Hotel developers threaten legal action
RICK GRANT/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Attorney Michael Greek fails to convince the Jim Thorpe Borough Council to rescind its decision.
Last month, developers of a proposed new hotel for Flagstaff Mountain in Jim Thorpe were disappointed when the Jim Thorpe Borough Council voted to reject their request for preliminary plan approval.
They sent the project back to square one after three years of working its way through the system. This month, the developers came back and were disappointed again.
The project has been delayed in the past by legal action between the developers, Surreal Properties and Flagstaff Resort Land Holdings, and Jacob Arner, former owner of the property in question and current owner of Awesome View Properties, a land development company. The dispute over easements has thrown the boundary lines of the property into dispute.
When the developers brought the project back to the council two months ago seeking preliminary plan approval, the council sent them back to the borough planning commission. That body suggested that the developers should get a letter from the county planning commission, letting the borough council know that the plan was still acceptable. That didn't happen and so the council requested more time to study the plan on its own. Instead of requesting the extension that would have given the borough that time, the developers pressed for a vote and lost.
"We're here to request your reconsideration," Michael Greek, attorney for the developers, told council members. "We have 30 days in which to appeal the decision made by Jim Thorpe Borough Council. We're asking that within that 30 days you reconsider."
Last month, Arner's attorney, James Kratz, presented the council with nine specific objections to the plan. This month, Bruce Conrad, a consultant for the developers, went point by point through those arguments in an attempt to convince the council that its action last month was misguided.
"You were given some pretty gross misrepresentations, both about your own ordinances and about court cases," Conrad said. "If anybody, including Mr. Arner, can show me where anywhere in here what Mr. Kratz said about the Jenkintown opinion is included at all, I'll eat it in front of you."
"Good," Arner answered from the back of the room. "I'm ready."
"We're not going to turn this into a debate," council President John McGuire said. "We're not a court. We're not in this battle."
"They came in representing that this was the same plan as was brought in last year," Arner said. "Last year, it was an eight-page plan. This year it was a six-page plan. My attorney said that this is a new plan and because it was a new plan, it should go to the Carbon County Planning Commission. I think that's why this was turned down."
Greek told the council that the developers were requesting reconsideration in part because the council's denial was based on the developer's resistance to going back to the county planning commission for a decision, a requirement that he says is not in the borough's Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.
But council members seemed to remember it differently. Most were not in favor of denying the developer's request, but most wanted more time to study the plans. In fact, last month, council member Jeremy Melber specifically asked the developers to request an extension to give the council more time. Todd Mason and McGuire also pressed for an extension, but the developers refused.
This month, Greek told the council that if they reconsidered their vote, his clients would request that extension to work through the details. Jim Thorpe Borough Solicitor James Nanovic told the council that it could not rescind its earlier decision and that the developers must now start over, filing the plan with the borough and heading back to the county planning commission.
"I think one of the things we want to communicate to you guys is that the last thing in the world we want to be doing is suing you in court," Conrad said. "We don't want to be in court with you, I don't think you want to be in court with us. We want to resolve this."
"Then let's work together and see what we can do," McGuire replied.
But Greek advised his clients at that point that, as a protective measure, they should file to appeal the decision in court.
"Just so we have it on record," Greek said. "Just because of what could possibly happen, it's better to do it as a protective filing."
"If we do," Conrad said, "please don't take it personally."
Flagstaff Resort Land Holdings hopes to construct a 78-unit, six story hotel/time share property at the top of Flagstaff Mountain. To make that happen now, the developers will have to refile their plan.