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Tram developers seek zoning amendments

Published July 21. 2010 05:00PM

Representatives from the Jim Thorpe Tram and Skyline Hotel Development outlined a plan to amend Jim Thorpe Borough's zoning codes to representatives from the Jim Thorpe Planning Committee on Tuesday. The planning committee representatives responded favorably to the plan, which would simplify the development's efforts to create a cluster of new businesses.

The planning committee did not have enough members in attendance at its regularly scheduled meeting to obtain the necessary quorum to vote on the changes. However, those members in attendance expressed approval of the proposed amendments. The amendments will likely be approved at the planning committee's rescheduled meeting next week.

The Tram and Skyline-Hotel Development consultant, Bruce Conrad, outlined the specifics of the amendments to the borough's zoning code. The amendments would create what is called a resort commercial overlay district in the township. The purpose of this overlay zone is to simplify the process of creating any structures or businesses which may be created from the development project.

The overlay zone would create a generalized zoning area in which a number of different businesses or structures could be created without requiring the specific approval of the zoning board. If the amendments were not approved, the development committee would have to request a specific zoning change for each new structure that would be required in the course of completing the project. This is a necessary amendment because the nature of the project is such that the developers cannot fully anticipate what buildings will be required in the future.

For example, instead of having to approach the borough for a zoning variance in the event of needing to install a dry-cleaning service at the proposed hotel, the amendment will allow the developers to install the service without having to approach the borough. This does not mean that the amendments will supersede any other building requirements. It only applies to the need to obtain a specific zoning permit. Any proposed structures will still be subject to all zoning and permit codes.

Approval of the amendments to the zoning ordinance is another step toward completion of the project. Despite the stagnant economy, which has reduced the number of possible investors, Conrad said that he was pleased that "that the project is alive and moving forward."

The Tram and Skyline Hotel Development will, if completed, result in the creation of a two-car tram leading up to a 156-room hotel located next to the Skyline Ballroom. It is predicted that the project will bring an additional 200,000 visitors to the area annually.

Funds for the project have been secured in part through a $600 million capital bond recently issued through the state senate. The bond, which does not draw on state revenue, is allocated for numerous projects throughout the commonwealth.

Conrad hopes that construction on the project will begin by next spring. Before any work can be done, the zoning amendment must be formally approved by the planning commission. After that, it must be approved by the Carbon County Planning Commission. Then it will be moved to the borough council, which will hold a public meeting to obtain community feedback. The process is expected to take around three months.

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