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Planning Commission, Residents, Frown on Dresher Triangle Hotel Proposal

The four building proposal was met with considerable opposition at Tuesday's meeting.

The Upper Dublin Planning Commission was presented with a sketch plan for a new set of properties in the Dresher Common at Tuesday night's meeting, ending with developer BET Investments ultimately agreeing to re-examine the proposal.

BET Investments, represented by engineer Peter Clelland, Charles Guttenplan, BET’s land planning consultant, and attorney Michael Yanoff, presented a plan for four buildings on the 9.5 acre site, located between Susquehanna Road and Limekiln Pike. BET currently owns the property.

The most contested proposed building was a four-story, 121-room hotel, to be situated on the northwest portion of the lot, below Sunrise Assisted Living. However, a CVS pharmacy, restaurant and office building were also proposed.

"The CVS pharmacy is proposed at 12,900 sq.ft., and the office (9,600 sq.ft.) is an addition to the back of the Clime House on Susquehanna Road," Rick Barton, Upper Dublin Director of Code Enforcement, told Patch.  "The proposed restaurant is 3,600 sq.ft. and it has an attached café of 1,200 sq.ft. with a drive-thru. A total of 298 parking spaces are shown on the plan."

The commission first reviewed the history of the zoning codes for that location. The land is currently zoned A-residential but an overlay put in place over a decade ago allows for some commercial.

"Some time ago in the 90s, there was a Dresher overlay created for this property, the Dreshertown Shopping Center, and a number of other parcels across Dreshertown Road," said commission chair Wesley Wolf. "And the intent of that was to create a transition [from commercial to residential]."

However, Wolf said that the proposal did not fit the commission's desire to gracefully blend residential to commercial.

"The concept of putting in a four story hotel adjacent to a residential area, I wouldn't think would be in the spirit of the current overlay, or even the recommendations of the comprehensive plan," said Wolf. "I'll be very clear on that, it wasn't the intent of the overlay … I don't know how much thought went into this plan."

Wolf said a major concern was traffic congestion, but Yanoff disagreed.

"We did put a lot of thought into this," Yanoff said. "It is not a constant flow of traffic in and out like [retail] where you're concerned about adverse impact on the neighbors. Hotels that I go to don't necessarily have people streaming in and out."

Yanoff said that each of the four subplots on the property is zoned for 750 car visits a day, and that developers did not anticipate greater traffic than the 3,000 total visits permitted by code.

Yanoff also told the board that were few locations for a hotel in Upper Dublin, and that sites such as the office park were not attractive due to their location inside the flood zone.

In addition, Yanoff expressed frustration that the township had not clearly stated what they wanted in terms of "transitional development."

Some commission members expressed similar concerns.

"What exactly is the idea of a transitional use? If this isn't it, what else is there?" asked commission member Christopher Duerr. "What is the thing that should go right next to residential? Are you going to have retail, are you going to put the restaurant there?"

Commission member Hillary Hartman suggested that a dual-use development, such as apartment buildings with retail on the bottom floor, might be the best option. However, BET said that a plan incorporating this type of building had been presented to the board in the past, and was found to not be a good fit.

"The number of developing units that was required to make that work economically, the density that it required, was not something that the board was sympathetic to," said Guttenplan.

BET does currently have a prior design approved for construction at the site, for two restaurants and additional parking. The proposal was approved in a court battle in 2005, but BET representatives said that the plan is no longer economically viable, and that a hotel would be needed to drive traffic to the other businesses.

By the end of presentations, Wolf was still not convinced.

"It's a parking lot, a roadway and some buildings, and I'd expect more," said Wolf.

A number of residents used the community input section to speak out against the proposal.

"If we look at the Dresher triangle as the hub that runs central between the Fort Washington interchange and the Willow Grove interchange of the Turnpike … while the slip ramp is a wonderful thing, it only goes westbound, every eastbound bit of traffic out of this is going to go down Dreshertown Road," said Omar Bounds, of Dresher. "Dreshertown Road is already a cattle chute."

"I've been a resident for more than nine years now, and all I've seen time and time again is Dreshertown Road becoming more congested," said Joshua Ganz of Bantry Drive. "I'm all in favor of smart business, [but] this was taken from St. Louis, Missouri; Eugene, Oregon; Binghamton, New York—it could have been anywhere, and plopped right down in Dresher. I respect the fact that you have a business, and there's a reason why you put the buildings where you put them, but this is an insult to Dresher."

"I was the fifth owner in the development, and when we bought there, there was no overlay, we weren't particularly happy with the overlay," said Martin Graff, of Ringneck Loop. "Where's the respect for the residents of this neighborhood? Do their profits come before the neighborhood? I don't see it that way."

Asked by Wolf what the next step was, Yanoff said BET would reconsider its plans and options.

"We appreciate [the residents'] time and comments. We'll have to huddle and make a decision," said Yanoff.

We are all Upepr Dublin October 27, 2011 at 01:53 PM
The Ward 5 area of Limekiln and Dreshertown Road near Manufacturer's Country Club has become the stepchild of Upper Dublin in recent years. What used to be a quaint Farmers Market is now lost in an urban eyesore. Why are we looking at 12 RENTAL APARTMENT BUILDINGS? I would love to be able to see some trees instead of Mr Toll's village of rentals. Residents bought in this area for the wooded setting in a great school district. Not to mention, the homes on Dreshertown Road that sell for millions, and they drive down the road to look at 12 apartment buildings courtesy of Mr Toll and the UD elected officials who let this happen on their watch? Where are all the trees and buffers that were supposed to be planted at that corner? Is there an ordinance that these +55 RENTAL apartments (that were supposed to be owned condos with only a few buildings instead of twelve) will not be allowed to become just your run of the mill apartments in a few years? Visions of Blair Mill East Apartments come to mind...
Peter October 27, 2011 at 02:57 PM
I agree with the other posters about this. Why is any of this even needed? There are vacant stores in the Dreshertown shopping center now, so who thinks the area can support even more retail? There are several hotels at the other end of the business park and I highly doubt they are filled to capacity every night. This is clearly a case of a developer just wanting to make a quick buck with zero regard for the existing community.
Helen Colvin October 27, 2011 at 05:09 PM
I completely agree with my fellow neighbors. The entire triangle area is a traffic nightmare. Just try getting into or out of Starbucks. We would rather see some open space and upgrade the retail areas already present. Didn't I fill out a survey not too long ago about apdating Dreshertown Shopping center. How about we concentrate on that project and the flooding issues and leave some trees standing. NO HOTEL NEEDED! Helen Colvin
Lee November 29, 2012 at 04:43 AM
They're density planning, part of regionalization. It is not good imho. We're in a high opp zone. Maybe the hotel is the means to justify new zoning heights. The apt bldgs will have to have to comply with affordable housing laws. I think they should make it open space! We could use some open space in this packed to the gills wonderful area.
Lee November 29, 2012 at 04:44 AM
they may get grants and fair housing money?

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