Apartments draw ire from residents at meeting
Hotel’s best shot at creating a marketable site, Shapiro said.
Despite this, E&B Hotel shared an alternative plan for the site should it remain highway-commercial. That plan includes 316 apartment units and 124,000 square feet of office and retail space. Mobilio, once again, challenged the presentation of the information.
“What’s the purpose of showing us this?” Mobilio said. “Is this you telling the public, if you don’t grant our plan here tonight, this is what will go on the site instead?”
Durso said the plan compares traffic from the site with other possible uses. A traffic analysis predicts that daily trips from the site with the current plan would number 2,189 compared with 5,533 trips if the developer opted for a mixed-use plan.
Residents who spoke up at the meeting weren’t convinced about the traffic figures since they were estimates based on national trends.
Those nearest the property have been circulating a petition opposing the project, and by the end of Wednesday’s meeting, had gathered 239 signatures. They say the project is too dense and would create traffic woes and safety concerns in surrounding neighborhoods.
Over and over again, South Whitehall residents asked questions, demanding to know the scope of a possible traffic impact study. That study, mitigation efforts and a way to address the site’s limited access, would be unpacked during the land development stage of the project, said traffic expert John Wichner, of Allentown-based McMahon Associates.
With a recently approved warehouse north on Route 309 and the proposed Ridge Farm project, a 780-unit mixed-use project at North Cedar Crest Boulevard and Walbert Avenue, residents wondered how much more development local roads can take before they are clogged to capacity.
Residents also voiced a deep skepticism about the ownership of the project. E&B Hotel has been the owner of the property since August 2010. Prior to its renaming as the ParkView Inn, the hotel was the Econo Lodge and was managed by Nick Bizati, who is one of the applicants for the current proposal.
In 2017, the Econo Lodge was under pressure by township officials to evict the long-term tenants whose monthslong stays were a violation of municipal code for the operation.
A drug-related shooting in the parking lot of the hotel in July 2017 brought exasperated residents to township meetings. A bullet from the incident hit the nearby Lehigh Valley Home and Garden Center.
Durso said that while E&B Hotel is the company seeking to develop the land, it’s not uncommon for the owner to hire a contractor to manage operation of the site, but said none of that had been determined this early in the process.
“What’s the purpose of showing us this [alternative plan]? Is this you telling the public, if you don’t grant our plan here tonight, this is what will go on the site instead?”
Morning Call reporter Sarah M. Wojcik can be reached at 610-778-2283 or swoj[email protected] — Matthew Mobilio, Zoning Hearing Board member
The Park View Inn in South Whitehall Township.