HomeVoorhees NewsSturbridge Lakes residents rail against new hotels

Sturbridge Lakes residents rail against new hotels

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Voorhees Sun

Sturbridge Lakes residents came out en masse last week to urge the Voorhees Planning Board to not consider a master plan amendment that would allow for the construction of hotels on both sides of Route 73.

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As resident after resident protested the possible amendment, the three-and-a-half hour meeting concluded with the planning board tabling the decision until Sept. 22. Residents raised concerns over the close proximity of the possible hotels to Sturbridge Lakes, the possible negative element the hotels could attract, and the increased traffic on Route 73.

The master plan amendment would include the caveat that hotels can be constructed on both sides of Route 73. At present, hotels are only allowed on the west side of the highway. Hotels could only be constructed on sites with a minimum of 10 acres and would have to be between three and five stories tall.

Planning Board Member Dr. Jay Sherbine said it was about making the law uniform throughout Voorhees. The 10-acre property minimum and the fact that any three-story hotel is required to have an elevator would most likely keep the less-than-reputable chains out of Voorhees, he said.

Also, at present there are only two available parcels of land on the eastern side of Route 73 that would reach the 10-acre minimum.

Up until 2006 hotels were allowed on both sides of the highway. In July of 2006, the Township Committee passed an ordinance disallowing hotels on the east side of Route 73.

Chairman Thomas Fanelli said more research was needed to make an educated decision in regard to the amendment. He directed George Stevenson — a planner for Remington, Vernick, and Arango — to look into the legal ramifications of allowing hotels on just one side of Route 73 and to see if there are any feasibility studies for the necessity of additional hotels in Voorhees.

He also directed the planner to contact Cherry Hill — a township that was brought up several times in the meeting because of its hotel corridor on Route 70 — and find out which hotels have had public safety issues.

Finally, he directed the planner to make any reports or information gathered available to residents of the township and especially Sturbridge Lakes.

Thomas Booth, president of the Sturbridge Lakes Association, approached members of the Planning Board and reminded them of a recent court case at the state’s Appellate Division which ruled in favor of disallowing hotels on the east side of Route 73.

Mori Properties LLC. had received a use variance from the township zoning board in 2008 to allow for the construction of a hotel on the east side of the highway, but the Appellate Division ruled — among other reasons as well — that nothing had significantly changed along the Route 73 corridor to overturn the township’s 2006 ordinance.

Riddhi Siddhi Associates, LLC and Bart Khatiwala, who currently own a hotel in the township, filed the appeal with the Appellate Division to uphold the original ordinance and disallow hotels on the east side of Route 73.

Booth also questioned the need for another hotel in Voorhees. He warned the planning board that this amendment could open Voorhees Township up to the fate of Cinnaminson, which has a long hotel corridor that he said attracts a bad element to the town.

“The suggestion that our town needs more hotels is out of bounds and out of scope,” Booth said.

Booth said no study has been completed or processed in regard to the need for more hotels in the township.

Alex Martinez, a resident of Sturbridge Lakes, asked the board to consider the desires of the residents who attended the meeting.

“Your planning is for Voorhees Township. We’re a good chunk of Voorhees, we pay our taxes. You’re hearing from us tonight that we don’t want this, we don’t want it at all,” he said.

The planning board will reconsider the amendment on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at town hall.


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