Business Government

New Hope Zoners Begin Hearing For The Landing Proposal

The look at the site in the plans.

Last Thursday, the New Hope Borough Zoning Hearing Board had one application on their agenda. And it just might be the biggest zoning application they have reviewed this year.

The Landing restaurant, located right on the borough’s Main Street, is seeking approval for a multi-million dollar proposal that would allow The Landing to build a 44-room hotel with 75 indoor dining seats, 45 outdoor dining seats, a pool, a terrace, a public river walk and a parking area, per tonight’s agenda paper. 

The New Hope Free Press has conducted previous reporting on this proposal

Landmark Hospitality is seeking to build a 44-room upscale hotel, restaurant, and pool right along the Delaware River. The proposed development would also include 43 new parking spots along with two artist-in-residence buildings. It would additionally include riverfront docks, a public walkway, and updates to the streetscape along North Main Street. 

The developer is seeking several variances for the project.

The zoning meeting drew a packed crowd ready to voice their disapproval of this proposal. The vocal majority attending this meeting were against The Landing’s proposal.

At the beginning of the meeting, Zoning Board Chairman Steve Fiala began the meeting by reminding the crowd of the rules of public meetings in the borough, and that public comments would have to wait until the zoning applicant’s presentation is done. He also stated that tonight’s meeting would end at 10:00 p.m. on the dot and that public comments might not happen until the next zoning board meeting.

Solicitor Tom Panzer told the audience members that if they wanted to have the chance to voice their opinion through a public comment, they would have to call for party status and form a party. Panzer told them the rules to form a party. 

They had to live 100 feet from The Landing and had to be a community group that feels it’s affected by the zoning proposal. Once their party status is approved, Panzer said they can cross examine witnesses in real-time and offer evidence of their own. They can even intervene and appeal if they choose to do so, according to Solicitor Panzer.

Anyone ineligible to form party status would have to wait for public comments at a later meeting, per Panzer. 

The zoning board application was read out loud to the audience. The zoning board also stated that The Landing provided flood volume calculations, traffic planning and design, comparisons, aerial photographs of existing conditions and proposed redevelopments. 

After the fact, the zoning board asked if anyone in attendance was requesting party status after going over the zoning app cohesively. Lots of residents raised their hands.

Kathy Schareder, the first party applicant, stated that she doesn’t live close enough to the property to form a party. However, she stated that she rides her bike and walks by it all the time. 

They objected her proposal as a party “due to proximity to the property not being 100 feet.” 

Fiala and Panzer called for Attorney Cohen, who objected her, saying she didn’t have party status. How the application affects her also affects the entire public. The zoning board sustained the objection.

Then, a resident shouted “can you define a party!”

At this time, Fiala redefined party status for the entire community, and that public outbursts would only prolong the meeting. 

When residents Jen and Alex Redfield applied for party status, they said they lived about two beer trucks away from The Landing, a restaurant that often has beer trucks parked out front, clogging Main Street. 

What the development would look like.

This beer truck comment drew laughter from the entire crowd. Other residents seeking party status used the beer truck measurement to measure how close they are to The Landing.

When resident Stacy Endress applied for party status, she was approved. Endress told the zoning board that parking into her own house is already difficult, especially on weekends. If this proposal is approved, the parking situation would only get worse. She said that tourists are “willing to risk it for the ticket” and park wherever they want. 

Overall, approximately 10 residents were given party status by the zoning board. 

Once the eligible residents were awarded party status, the testimony began.

Attorney Cohen went over the variances they were requesting and the history of the project. He also stated that this proposal has been around for a long time and that the applicant has been going back and forth with the board and that they receive the feedback and make the necessary re-designs.

Cohen also brought up how he understands the resident’s biggest concerns about this proposal: trash removal, river access, flooding concerns, traffic concerns. Cohen understands that a lot is being proposed here from the renderings. However, he said that most of the improvements are public and serve a benefit, such as the parking and riverwalk.

Cohen tried to calm the audience’s tension. He said that the impact of the view on Main Street would be “nil.” He also stated that the traffic will improve (this drew laughs from the crowd), and that it offered “substantial” public amenities. 

The first witness on behalf of the proposal was Brian Murphy, the project engineer. After taking an oath, he informed the zoning board of his background as a civil engineer, his experience and the licenses he earned. Then, Murphy was qualified as an expert in civil engineering by the zoning board. 

After defining what a historical district was and where it was (within the proposal), Murphy answered questions from Attorney Cohen about the proposed renovation. 

Basically, they went over the gist of the current property and what they want to do with it.

They went over the height of every building in the proposed site area and the layout plan and proposed improvements to the site. 

When it comes to historical houses on the proposed site, the Jimmy Martin House will stay and the portion of the Scarborough house that is historic would remain and be lifted and moved to another location in the borough. Anything that isn’t given a historical site designation would be demolished if this was approved.  They also went over an enhancement plan for the landscaping of the property.

Murphy stood up next to the proposal’s blueprints, which were presented using an H.D. T.V. 

The proposed riverwalk would run north to south of the entire property. The riverwalk would go down to the water about 8-10 feet below the property. 

After a solid presentation, zoning members asked questions about the riverwalk. They asked how people in wheelchairs would access the riverwalk. Another question was when there’s high water, not flooding, what does Murphy expect? 

The zoning board also told Murphy that the maximum building height in the historic district is 35 feet. Murphy said that one of the buildings on the plan is over 35 feet and is on the Eastern side of the property. Attorney Cohen called this an “existing non conforming.”

At 8:30, the zoning board called for a break. The meeting reconvened at approximately 8:45 p.m.

After a few more questions from the zoning board, the residents with party status were given a chance to voice their comments. 

The party status holders asked many thought-provoking questions to Murphy, including where the parking space will be. The party status holders complained to Murphy that it was too tight and that there wouldn’t be enough room for the proposed amount of parking spaces.     

Murphy admitted that, yes, it would be tight. 

After the fact, Alan Baryzer asked where will the delivery trucks park? 

Solicitor Panzer interjected and said that the traffic engineer would answer these questions at a later time. 

Pameala Kerr asked how many people will be employed by The Landing? Since parking is already a concern in this area, how many spaces will be available for the public once workers have parked? 

Once the time for party comments was over the meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m. as promised at the start. 

Nothing was approved at this meeting and just one of five witnesses were able to testify tonight.

The next zoning board meeting is July 13 at 7 p.m. More information from The Landing proposal will be presented at this meeting.

About the author

David Hunt

David J. Hunt is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. A proud alumnus of Temple University, he started out at his college's newspaper and never looked back. When he isn't writing, he enjoys reading, traveling and working out. You can find more of his work in Yardbarker, FanSided and the Chestnut Hill Local. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.

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