Kennett Sq. Council checks out new hotel plans

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Borough agrees to land sale for new library

By Eliza Mohler, Staff Writer, The Times

The Kennett Realty Group gave Borough Council its first look at a proposed hotel, to be built in the historic district of Kennett Square.

KENNETT SQUARE – Plans for a new hotel in the borough’s historic district were unveiled at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting.

The Kennett Realty Group presented their plan to build a hotel with 100 to 110 rooms at the intersection of Cypress Street and the 100 block of South Broad Street. The building would be at least five stories tall and have two levels of parking, including an underground level.

Edward Foley, an attorney with Brutscher, Foley, Milliner & Land, LLP, led the presentation. Since the proposed location is in the tall building overlay district, he said that the developers will be applying for special variances. He added that the purpose of presentation was to introduce the concept to the council members and for it to be available for public discussion.

Donald Robitzer, Jr., the vice president of the Commonwealth Group, and Thomas Hanna, the chief operating officer of Harvey, Hanna & Associates, were also present to help answer questions from council. Robitzer said that there are currently 84 to 87 parking spaces planned for the hotel, and they may need an additional 25 to 40 spaces.

“We’re going to try to obscure the parking behind a façade,” he said. “It would be a limited-use hotel, as we want to get people into the borough.” Primary access to the hotel would be at the north end of South Broad Street.

President Danilo Maffei shared his concerns about the current plan, especially about one block of the design being a brick wall that “won’t add anything to the area.” He also cited concerns related to the historic district, but he did note that a hotel would help bring jobs to the area, in addition to promoting tourism.

“You’ve got some work in front of you,” Maffei said to the developers. Robitzer agreed and said the team plans to engage the community regarding the project.

Vice President Geoff Bosley said he would abstain from making comments because his employer, the Bosley Group, is a potential seller of the land in question. Council member Ethan Cramer spoke about his concerns regarding the hotel, noting how the borough already suffers from a large lack of available parking in the area, and that the proposed location is very close to the Franklin Center building, where the height limit is 75 feet. Council member Jamie Mallon applauded the developers’ efforts to bring a hotel to the area in response to increased tourism.

The Kennett Realty Group already has an agreement in place to purchase the properties where the hotel will be situated from the Bosley Group if the project moves forward. The properties in question are currently houses that are primarily used as office space.

Monday night also saw council members approving the regional EMS commission ordinance and moving forward on the deal to sell the Weinstein lot to the Kennett Library for their new building project.

During discussion about the EMS commission, Cramer said he supports the ordinance because Kennett Fire Company No. 1 does.

“The goal is to strengthen the Kennett Fire Company. It gives them and the other fire companies a seat at the table as decisions are being made,” he said. “I think that’s important, and the fire company will as well.”

Bosley echoed the sentiment that he said had been expressed to him by fire company members that “the good outweighs the bad, so let’s move forward.” Maffei addressed the public comment that was made about the borough possibly getting shortchanged on resources. “We’ll have a better distribution of equipment,” he said. Maffei then reviewed the guidelines for membership on the commission, after which the ordinance passed unanimously.

While many positive thoughts about the EMS commission were shared, not everyone agrees with it. Resident Kathleen Tavone said she had questions about how the commission will work, which council members addressed during the discussion prior to their vote. She also cited Kennett Fire Company’s quick response time to emergencies as a factor in her hesitancy to see it merged. “Carefully consider this ordinance, because it’s going to affect the lives of many, even you,” Tavone said to council.

Resident Paul Bonnett said he is against the formation of the commission, and many of his family members serve on the Kennett teams. “It’s a matter of civic pride for Kennett Square to have its own fire department,” he said. “If they combine, where’s the pride? They can respond anywhere in the borough in 10 minutes. I don’t think you’re going to have the same type of pride, of response of energy if you combine.”

Kennett Library Vice President Jeff Yetter reads a statement about the purchase of the Weinstein lot from the Borough.

Bosley led the discussion about the sale of the Weinstein lot to the Kennett Library so they can proceed with building a new facility. Maffei said, “It sounds like the right way to go, and I’m very excited.” Borough solicitor Mark Jonas confirmed that the current version of the agreement of sale is with Borough Manager Joe Scalise for review, and then it will be sent back to the library.

Library Vice President Jeff Yetter read a statement on behalf of Library President Thomas Swett and the Board of Trustees. Swett thanked the council for their “fair and generous offer to sell the Library the Weinstein lot at the corner of East State and Willow Streets” as the site for a new regional and community library.

Earlier this year, the library and borough council explored the possibility of building a joint facility on the Weinstein lot, but experts determined the challenges of combining the two organizations on one parcel outweighed the advantages and recommended the library pursue building on its own.

The Borough expressed enthusiastic support for the new library project, according to Swett, citing the library’s cultural and economic contributions to Kennett Square and the surrounding region. At that time, borough council members pledged to determine a fair value for the property with flexible settlement terms to allow the library to raise the funds as part of a capital campaign.

“The Borough certainly came through for us,” Swett said, “by providing a reasonable price well below the appraised market value and with favorable terms and a timetable to suit our overall project. We appreciate both their generosity and their moving quickly. Our trustees are already reviewing the proposal with counsel and preparing to formally accept the borough’s offer. We’ll have more to say as soon as the arrangement are finalized.”

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