An application to build a 123-room extended stay hotel behind Colonial Bowling and Entertainment on Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Township, bordering Colonial Lake, was reviewed by the Planning Board’s screening committee on April 19.
The screening committee, which is a subcommittee of the Planning Board, reviews plans in advance of a public hearing on an application. A public hearing on an application filed by Sheft Associates Inc. to construct a hotel and coffee shop is scheduled to be heard by the full board on June 18 at the municipal building.
Opponents of the plan, many of whom live in the Colonial Lakelands neighborhood across Colonial Lake from the proposed hotel, filled the lower level meeting room as the applicant’s representatives outlined the plan for the screening committee.
Attorney Eric Goldberg, representing Sheft Associates, which owns the 8.8-acre parcel that also contains the entertainment center, said the hotel would be built by Choice Hotels. He said a separate 1,200-square-foot coffee shop would be built nearby.
Elizabeth Skibha, the manager of opening services for Choice Hotels, said the hotel would be geared toward clients such as traveling nurses, as well as engineers and construction workers who are in the area working on long-term projects.
Each room would contain a kitchenette with a microwave oven, a small cooktop and a refrigerator, Skibha said, adding that guests like to have the option to cook in their room instead of going to a restaurant.
Architect Andrew Moss said the building would have laundry facilities on the first floor, and a fitness center. Instead of the hotel chain’s typical four-story building, this location would be three stories.
The plan shows about 150 large trees to be removed at the site, with new trees to be planted, Moss said. The hotel would be screened from view and residents who live in the Colonial Lakelands neighborhood across the lake would not be able to see it, he said.
The township’s zoning ordinance requires 226 parking spaces. Traffic engineer Nick Aiello said there would be 268 parking spaces provided, including three oversized spaces that would accommodate large vehicles such as buses.
Once the screening committee and the Planning Board’s professional staff completed their reviews of the application with the applicant, the meeting was opened to the public for comments and questions.
Michelle Hlewicki, who lives on President Avenue in Colonial Lakelands, questioned the viability of the hotel and coffee shop. She said there are many vacant storefronts on Brunswick Pike between Whitehead Road and the Brunswick Circle.
Lakedale Drive resident Andrew Allshouse also said he was concerned about the viability of the proposed extended stay hotel. He said there are several extended stay hotels on Route 1 in West Windsor and Plainsboro and he said they do not appear to be fully occupied based on the number of cars in their parking lots.
Jim Hooker of Bunker Hill Avenue said municipal officials should buy the land from Sheft Associates and preserve the parcel. He said there is money in the township’s open space fund. It might be possible to raise more money privately and to leverage money for open space purchases from Mercer County and the state, he added.
“Colonial Lake Park is important to people’s well-being. We are not expecting you to give it to us. Give us a chance to buy it. We will make a reasonable offer. You can put your plan away. The hotel is not welcome,” Hooker told the applicant’s representatives.
Several residents pointed to bald eagles and other wildlife that have made their home on property around Colonial Lake. Development will likely scare away the wildlife, the residents said.
“We can’t get the wildlife back. We will never get it back if this (wooded area) goes away. I am proud to live in south Lawrence. Can we just slow it down?” said Steve Howe of Villanova Drive.
Audrey Maest, who said she lives in northern Lawrence Township, said building the hotel is an “awful” idea.
No one mentioned a Hilton hotel that will be built off Princeton Pike, near Bristol-Myers Squibb’s new office building.
“Where are the people who will stay (in the proposed hotel)? I think it is a terrible idea. It will end up vacant. I think we should buy it as open space,” Maest said.