The Jim Thorpe Planning Commission held a special meeting Tuesday to discuss a possible development project, a proposed spa-resort and tram-line. The project reveals the complexity of development and the competing visions attempting to instill their version of it.
Development project partners Larry Masi and Tim Markley were on hand with their lawyer to present their plan to the planning board. Also in attendance at the meeting were Todd Mason, of the borough council, as well as Wesley Johnson, norough manager, Mayor Michael Sofranko and Bruce Conrad, consultant to the developers.
Masi and Markley explained that they were not presenting their plans to the planners as a formal request, rather they were hoping to learn from the planners what they needed to do in order to move the project along as fast as possible.
The project requires the rezoning of both the site of the Flagstaff Ballroom and portions of Susquehanna street. Because of the nature of the project, the developers wish to create a zoning amendment rather than having to continually return to the zoning board for variances.
The planners were generally receptive to the plan, however they were concerned that the amendments proposed by the developers were too broad. Various members of the commission noted that if such broad changes were granted, any future owners of the site would be beyond the control of the local government.
Solicitor for the commission, James Nanovic, pointed out that the developers had several options for how to proceed, but if they wanted to create amendments the process would take at least four months. Masi responded that taking so much time drives away investors. "These opportunities do not wait forever," he said. "Expediting in zoning is not real fast," said Nanovic.
The issue of zoning is vital to the project because it is holding back the development project. The plan has already received two key variances, has been approved by the state department of labor and industry, unofficial approval of a tram-landing site with the county commissioners, as well as developing systems to account for impact to the water table. However, zoning for the project is complicated because it involves an area running the length of the mountain, which passes through both commercial and residential zones.
"Our vision is one that is beneficial to the community," said Masi. "This project will bring in more people and add jobs to the economy." The planners noted this sentiment. However, some noted that the project taps into a larger issue, which is the maximum carrying capacity of the town.
"We only have so much infrastructure," said Laurence Hall, Planning Commission member, "if we surpass our carrying capacity degradation of quality of life will ensue. We have to find a system that is sustainable economically, environmentally and sociologically."
No decisions were reached at the meeting. The developers will take the recommendations and views of the board into consideration of their plans. They will attend the next Zoning Board Meeting on September 22nd.