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Skepticism greets plan for downtown residence in New Hope


New Hope Borough Council eentertained a zoning hearing board application at their May 22 meeting.

Attorney Paul Cohen, representing the property owner, maintained that the property has been vacant for about two years. He requested a variance to use the property, which is in the central commercial district, as the site for a single family residence.

The footprint and building coverage would be reduced with a variance request to expand a nonconforming structure, a proposed driveway, and a second story. In arguing for the variance, Cohen questioned the commercial viability of the property in terms of foot traffic for “retail survival,” and stated precedence of several surrounding properties within the same commercial zone that had been approved for residential use.

Borough President Connie Gering questioned how the industrial-modern cubical glass and metal beam structure would fit in with the architectural character of the immediate area. She also questioned how three cars would be maneuvered in and out of the planned single-lane short driveway on a one-way street without creating traffic issues over the Delaware Canal bridge.

“I personally cannot see how that immense building you’re planning on putting there is going to fit the character of that street,” Gering stated.

Borough council member Dan Dougherty questioned the appearance of cars in a driveway. Dougherty rephrased the argument, questioning the implication that because a property has not been a successful commercial venue it should be converted to residential. Fellow council member Laurie McHugh questioned the height of the structure.

Resident Geri Delevich made an impassioned plea to preserve the commercial flavor of Mechanic Street, the quaint commercial row of businesses that define “the charming New Hope that we all love.”

A zoning hearing board meeting on the application is set for June 6.

In other business, Kristin Donnelly, who identified herself as a Democratic committee person for New Hope, addressed the board about fair redistricting on behalf of Fair Districts PA. She argued that gerrymandered district lines weaken the vote while competitive districts maintain accountability. The board adopted a resolution that it would enlist a bipartisan citizen-led redistricting group.

The Law Firm of Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin was engaged by council to serve as special counsel for zoning enforcement.

Council approved a parking agreement with the Bucks County Playhouse. The agreement reflects the Playhouse’s request for additional parking spots, paying the borough $40,000 per year for a three-year agreement.