Sunday, July 21, 2024

York Planning Commission Votes Against Redevelopment of Hotel to Townhomes

The York County Planning Commission voted Wednesday on whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approving alterations to two vacant hotel sites. One proposal, to convert the Knights Inn on Bypass Road into a community of up to 102 townhouses, was shot down 6-1.

The commissioners took issue with a number of factors in the proposal from 1776 Hotel, LLC, to convert most of the 12.3-acre site from general business to residential multifamily, including inadequate access for emergency vehicles, not enough common areas, questions about adequate stormwater drainage and the impact the townhouses would have on enrollment at nearby Waller Mill Elementary School, which is already near capacity without taking into account future students in nearby land already zoned for residential development.

The lone voice who voted to approve the recommendation, Commissioner Chris Abel, said that the construction of the townhouses would be a welcome use of land that was otherwise vacant.

Another sticking point for the dissenting commissioners was the part of the proposal that sought to identify the proposed community as housing for workers such as school teachers, firefighters, police officers and retail workers. The applicant’s proposal said that a $49,000 income should be enough to afford the $200,000 – $250,000 townhouses if 30 percent of gross income is devoted to a mortgage, though several of the commissioners took issue with that idea, citing the lack of monthly condo fees in the applicant’s calculations. According to an online mortgage calculator, a $231,000 home, with 10 percent down and a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 4 percent interest, would require a monthly payment of just under $1400. That payment would include property taxes and homeowners’ insurance and represent just over 34 percent of the homeowner’s gross monthly income if he or she were earning $49,000 a year.

The public hearing regarding the proposal did not elicit comments from either the audience or neighbors of the proposed redevelopment. The matter will go before the Board of Supervisors at their Dec. 18 meeting.

The commissioners voted 6-1 to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of a proposal from Merrimac Partners, LLC, to convert the vacant George Washington Inn on Merrimac Trail to a senior living facility with 70 assisted living units and 130 independent living units.

Commissioner Melissa Magowan, the single dissenting voice on the commission, voted against approving due to reservations she had concerning the businesses around the proposed senior housing, which she believed made it an inappropriate use of land. Magowan said the proposal was a short-term outlook on the land.

There was a strong sentiment from most of the commission that the proposed project was a good use of land and would provide a necessary service to York County’s aging population – the first assisted living facility for seniors in the county. The former hotel has been vacant since September 2011. Read more about the George Washington Inn and a past effort to convert the facility to housing for seniors here, here and here.

In their discussion of the proposal, the commissioners asked about health and safety considerations. York County Assistant County Administrator Mark Carter said a ladder truck is stationed at a nearby fire station.

The proposal would leave most of the building as it is, with new landscaping along the exterior and a new sidewalk and bike path along Merrimac Trail. The stand-alone building in front of the hotel, which used to be a restaurant but is now vacant, is not a part of the proposal. That building is currently for sale.

The proposal drew no comment from the public and will be heard by supervisors at their Dec. 18 meeting.

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