Hotel plans cause uproar in North York

Christopher Dornblaser

After months of wrangling and uproar in North York borough council meetings, proposed plans for a hotel or motel neighboring a park seem to be moving forward.

Citizens urged the council to to stop the plans from happening at last month's meeting, but it is not known if the plans will be discussed at the next meeting on Tuesday.

In March, Bruce Wilt, speaking for Adar Enterprises LP, a building company that purchased land on Fifth Avenue, said the company had approached the council over a few months to approve rezoning of the land to allow the company to build apartments there.

The land is currently zoned as L1, light industrial, and apartments cannot be built under that zoning. Adar wanted it to be rezoned to R2, which would allow apartments. Under the current zoning, Adar can build a hotel there.

History: Meeting minutes indicate representatives of Adar came to meetings starting in August and appeared each month until November to try to get the borough council to rezone the land.

In August and September's meetings, the council declined a petition to send a rezoning application to the planning commission.  In August the request was tabled after councilman Rick Shank motioned to send it but no one seconded the motion.

In September the council questioned the representative over the square footage of the apartments, asking if the builder was willing to abide by a new square footage ordinance. The representative said the company's other apartments on Seventh Avenue were about 500 square feet and that the new apartments would be similar. The council declined the request again. That's when the representative from Adar told the council Adar would pursue building a motel on the property.

In October the council objected to the size of the apartments not meeting the borough ordinance of 1000 square feet of space and central air condition system. The representative said the borough ordinance could not be enforced because it did not meet federal housing laws. The council then approved the re-zoning application to be sent to the planning commission after the council was told they have the final say in rezoning.

In November, a representative returned to the council, stating that the planning commission recommended that the land be rezoned to R2, and he asked the council to move forward with the motion. The council expressed concerns over the apartment size again. Councilman Shank motioned to draft and advertise the rezoning ordinance, seconded by councilman Park Cunningham, but no one else voted in favor.

Plans not sitting well: Wilt came to the meeting in March, and he and the council were met with anger from citizens.

"I for one do not want a motel in my backyard," Angela Ramsay, an 18-year resident of North York, said. Others echoed her sentiment, saying that a hotel would be a breeding ground for prostitution and drugs, among other things.

Wilt said Adar was always under the impression the land would be rezoned and was surprised when the council rejected that proposal months ago.

"I was misled and I felt like I was lied to," he said during the meeting. He did add that the council was told that if rezoning was not approved, Adar would have to go forward with a hotel plan instead.

Wilt seemed frustrated with the way things were being handled during the meeting, expressing concern over the behavior of the council.

North York Borough Mayor Jerry Duncan opted to speak for Wilt at one point, saying it could be hard for Adar to trust the council in light of what had been done previously.

"There's no trust in this council," he said.

Rezoning: At the last meeting, Councilman Bill Jackson motioned for the land to be rezoned, which the council agreed to. Jackson's motion was met with applause from the audience.

"I'd rather have apartments than a hotel," Jackson said.

Jackson said apartments could bring additional tax revenue to the borough.

"We definitely need income," he said.

Despite the motion to rezone, there is still a period of time in which Adar could submit and have plans approved for a hotel under the current zoning ordinance. Jackson urged Wilt to take what he heard from the people and the council back to his company to change minds there.

According to Duncan, Adar submitted plans for a hotel/motel to the planning commission in mid-March, after last month's meeting.

North York Borough's next council meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday at the borough office, 350 E. Sixth Ave.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at