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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Avalon Sends Mixed Signals on Business District Consultant

AVALON B-1 BUSINESS DISTRICT GFX
AVALON B-1 BUSINESS DISTRICT GFX

By Vince Conti

AVALON – The concept of a boutique hotel in the Avalon Business District has been a recurring fixture of the borough’s Planning and Zoning Board’s agendas since 2016.  

It was a concept that received a resounding no from the board in 2016, resurfaced in 2020, again, without sufficient support, and gained traction in 2022 when the board approved a boutique hotel overlay for the B-1 District in the borough’s Master Plan. No zoning ordinance has yet surfaced. 

This issue has been a matter of intense public interest in Avalon, especially from residents who live in the area proposed as a site for one such boutique hotel.  

Given that level of public interest, the borough’s Planning and Zoning Board and its governing body have frequently said they would address the issue in the most transparent way possible. 

Now, what the borough has is confusion and, on the part of some residents, distrust. 

In October 2022, the Planning and Zoning Board opted for seeking a hotel and hospitality consultant to look at the controversial issue. The response from some residents at the meeting was predictable. One said, “You have a hotel consultant, and you get a hotel.” 

When the issue came before the governing body in December 2022, the context was the need for funding a consultant in the 2023 budget. Discussion at the Dec. 14 Borough Council meeting clearly promised a broader look at the business district, with Mayor Martin Pagliughi saying the consultant would more likely be an urban planner than a hospitality professional. 

Fast forward to the April 11 Planning and Zoning Board meeting and the message from the governing body seems to have been lost in translation. Board engineer Joseph Maffei reported that he had developed an RFP (request for proposal) and distributed it to six potential vendors, receiving two widely disparate bids in return.   

The two-page RFP seeks to do exactly what the Planning and Zoning Board had intended before the discussions in the governing body supposedly broadened the scope.  

The RFP seeks “a Planning Study to incorporate Boutique Hotels within portions of the existing Business (B-1) Zoning District.”  

The RFP lists nine topics to be considered, all of which focus on the boutique hotel(s) concept. It says nothing about the broader business district itself being the subject of the study. 

The seeming miscommunication between the Planning and Zoning Board and the governing body should easily have been resolved since Council President Sam Wierman serves on both bodies. Yet, when a question about the inconsistency was raised during public comment at the April 25 council meeting, it went unaddressed. 

The public has been told that a possible award of a consulting contract could come at the May meeting of the Planning and Zoning Board.  

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.  

Spout Off

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