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Proposed Doylestown hotel finds some zoning support

Fourth floor approved, parking variance denied for “boutique hotel” plan


The developer of a controversial downtown Doylestown hotel project received partial zoning relief Tuesday, including what’s needed to add a fourth story.

In a unanimous decision, the borough’s zoning hearing board granted local businessman Larry Thomson permission to exceed current zoning in the central commercial district and build a fourth floor on his proposed “boutique hotel” at 57 W. Court St.

Also granted was a request to include existing nonconforming setbacks and buffers.

However, a critical parking variance for the former Borough Hall property was denied.

The 18-page ruling also included two conditions for the 32-room hotel, 70-seat restaurant and 120-person event space to move forward. The developer’s contemplated rooftop terrace is not permitted and trellises or other screening must be added to the hotel’s rear-facing balconies that overlook residences. The screening must be approved by borough council, the zoning board noted.

In support of its decision to permit a fourth story on the building, the board cited the property’s “irregular lot size” and its steep slope from the West Court Street front to the back that descends toward Harvey Avenue and Hamilton Street. Current zoning in the commercial district allows three stories, or 35 feet in height.

While Thomson had sought relief from the 72 required parking spaces to 61 spots, the board said that was not acceptable.

Although the five-member board said it appreciated Thomson’s effort to create more parking along the planned restriction of the Harvey Avenue curve, as well as provide drop-off, valet and shuttle services, they found those reliefs “not relevant.”

Additionally, the board said, “the availability of other parking options does not mitigate these parking requirements.”

Thomson may choose to appeal the decision or reduce the size of the hotel to meet the current zoning. Efforts to reach Thomson’s attorney Wednesday morning were unsuccessful.

After months of meetings and pleas to scale down the hotel plans, the zoning decision was a severe disappointment for the dozens of homeowners in nearby neighborhoods.

“The variances granted the developer are substantial while the considerations granted to the existing residents are tokens,” said Leslie Richards, in a statement on behalf of Harvey Avenue residents, following the meeting.

“We are disappointed by the board’s decision to prioritize developers over the people who live here and have made Doylestown what it is. Doylestown is becoming a town for the people who visit it, rather than the people who live here,” said Richards.

Several neighbors attained party status in the case and hired an attorney. They, too, can appeal the decision.

Should the development move forward, all plans must go through a land development process, as well as the borough and county planning commissions.

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