Hotel decision tabled

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Voorhees Sun

As the township Planning Board mulls over a possible amendment of the Voorhees master plan, members of the township committee are forming their own opinions of the controversial change.

Some residents in Voorhees are concerned about a facet of the amendment that would allow the construction of hotels on both sides of Route 73. Until 2006, hotels were allowed on both sides of the highway, but a committee ordinance banned them from the east side of the roadway.

At a recent Planning Board meeting, many residents of the Sturbridge Lakes housing development came out to express their apprehension about hotels possibly being constructed near their community.

The residents were left to wait, as the Planning Board tabled the amendment until September. However several members of the township committee are letting their opinions be known.

Committee Member Joseph Lovallo said the original ordinance was designed to keep hotels away from residential properties, such as Sturbridge Lakes.

“I am in favor of not allowing hotels near homes in the Sturbridge Lakes development. That is why I was part of the policy decision to include this in the zoning ordinance and why I voted for this 2006,” he said.

But, Lovallo went on to say that hotels have a beneficial economic use for the township and would provide an extra revenue stream for Voorhees.

“Hotels in Voorhees Township are good from an economic standpoint. They provide income to the township through the property taxes that they pay and, more importantly, through the local hotel tax. This local hotel tax is paid for by people visiting the township and not township residents. The revenue from this tax goes directly to the operating expenses the township incurs and reduces property taxes.”

Lovallo went on and said because of the new Virtua hospital, there might be a necessity for an additional hotel in Voorhees.

A quality national brand in Voorhees would be beneficial, he said, and the minimum three to five stories requirement for a new hotel would address this need.

“I want to make sure the proposed amendment to the master plan is consistent with the intent of not allowing hotels near residential properties. I would like to see this be addressed by minimum lot size and residential setbacks and any other means that would keep hotels away from homes,” he said. “Only if the amendment can address the concerns of the residents in that area by not allowing a hotel near their homes, will I be in favor with the amendment.”

Committee Member Harry Platt agreed with Lovallo, citing the increase of hotel taxes coming into the township and supporting the budget.

With the addition of Virtua’s hospital, another hotel will most likely be needed in Voorhees, he said, so why not react now instead of being behind when the need comes forward?

“Hotels will be necessary as far as the hospital. You see it around every major hospital, especially one of Virtua’s capacity. There will be a need there, why wait to be behind the eight ball and have to fix the need?” he said. “A hotel will generate revenue, not only ratables, but also user fees.

“Right now people contribute hundreds of thousands of the dollars to the Voorhees budget because of the hotel tax.”

As far as the issue of an undesirable element invading Voorhees Township because of another hotel, Platt said the hotels currently in the township don’t have these problems so why would another invite the problems into the township?

People were also worried about traffic on Route 73 when the B.J.’s was being constructed, he said, and that never came to fruition.

Mayor Michael Mignogna and Committee Member Dean Mazurek both declined to comment, citing their positions on the Planning Board.

Committee Member Mario DiNatale could not be reached for comment.