Council remains adamant about restricting hotel stays

| 22 Feb 2012 | 07:58

    As-yet unbuilt hotel cannot turn into long-term housing By Jennifer Knocha Vernon — The long-simmering plan to build a hotel on the land at the corner of routes 94 and 517, currently owned by St. Francis De Sales church, has been back and forth between the town council and the land use board for several months. And it seems as if its time in limbo is going to be even longer. “I’d hate for this to turn into something undesirable,” said Mayor Austin Carew. “I am not against this plan, but to allow it to go through as it is isn’t acceptable.” The plan, which calls for a five-story, 120 room hotel, was reviewed by the town council in October 2008, but was sent back to the land use board for revisions. One of the primary issues was the type and length of stay allowed at the hotel. In theory, a guest could stay on hand for up to 30 days. That raised objections from council members because it could lead to a boarding house type of living arrangement. Unfortunately, when the plan came back from the land use board, the 30 day-stay was still in and it again raised the ire of the council. “If the average hotel stay is three to five days, why is the limit 30 days?” questioned Councilwoman Valerie Seufert. “It just doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.” Worries over permanence Robert Benecke, a redevelopment consultant, speaking on behalf of St. Francis De Sales, pointed out that due to the location of the hotel, which is in a redevelopment area, the building cannot be used as a permanent residence and it would also be unable to get licensed as a boarding house, which would make it ineligible for any sort of subsidized housing. Any housing that is paid for with Housing and Urban Development funds has to be approved by that agency, which would be impossible, he remarked in an effort to reassure the council that long-term residence would not happen. He also pointed out that cutting down the stay limit could end the whole project, because while developers might be willing to take a chance on the development, they would probably be unable to get funding for any project. He was backed up by Al Warrington of the Metarie Corp., current owner of Legends hotel. Warrington said that based on his previous hotel investment experience, developers who put large amounts of money into that type of project could not afford to have it used as temporary housing. He also mentioned that putting limits on the stay might make the whole situation “unmarketable.” In other news Outdoor furnaces were discussed during a presentation from township engineer Lou Kneip, Sussex County Health officer Herb Yardley and Tom Pinand, who is the township’s construction code official. These furnaces, also known as wood boilers, are a new form of home heating that have risen in popularity in the area. And complaints about the furnaces have risen, too. Neighboring towns have grappled with the issue, many restricting their use, including Lafayette Township. Yardley cited the smoke and pollution from the burners as one of the major concerns, as well as long-term health issues like asthma. As the structures are currently only regulated by the town’s construction code just like any other separate outbuilding on a property, Kneip suggested that the council ban the burners outright, so that any homeowner who wanted one would have to apply for a variance, allowing the township more control over them. The issue was held over while more information is gathered.