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Doylestown Borough residents challenge proposed hotel’s developer


It was standing-room only at Doylestown Borough’s zoning board hearing Wednesday night as homeowners near a proposed hotel on West Court Street questioned the developer’s representatives about the controversial project.

Doylestown developer Larry Thomson is seeking several zoning variances to build a 32-room hotel, 70-seat restaurant and 120-person event space to replace the town’s former borough hall and police station at 57 W. Court Street.

Permission to raze the old building, which is in the central commercial district, has already been granted, but height, parking, buffer and setback variances are needed before the project can move forward.

While the district allows for three-stories, Thomson wants to build a four-story structure, with a rooftop area for guests, as well as tiered guest room balconies that can accommodate up to eight people, on the rear of the hotel. The balconies would overlook the residential streets.

The developer argued the “irregular” shape of the lot, which slopes downward will make the four-story building appear less than its actual height of well over 50 feet. According to some residents’ calculations, the height is 61-feet-and-8-inches.

“That’s the view from our backyards,” said Daniel Greenhaus, who lives on Harvey Avenue, during a presentation he and fellow Harvey Avenue resident Steve Sullivan made at the meeting. “It’s looming over Harvey.”

Their PowerPoint program illustrated the dominance of the hotel relative to the neighborhood. “It’s quite dramatic,” said Greenhaus. Although Thomson’s civil engineer said neighbors already had an obstructed view from their homes, Sullivan said that’s untrue. “It’s unobstructed by other buildings.”

“The noise, waste, it all flows downhill,” said Greenhaus. “Please consider the landscape, the views, the quality of life,” he noted, to a round of applause.

The presentation also included photos of current heavy traffic on Harvey Avenue and Court Street and the lack of parking.

Thomson’s team said it has tried to accommodate residents’ concerns by reducing the number of rooms from 40 to 32, scaling back the event space from 300 guests to 200 and modifying the roof deck, moving it toward Court Street and ensuring it won’t be visible from the rear of the property. Making the hotel any smaller would not be economically “viable,” he said at an earlier meeting.

Parking concerns also played a key role, as neighbors questioned where guests and employees would park. The project includes parking for 61 vehicles, but zoning requires 72. Twenty indoor spaces are planned for the rear ground level.

The developers’ representatives said valet parking, which is allowed by the zoning, would be used, although they were unable to say where the cars would be taken. A shuttle service would also be used, requiring the removal of two metered spaces in front of the hotel. Ride-sharing services, such as Uber, are also expected to be used, the engineer and attorney said.

Illustrating the grave concerns some have about the hotel’s impact, Leslie Richards, who has lived on Harvey Avenue for more than three decades, described a horrific car accident on the street many years ago when a drunk driver smashed into several cars before being ejected from his vehicle, landing in a homeowner’s yard.

The hotel, Richards stressed, “will greatly increase these types of incidents,” adding, “this is not the only option for this property.”

Thomson’s attorney objected to the testimony, saying it “has nothing to do” with the variances.

Richards said, “we are not NIMBYS (not-in-my-backyarders),” noting a new brewery and wine bar opening soon in the borough.

“We have graciously accepted many changes to our neighborhood, including the Justice Center, which was really significant for many of us,” Richards said. “We understand this to be important to the well-being of the borough. However, there is no reason that change must come at the expense of the residents who have invested in making Doylestown what it is. We ask you to protect what we’ve built.”

Another hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.

If the zoning relief is granted, the project would move to the land development phase and later to reviews by the county and borough planning commissions.

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