The owner of the , which he called "dilapidated," wants to tear it down and construct a four-story 50-room hotel in its place in Upper Macungie.
Minu Kumar Desai told the township Zoning Board Wednesday night that he hopes to build a $3 million hotel on about one acre of land at the junction where Tilghman Street meets Ruppsville Road and Memorial Drive.
About nine neighbors of the property turned out at the public hearing in support of Desai's plan and no neighbor spoke in opposition. "With what Mr. Desai is putting in this is going to be a huge improvement," said Jeff Sell, who lives on Memorial Drive. The Iron Run Motel "looks terrible, it's dilapidated, it's basically falling apart," Sell said.
Keith Troxell, who plans to sell his Memorial Drive property to Desai for the project, said the police are called often to the Iron Run Motel. A Best Western "will definitely improve the neighborhood," Troxell said.
The only objections came from the township solicitor, Andrew Schantz, and Township Supervisor Sam Ashmar.
Ashmar, who is also a township fire marshal, said he was concerned that should there be a fire at the proposed four-story hotel, firefighters' aerial trucks would not have enough room to manuever on the property to effectively fight the fire. A fire call to such a hotel could bring 10-12 fire trucks so manueverability is important, he said.
Desai's attorney, Lawrence B. Fox of Allentown, asked Ashmar if the Iron Run Motel isn't more of a fire risk than a new Best Western hotel that has sprinklers and meets all Fire Code standards. Ashmar acknowledged that the new hotel would probably be less of a fire hazard than the current one.
Ashmar said he thought redevelopment of the property is a great idea but said a different business might make more sense. The property is zoned R-4 (residential) and NC (neighborhood commercial).
But Fox said Desai was limited in his building options by the split zoning, the configuration of the three roads and other unique characteristics.
Desai is seeking a special exception and about a dozen variances to township zoning laws to build the bigger hotel. For example, the project would need variances for buffers, setbacks, the size of the hotel and driveways, according to Justin Q. Massie, Desai's engineer. The new hotel would be 43,835 square feet, replacing four buildings at the Iron Run Motel that total 6,731 square feet.
"Other things can be built on that space," Schantz said. "There's some safety concerns there."
The 50 rooms of the new hotel are in keeping with the rules of the Best Western chain, Massie said. "Mr. Desai is seeking to construct the minimum number of rooms required by the franchise," he said. Desai currently owns the Best Western Plus hotel at 5630 Tilghman Street.
The proposed hotel would have a pool in the basement and exercise equipment and laundry facilities for guests, according to the architect Ron Shaffer. There would be covered parking and each room would have a kitchenette. There will be no restaurant or lounge.
Desai's traffic engineer, Rob Hoffman, said he did a traffic study of the site looking at the traffic for peak hours of 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. and did not anticipate significant increases in traffic delays.
The zoning hearing lasted 4 1/2 hours, with two, less complicated cases coming before the board first. The board continued the hearing until June 13 to give both sides time to submit briefs to the board.