A plan to tear down the Iron Run Motel in Upper Macungie and construct a four-story Best Western hotel in its place is in limbo after a mixed verdict by the township zoning hearing board Wednesday.
Minu Kumar Desai had asked the board for about a dozen variances to zoning laws to be allowed to put a 50-room $3 million Best Western at the junction of where Tilghman Street meets Ruppsville Road and Memorial Drive. Currently, he owns the Iron Run Motel there, which he and neighbors of the motel have called “dilapidated.”
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Desai had sought to demolish the four motel buildings that total 6,731 square feet and add two adjacent properties for a combined one acre of land. The new hotel would be 43,835 square feet on land zoned R-4 (residential) and NC (neighborhood commercial).
After deliberating in private for about 30 minutes, the Zoning Hearing Board granted some of the variances but denied others. For example, the zoners denied by a 3-2 vote a request for a variance allowing a driveway for commercial uses to be permitted in a residential area.
But the zoners allowed a variance that would let the hotel be four stories, instead of a maximum 2 ½ stories. Other variances were requested on such issues as setbacks, buffers and how much of the property would be paved.
Desai and his attorney, Lawrence B. Fox of Allentown, said they would have to analyze the votes and discuss what was rejected before deciding whether to appeal the decision. Any appeal would go to Lehigh County Court, where a judge would read the transcripts of the proceedings in order to make a decision.
In the four-hour zoning hearing last month the only objections to Desai’s plan came from Township Solicitor Andrew Schantz and Township Supervisor Sam Ashmar. Ashmar said he thought redevelopment of the property was a great idea but that a different business might make more sense.
Ashmar, who is also a fire marshal, said if there is a fire at the proposed four-story hotel, aerial trucks might not have enough room to maneuver on the property to fight it effectively.
Several neighbors of motel attended the May meeting and the one Wednesday night and none of them spoke against Desai’s plan. Jeff and Diane Sell said they are very much in favor of replacing the Iron Run Motel with a Best Western. Sell said he thinks the current motel is much more of a fire risk. “If that thing catches fire, it would burn to the ground in seconds,” he said.