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County gives preliminary rejection to Flagstaff plan

Published November 18. 2009 05:00PM

A Carbon County land development plan that has been in the works for years received preliminary plan rejection from the county.

During the monthly meeting of the county planning commission on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously to recommend preliminary plan rejection of Surreal Properties, Inc. and Flagstaff Resort Land Holdings Ltd.'s proposed land development on top of Flagstaff Mountain in Jim Thorpe.

Ivan O. Meixell Jr., county planner, explained that the project plan, which calls for constructing an 86,000-square-foot, five-story hotel and a 1,500-linear-foot public/municipal sewer line down the mountain, contained numerous items that did not conform to laws and ordinances.

"The Carbon County Planning Commission, in reviewing the above land development, believes the above preliminary plan as submitted contains several areas of non-compliance with the Jim Thorpe Borough Land Development Ordinances and the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law, Act 367," Meixell said. "A careful examination of these non-conforming conditions and plan deficiencies should be made by Jim Thorpe Borough before a decision to preliminary approve or deny this land development is made.

"We, therefore recommend preliminary plan rejection of this land development until all plan review item comments are addressed and adequately mitigated."

Prior to the vote, Bruce T. Rader, president of Berks Surveying and Engineering Inc. of Fleetwood, presented the board with information on the project.

He said this plan is a resubmission of previous project plans that were approved by both Jim Thorpe and the county planning commission.

Meixell noted that the plans are not considered as a resubmission because of changes that have occurred.

Under the proposal, Rader said, the company is proposing to eliminate Gallo's Pub & Grill and construct a hotel with adequate parking.

Meixell questioned distance information that was included in the plans, and Surreal Properties' attorney, Michael Greek, explained that the company believes it owns more land than previously stated. This matter is also part of the current litigation, filed in 2008 by Surreal Properties against its former engineering firm, Keystone-Geiger, as well as Jacob Arner, former owner of the property in question and current owner of Awesome View Properties, and others associated with the groups. The suit stated that fraud took place during the sale of some of the property at Flagstaff.

Rader then addressed some of the planning commission's notes, stating that they have conformed to most of them.

The development project has been in the works since 2007, when Tim Markley, vice president of Surreal Properties, approached the commission with a plan to develop a 78-unit hotel at the site. That plan received preliminary approval at the time.

In February 2008, Jim Thorpe Borough Council rejected Surreal Properties' plans on the grounds of a legal technicality.

In August 2009, the Jim Thorpe Planning Commission suggested that Surreal Properties get a letter from the county planning commission, stating that the plan still meets criteria for approval and would not have to return for review before preliminary approval from the borough was given. The county planning commission said that the letter would not be given.

In September, the Jim Thorpe Borough Council rejected Surreal Properties and Flagstaff Resort Land Holdings' request for conditional preliminary plan approval for a 78-unit, six-story hotel/time share property.

At that time, Jim Thorpe borough solicitor James Nanovic told the company that he had spoken to Charles Smith, the county planning commission solicitor, and was told that "the county would only review the plans again if the borough specifically requested it."

That action sent the project back to the starting point.

In October, Surreal Properties and Flagstaff Resort Land Holdings, approached Jim Thorpe Borough Council again to request a reconsideration of the project because the council's "no" vote was based on the developer's resistance of going back to the Carbon County Planning Commission. Council members said that was not the case and were forced to make a decision after the developers refused to request an extension.

During that meeting, Nanovic said that council could not rescind an earlier decision and that the developers must now start over, filing the plan with the borough and heading back to the county planning commission.

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