A development group that wants to put in a new hotel at the Shoppes at Muncy Creek complex, at the intersection of routes 405 and 442 in Muncy Creek Township, must return to the drawing board after the township zoning hearing board rejected its proposal on Wednesday evening.
The developer, Muncy Hotel Hospitality Group LLC, of Dallas, presented plans for a 92-room, 58-foot high La Quinta Inn and Suites to the zoning board and about 30 attendees.
Residents in attendance, many who live on Sunset Road or Penncrest Drive, which adjoin the potential hotel lot, had a multitude of concerns about putting a four-story hotel in their backyard.
"It's a nice area, all the houses are very well-kept," said Sunset Road resident Ginger Couch. "If this hotel goes up we'll either be looking straight into the hotel or at an air conditioning unit on top. Look behind Denny's and you'll see what a four-story hotel is going to look like. It's a monstrosity."
"In order to mitigate (visibility) we're proposing landscaping," testified Brandon Rowe, of Bohler Engineering, the site planner.
Rowe said that the 15-foot evergreens and 10- to 15-foot deciduous trees called for in the plan would leave about 10 feet of visibility for someone looking at the hotel from the end of Sunset Road.
Asked by board member Layne Oden whether a basement level could be added to lower the building while maintaining the same number of rooms, Rowe said "from a branding perspective, no."
"Does anyone have an idea what this will do to our property values?" asked John Carichner, of Sunset Road.
"I spoke to a Realtor about that problem," responded Genie Wines, another Sunset Road resident. "For a firm looking to come in and buy it, the value is good, so this doesn't drop the value, per se. But if you're selling your house as residential it does drop the perception for people looking to come in. The damage has already been done - it was done years ago."
Potential noise from the hotel was also questioned.
"They've had all those problems in Williamsport with gas people partying in the parking lots. What's to say we won't have troubles here?" asked Rich van Brummblen.
"As a hotel operator we don't want to be a loud property," said developer Eric May. "If there are issues with gas workers we can talk to supervisors of the company and they can be sent back to Texas or wherever they're from. At our price point, we're not after a market that is looking for trouble."
The board - Chairman Don Snyder, Bob Campbell, and Oden, along with solicitor Michael Wiley - deliberated about 10 minutes before returning the decision not to grant the requested variances.
"We thank the applicant for going above and beyond in meeting some of our requests," board member Layne Oden said. "They have significantly reduced their signage requirements, and the buffer and loading space are good in all likelihood. The height is the main topic - the request is in effect to double what our height requirements are."
A smattering of applause broke out at Oden's announcement. The board now has 45 days to issue a written decision.