Some Hershey residents want Derry Township leaders to “check out” of the hotel business.
But a proposal for an 84-room Towneplace Suites by Marriott on West Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, is one step closer to being formally adopted.
Residents joined developers of that proposed project at a Downtown Core Design Board meeting
Monday evening, where board members made a recommendation to move forward with the demolition of six homes on West Chocolate Avenue, and build the new hotel.
The six continuous homes sit on a plot of land less than an acre in combined size.
Developers believe the hotel would provide industry and needed rooms for Hershey, but residents are upset the construction of a new hotel right there would affect traffic, parking and the feel of their town.
“[Visitors] are coming in to see a small charming town that looks like a movie set, they don’t want to see the hotel-ification of the township,” said resident, Teresa Peschl. “Houses like these are really valuable because they allow people who are not rich to move into the township.”
The project is being proposed by Bear Creek Hershey Hotel II, the same company that constructed a Courtyard by Marriott in Hershey previously.
Lawyer for the developer, David Getz, said the homes cannot adequately be reused and don’t fit in with the brand.
“These homes are just a little more than 1,000 square feet, which doesnt give you much room to adaptively reuse them,” said Getz. “They’re old and they’re worn, they’re kind of functionally obsolete.”
The proposal was previously approved by zoning and planning, but Justin Engle who sits on the design board (and is also a township supervisor) said he didn’t know the proposal had gone before the commission.
Monday, the design board’s role was to decide if the proposed hotel, at 60 feet tall and with a rear parking lot, fits the historic fit and feel of Hershey, then make a recommendation to township supervisors.
“It’s not maybe the first thing we want the tourists or even the community members to see when they come into our town,” said Chris Painter, an insurance agent who owns the building directly next to the property in question.
Painter said he welcomes growth but is concerned not enough people know what’s being proposed.
“Anytime something’s not really transparent and they try to make it go through quietly, it makes you ask a lot more questions, and you wonder about the appropriateness of the project,” he said.
One woman who rents one of the homes that could be demolished, only learned of the hotel plans last week. She has two kids and a mom to worry about.
“It’s depressing,” said Tina Watts. “It’s been ripped out of your chest…we’ve lived here about a year…it’s just heartbreaking.”
Other residents expressed concerns about an increase in rerouted hotel traffic through back streets and alleyways that would affect the calm of the neighborhood.
The feeling among many is that the project is too big and too tall for the plot of land the developers want to use.
The proposal will go before township supervisors in December; it needs their approval to be formally adopted.