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Guest Opinion

Zoning laws are there to protect communities


I write to underscore the vital role that zoning laws play in safeguarding the integrity of our communities. Zoning laws are not arbitrary regulations but rather tools crafted to protect against inappropriate or disruptive developments that compromise the fabric of our neighborhoods. A case in point is the recent proposal of a four-story hotel at 57 W. Court St. in Doylestown.

The project has been referred to as a “boutique hotel,” but the term belies the magnitude of the proposed development. The scale is massive in comparison to the rest of the neighborhood. For reference, the front of the development on Broad Street, in The Intelligencer’s old location, is also four stories. Now, picture that on a narrow street in the middle of the borough.

The developer is requesting several variances from existing zoning laws: four stories instead of three; fewer parking spaces than is required; and removal of green buffers between the parking lot and the residential streets surrounding it.

The proposed hotel has the potential to bring 300 people a night to a location that backs up to quiet residential blocks. It will exacerbate parking and traffic issues for merchants and residents in the center of the borough. It will add to the number of people under the influence of alcohol who walk and drive through narrow residential streets.

At their core, zoning laws manage scale and ensure that proposed developments align with the existing community’s character. They are a bulwark against haphazard growth, and they play a pivotal role in guaranteeing that our infrastructure can adequately support proposed land use. In essence, zoning laws are the guardians of community cohesion and sustainable progress.

When developers seek variances without due consideration for the community’s well-being, they risk undermining the trust and stability that longtime residents have cultivated over the years.

Zoning laws should protect our neighborhoods in instances where developers, seeking variances, appear more focused on extracting maximum profit than on harmonizing with the community they enter.

The developer of 57 W. Court St. knew what the zoning laws were when he purchased the property. It is not the responsibility of the neighborhood to ensure that he can achieve his desired profit margin by accepting a development that negatively impacts their quality of life and property values.

Zoning hearing boards and other borough committees bear the responsibility of upholding the spirit of these laws. They provide a crucial defense against projects that could erode the very essence of the neighborhoods we hold dear.

Let us, as a community, stand firm in our commitment to zoning laws that require that developments be appropriate in scale and character to the infrastructure and surrounding community. The proposed four-story hotel, 120-person event space, and 70-seat restaurant simply does not meet this standard.

Leslie Richards lives in Doylestown.

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