State College

Ordinance paves the way for resort hotel in Harris Township

Following the passage of a contested ordinance, the Mountain View Country Club can move forward with plans to develop a resort facility to accompany its fairways and greens.

The township Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance without much discussion Monday, having debated the proposal for almost two years.

Township Manager Amy Farkas said the ordinance would allow for recreational resort hotels on lots of 50 acres or larger in rural township zoning districts within the sewer service area.

A public hearing was held on the ordinance in September. At the time, residents cited concerns of increased traffic and narrow setbacks and said a hotel would not maintain the rural character of the township.

According to the ordinance, there are several regulations that determine the location and size of a potential visitor-oriented facility. The facility can only occupy 10 percent of a parcel, with the remaining 90 percent dedicated to open outdoor activity. No more than half of that 10 percent can be covered by structures, including parking areas and driveways.

The facility will have a 50-foot front yard setback, the ordinance said, a distance that residents wanted to see increased. According to the board, there must be a 250-foot setback from adjacent property.

The ordinance was sent back to the township Planning Commission after the public hearing, the board said. No changes were recommended, clearing the way for the board to vote on approval Monday without further hearings.

Ramada General Manager Joe Thomas, who is heading the planning of the resort hotel, said he started working on the ordinance two years ago to open the ability to create a limited service product — a 100-room hotel at the golf course.

Now that the ordinance has been passed, he said, he can proceed on a feasibility study to be conducted by Revpar International over the next six to eight weeks.

“That’s how we’re going to proceed,” he said, “slowly and cautiously. But it’s given us the ability to at least start examining the possibility.”

Traffic, Thomas said, would not be an issue at all. With guests checking in in the morning or late afternoon, traffic during rush hour would not change. About 50 percent of guests arriving via U.S. Route 322 and state Route 45 would be making a right turn to get to the resort, which would minimally affect traffic as well.

He said the front-yard setback remained at 50 feet because changing it would have restricted the entire township.

He called the ordinance passage a “small victory,” but he still has to wait for the feasibility study to be completed. If it’s determined the area couldn’t support a hotel, the club could continue to run as a golf course and catering business.

“We’re really encouraged by the news,” he said.