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Developer, township at odds over building on parcel

A developer seeking to build a hotel in a suburban Philadelphia area has submitted a new proposal that it hopes will please the area zoning board and end a pending appeal.

The developer has provided zoning officials in Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania, with changes to its plans to build the hotel next to a local elementary school, as well as with an offer to settle the appeal.

The Zoning Hearing Board and Planning Agency in the township rejected the proposal in late 2011, worried how a hotel would impact neighborhoods, traffic and the nearby school. In February, the developer appealed the decision to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, but the court has not yet heard the case.

The developer's attorney said his client has submitted various construction plans over the past five years, seeking to build everything from restaurants to offices. Each time, the township has failed to OK the project, he said. While the odd-shaped parcel presents hurdles for development, the attorney said each property owner has a right to develop a piece of land, which it does.

This time, the developer has offered several measures, including the following, to try to gain approval:

•· Increase the hotel size from 82 rooms to 110 in hopes of interesting a better franchise in operating the hotel.

•· Move the building as close to Interstate 476 as it can, meaning it would be further from the school and nearby homes.

•· Build a fence to surround the hotel and not allow users to spill into adjacent properties.

•· Create a buffer zone of 2.5 acres of open space and possibly dedicate it to the school district or the township.

The developer's attorney said that if the township approves these changes, the appeal will end. If it doesn't, and if the developer loses the appeal, the attorney said he will file a suit charging the township of inverse condemnation. That results when the government places so many conditions on property development that it cannot be used.

Source: Plymouth-Whitemarsh Patch, "Developer Changes Hotel Proposal, Offers to Settle Suit with Township," Kyle Bagenstose, Aug. 7, 2012

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