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Decision on Robert Morris hotel-to-dorm plan delayed

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

After debating the safety, traffic and tax roll questions linked to a plan to convert a Holiday Inn to a Robert Morris University dormitory, Moon supervisors opted on Monday to continue a hearing to July 22.

Supervisors Chairman Marv Eicher said safety is the No. 1 concern with the university's request to rezone the hotel on University Boulevard and 12 nearby properties for dormitory and other educational uses. Supervisors conducted a hearing for nearly three hours, then spent several hours more in executive session discussing the plan.

The university, which owns the hotel and uses part of it for student housing, is asking for the rezoning and a conditional-use permit to turn the building into a dorm, YorkTown Hall, in a commercial area.

Moon police Chief Leo McCarthy said traffic signals added in recent years have reduced the numbers of pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents on University Boulevard. If students observe pedestrian traffic laws, they can negotiate the road safely, he said. The hotel is about a mile from campus.

B. Lafe Metz, an attorney for Robert Morris, said sidewalks couldn't immediately be built in certain steep areas along the boulevard because earth would have to be added.. Township engineer Malcolm Petroccia agreed.

Township solicitor Tim Bish said vehicle access to Rosemont Drive near the hotel could be eliminated.

Eicher said he is concerned about students making left turns out of the Holiday Inn onto University Boulevard, adding that traffic on the four-lane road will worsen when a planned Wal-Mart opens.

The university's traffic engineer, Darren S. Myer, said traffic lights could be timed differently.

University officials said 45 percent of the 323 students living in the hotel last school year applied for parking permits, and about a quarter of those students drove cars to class.

Officials also discussed the loss of tax revenue when the hotel attains nonprofit status as part of the university.

University officials said the front of the property could be developed for commercial uses.

Robert Morris President Gregory Dell'Omo said the university intends to make a $230,000 contribution to the township. Of that, about $100,000 would be used to apply to PennDOT for a permit and to build sidewalks linking the campus to Beaver Grade Road.

The Moon Area School Board signed an agreement in May for the district to accept contributions from the university for 10 years. The annual contributions are $150,000 for the first three years, $100,000 for the next four and $50,000 in each of the last three years.

Dell'Omo said about 500 students have requested space in the hotel.

The hearing will resume at 7 p.m. July 22 in the township building, 1000 Beaver Grade Road.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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