about the intensity of the development,” Fidler responded.
But he explained that until flood plain and storm water engineering studies for the creek running through the property are performed “a lot of those other things are kind of moot.”
“rntil that is done, a sketch plan is a sketch plan,” Fidler told the supervisors.
“A dialogue is existing today,” he added, “we didn’t tell them to leave and not come back.”