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After setbacks, Flagstaff hotel plan gets nod from JT Planning Commission

Published November 20. 2009 05:00PM

After failing to achieve preliminary plan approval from Jim Thorpe Borough Council last month and then failing to win a recommendation for preliminary approval from the Carbon County Planning Commission earlier this week, the developers of a proposed hotel on Flagstaff Mountain received some good news in the form of a recommendation to approve their preliminary plan from the Jim Thorpe Borough Planning Commission.

The project has been working its way through the system for years, hampered by legal action and questions about the plan itself.

During its monthly meeting on Tuesday, the county planning commission board voted unanimously to recommend preliminary plan rejection of Surreal Properties, Inc. and Flagstaff Resort Land Holdings Ltd.'s proposed land development. County planner Ivan O. Meixell Jr. said the 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 cautioned the borough planning commission to make "a careful examination of these non-conforming conditions and plan deficiencies" before rendering its decision.

But planners in Jim Thorpe felt that those details would be worked out over time as the plan made its way toward final approval and voted unanimously to recommend approval by the borough council in its meeting earlier this week.

"We went with it, not to go against the county, but our view was that this way we'd understand what's going on through the whole project so that when we come to the final plan we can make the decision that we think is right," said John McGuire, president of borough council and a member of the planning commission.

"What we felt about the findings from the county planning commission was more suited toward a final plan. We were looking at this as a preliminary plan just to stay close to this project so we know what is going on."

Louis Hall, another member of the borough's planning commission, agreed.

"We didn't say that everything was fine. We just felt that it met the minimum criteria for preliminary plan approval."

Hall said that some of the things the county identified still have to be resolved and said, "We felt like (the developers) had a good understanding of things that were going to have to be done."

But the developers and the planning commission may still not be on the same page. In an e-mail letter sent to the TIMES NEWS this week, Bruce Conrad, consultant for the Flagstaff development for Surreal Properties, wrote:

"We fully addressed Mr. Meixell's comments, including the suggestion which I felt was right out of Alice in Wonderland or the Twilight Zone that by drilling through the bed rock that we would cause the mountain to collapse onto the town of Jim Thorpe."

Both Hall and McGuire indicated that there was still a lot of work to do and details to iron out before this plan makes it to final approval.

"I understand the findings from the county and these are things that we understand need to be worked through on the plans and progressed through to the final plans," McGuire said. "And if things like that were not met, then the final plans might meet a different fate here."

"We're not discounting the things that were brought up by the county," Hall added. "We just feel like, at a preliminary stage, the things that they are citing are things that are going to have to be addressed as this thing moves through the final approval process."

Before the developers' plans can receive final approval, they'll have to wind their way back through county planning and the borough's planning commission and then be presented to borough council for a vote. It's not clear how long that process might take, but for now, at least, the project seems to be back on track.

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