Valley View business plan upsets residents

A local development company plans to build a four-story, 72-room Microtel Inn & Suites hotel on Valley View Boulevard near Jaggard Street.

The vacant ground was previously slated for a medical center, then an office building.

City Council rezoned the 2.47-acre tract now owned by local dentist Jim Marcelli’s Jaggard Street Realty LLC from residential to highway business in 2011 at the request of then-owner Bob DiVentura, whose family lives alongside the grassy ground.

At least two neighbors who had concerns about the zoning change were dismayed Monday to learn that a hotel may be coming.

“There’s a pit in my stomach,” said Tammie Reffner, who lives across South 16th Street from the tract.

“I wouldn’t have minded the medical center,” said Clara Basom, who lives across Monroe Avenue, the back boundary of the property.

Reffner fears that hotel-generated vehicles will be too much for 16th Street, while Basom worries that the four-story building will block the view from her front window and that round-the-clock traffic will disturb the peace of the neighborhood.

The project will go to the city Planning Commission for land development approval in June, according to city Planning Director Lee Slusser.

The development company had previously obtained land development approval for a mixed-use office building, said Stephanie Shoenfelt of Keller Engineers, Marcelli’s consultant on the project.

Shoenfelt plans to submit the same vehicle access design, which includes a main entrance off the boulevard and an exit on 16th Street not far from the boulevard, with a barrier to prevent motorists from making a right turn into the neighborhood.

The access plan from the earlier proposals reflected residents’ concerns that site users would take a shortcut through the neighborhood, Shoenfelt said.

Such shortcutting will be less likely with a hotel than with an office building because most hotel customers are from out of town and inclined to stick to main roads like the boulevard, Shoenfelt said.

The Planning Commission will look at new “trip generation rates” to update its previous vehicle access findings, Slusser said.

It will also require screening, as before, in keeping with the city’s land development ordinance, to protect the nearby residents from the effects of the commercial property, he said.

But the commission can’t make up “rules on the fly” to buffer the site further than permitted by the ordinance, he said.

There would need to be a “black and white” issue – indicating that 16th Street couldn’t handle the hotel traffic or that the hotel created a dangerous situation – for the commission to scotch the project, he said.

“The big thing that would have prevented a hotel from happening” was settled with the 2011 zoning change, he said.

That zoning change actually returned the tract to an earlier highway business designation that was in keeping with the city’s 2000 comprehensive plan – before the city made the tract it residential as part of its 2003 general rezoning.

That 2003 change was probably a mistake, former city Planning Director Larry Carter said in 2011.

When the city restored the highway business designation, it included a proviso that the buyer would sign a covenant by which there could be no retail development.

That may not be much comfort to Basom.

The views out her windows used to be “pristine,” she said.

Now she looks out and sees signs for Lowe’s and Sheetz and a billboard, and soon, probably, a four-story, 35,000-square-foot hotel.