State College

Harris Township supervisors weigh hotel at Tussey Mountain

A proposed ordinance that would allow resort hotels in the rural areas of the township was sent back to the Planning Commission by the Board of Supervisors.

A motion to have the ordinance returned to the Planning Commission was supported Monday by a 3-1 vote by the board. Supervisor Paul Rittenhouse voted against the motion.

Representatives of the Tussey Mountain resort approached the board last year about developing recreational facilities on resort property, according to previous meetings. They showed interest in building a hotel on the grounds.

The Planning Commission was ordered to draft an ordinance that would allow hotels in rural districts. The ordinance has been discussed at several meetings since then.

The motion made Monday would have the Planning Commission focus on an analysis of the traffic impact on the area; consider a 100-foot setback for any hotel structure; and consider a reasonable room cap/acreage limit on a hotel.

Planning Commission Chairman John Wainright said Monday that his panel has not met since the last board meeting, so the commission holds no official position on the ordinance other than what has already been submitted.

The board agreed that no one is looking to break ground immediately, so there is no rush in getting the ordinance passed.

“If it comes back to the Planning Commission,” Wainright said, “there’s no urgency on this ordinance. We don’t see a timing issue.”

A major concern of both the board and the residents in attendance was the increase in traffic along U.S. Route 322 should a hotel become a reality. Local resident John Tait put together his own presentation of the potential traffic impact based on the number of rooms a possible hotel could have.

Township Manager Amy Farkas said no traffic study would be done until plans were submitted. The Planning Commission could have its traffic engineer look at the traffic along Routes 322 and 45 and evaluate the possible traffic patterns.

“The concern is a valid one about putting additional traffic on those roads and what the impact would be,” she said.

Monday’s meeting was the first gathering of the Board of Supervisors without Christopher Lee. Lee, elected supervisor in 2013, was arrested earlier this month on charges of child exploitation, indecent assault and transporting a minor “with the intent that such individual engage in sexual activity,” child pornography and transmission of child pornography.

Despite Lee’s absence, Farkas said the board “will continue to operate as it always has.”

Vice Chairman Nigel Wilson and Supervisor Dennis Hameister were appointed to Lee’s positions on the Public Safety Committee and Parks Capital Committee, respectively.