Zoners deny request for hotel expansion
Albert and Ketoria Berry, who own the property at 2 Front St. under the corporate name Senan Investment LLC, came before the Catasauqua Borough Zoning Hearing Board Sept. 18 to continue a request made last month to expand the number of rooms in the structure.
Zoning board members, after listening to testimony from the owners as well as those opposed to the request, denied a variance.
Under an agreement with the prior owner, Eugene Goldfeder, zoning officer, agreed to designate the property as an extended-stay hotel. The purpose behind the designation was to improve the appearance of the landmark building. The exterior improvements were made by the prior owner as required under the agreement.
Units in the building are primarily single-room apartments with cooking facilities limited to microwave ovens.
In their original request, the Berrys asked to increase the number of units in the hotel from the approved 22 to 30 units. They then modified the request to renovate only three additional rooms.
According to Berry, the three rooms would be repurposed from an existing ancillary use to market-ready rooms. He proposed modifications that would expand existing bathrooms to include bathtub-shower fixtures. He further indicated there are no structural changes necessary to convert the units. Berry noted his original request to add eight rooms was not economically feasible.
Berry contends the additional rooms are necessary to bring the business to break-even financial status.
To meet the borough’s parking criteria, Berry had a drawing that would reduce the width of the parking space for each unit in the off-street parking lot and use reserved on-street parking for additional parking. Specifically, he addressed a loading dock that he contends the property no longer needs. The board indicated that the new off-street parking map did not conform to the borough’s minimum size requirement of 9-foot-by-16-foot parking spaces.
Borough Solicitor Roxann Steelman attended the hearing to oppose the ordinance. Councilwoman Christine Weaver testified the on-street parking spaces Berry wants to dedicate are deleted with the proposed changes to the intersection at Front and Race streets approved by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
“The proposal that we have approved puts three traffic lights on Race Street. The intersection at Race and Front will have three lanes. The plan was to use the parking spaces and loading area to create the lanes,” she said.
Several other residents expressed their concern that parking in the area was already at a premium and dedicating on-street parking would only create further problems. Steelman argued the request did not meet the parameters for a variance as outlined in the borough’s code.
Berry indicated the agreement signed by the previous owner allowed 35 units in the building. Steelman corrected Berry’s interpretation to show the property was limited to 35 residents, not 35 apartment units.