Ho­tel, med­i­cal build­ing, restau­rants pro­posed for New­town By­pass site

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE - By D.E. Sch­lat­ter

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.”

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