The New Hope Borough Council wrestled with aesthetics at major construction projects, including signage at the River House at Odette’s and upgrades on the property of the Mansion Inn at its Feb. 18 meeting.
Construction of an addition, renovation of a rear cottage, and other upgrades at the Mansion Inn at 9 South Main St., met with concerns involving both design and process by members of the council. Council member Peter Meyer expressed his disapproval of the project based on its appearance from Ferry Street.
Council President Connie Gering also expressed her displeasure at the process, stating that while the historic architectural review board (HARB) reviewed the project and recommended granting a certificate of appropriateness, the borough’s planning commission was not consulted. She maintained that the planning commission should have been consulted before the plans went before the HARB.
“With the changes the planning commission may make, you’re going to be starting from scratch,” Gering said.
Township Manager E.J. Lee added that the HARB component had been suggested to be done after the planning commission reviewed it and added that both components needed to work together.
Gering, acting on the recommendation of the borough solicitor, suggested the certificate of appropriateness be tabled until the planning commission reviewed the project. The issue was deferred for discussion by council to the next monthly meeting pending a review by that commission.
An application for a stud-mounted sign on the River House at Odette’s also met with concern by some members of the council. The proposed signage exceeded a 30-square-foot limitation. The plan presented to the council was a sign of roughly 20 feet by 5 feet.
The applicant maintained that the sign, mounted on the building itself, was set back from the road by 80 to 100 feet, requiring an increased size variance for visibility. While council member Laurie McHugh found the design a tasteful one on a “grand building at the entrance to New Hope,” Gering expressed reservations over precedence.
In other business, authorization was granted for the New Hope Eagle Fire Company Fire Police to assist Plumstead Township’s Blaze of Glory 5k run scheduled for March 21, 2020. Unanimous authorization was also given for the New Hope chief of police to hire up to eight part-time officers for the borough.
A discussion concerning the Bridge Street project rebid was led by Borough Manager Lee. The bid which was lowered last July by about $9,000 after the bids were significantly higher than expected. The project required a 30 perceent match to a $92,982 PennDOT grant.
The lowest bid last July was $132,975, and a more recent January bid was $123,735. While about $9,000 less, the project was still $30,000 higher than the projected cost and did not include engineering fees. A motion to accept the basic bid was accepted without dissent.
A request for a banner sign for Restaurant Week by the Bucks County Visitor’s Bureau passed with full support of the council. Authorization for the execution of agreement with Dailey Consulting Services also passed without dissent. An Eagle Fire Company block grant for volunteer incentive in the amount of $4,000 was approved unanimously.
John Hover was appointed unanimously to the zoning hearing board.
An escrow release in the amount of $20,000 covering 39 New St. was approved contingent upon completion of the final subdivision.
A certificate of appropriateness was granted for a new sign for Cigars, Cigars at 102A S. Main St. The new sign will fit the original signpost.
A zoning hearing board application was entertained by council for application variances for the site of the demolished Raven Resort at 385 W. Bridge St. The variances involved impervious coverage size, stacking of parking spaces, reduction of parking space size, and setback requirements. The 207-car parking area would be valet operated.
Councilman Dan Dougherty expressed concern that the community might see it as a “lightening rod” and similar to “a new car lot in Flemington” at the entrance to town. He added that it could create “a tremendous eyesore.”