Commission doesn’t object to hotel plans

The Blair County Planning Commission offered no objections Thursday to a set of plans that will be under review by Altoona leaders and could lead to the construction of a four-story, 72-room hotel on Valley View Boulevard near Jaggard Street.

About 20 people attended Thursday’s meeting and reported concerns about the proposed Microtel Inn & Suites hotel generating too much traffic in their neighborhood and on the deteriorating 16th Street. They also questioned construction of a 50-foot tall building on the site.

“A four-story building is just going to ruin the view of the mountain,” Katie DiVentura told the commission.

Those kind of concerns belong in front of the Altoona Planning Commission, Blair County Planning Commission Chairman William Hall told the residents.

Robert Gutshall and Randy Isenberg, who represent Altoona on the Blair County Planning Commission, agreed with Hall and advised the residents to attend the Altoona Planning Commission’s meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Altoona City Hall.

Nevertheless, after a review of the proposed project by Assistant Planner Jamie Klink, all but one member of the Blair County Planning Commission voted to find the project consistent with countywide planning efforts.

Blair County Planning Commission member Jo Ann Nardelli of Newry, who represents boroughs on the commission, said she voted no for lack of information.

“I know that area, and I just feel that there must be more data we should look at … before deciding if it’s in compliance or not,” Nardelli said. “I know there’s congestion there, and the traffic builds up.”

Hall said after the meeting that even if the commission found the project inconsistent with countywide planning efforts, it’s still an advisory board, whereas the municipality has the power to make a decision.

“If they want it, it goes through, no matter what we’ve advised,” Hall said.

Klink, who reviewed the proposed plans during Thursday’s meeting, said the hotel is proposed for construction on a vacant 2.47-acre site zoned for commercial highway business. It’s expected to generate approximately 72 vehicles per hour during peak use times. That’s not enough to require a PennDOT study, nor should it overburden nearby roads, Klink said.

Klink pointed to an entrance-only access along 16th Street, designed to restrict traffic from that street and neighboring roads.

The neighbors also asked questions about insufficient parking. Patrons and employees will be parking in nearby lots and walking across the busy Valley View Boulevard, creating a safety hazard, they said. The plans show 90 spaces for vehicles.

The plans also show the use of rain gardens to restrict stormwater, plus landscaping and shielded exterior lights as buffers to neighboring properties.

“Overall, the proposed development conforms with countywide planning efforts,” Klink said.