Mt. Pleasant banquet hall, bar to be converted to short-term suites
It came down to an exact description of intended potential use before the Mt. Pleasant Zoning Hearing Board approved a request from businesswoman Jane Altman to turn a banquet hall into short-term rental suites.
Altman, who owns McCali Manor, the former Elks building on the Diamond in the borough, requested a zoning permit that would allow her to convert the ballroom area and bar area of the facility into suites.
Two suites are in place on the upper floors of the building.
“It is my desire to turn part of the building into visitor suites or rooms,” Altman said. She plans to keep the restaurant area open for dining and move a small bar to the restaurant, closing off the large banquet area and converting that into two suites.
“Our town does not support another banquet facility. It is not utilized, and the property is not able to support itself,” Altman said.
The property is zoned B-1, intended for business use, and preliminary review of Altman's plan suggested that the units would be for long-term residency which would then require the zoning to be changed to R-1.
“The idea that it would become a multi-family dwelling is off the board,” Altman said. “It is not going to be a multi-family dwelling. These rooms will be for travelers. I myself have traveled extensively and I know that you get tired of hotels. You want something that makes you feel like you are at home.”
Altman said the proposed suites would have sleeping areas, private bathrooms, sitting areas and kitchens.
Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor Tim Witt and borough Solicitor Fred Wolfe asked Altman to clarify the intended use and terms of those who would be staying at the facility. They said there was confusion over the wording on the original plans which had been labeled as apartments.
“What is the length of the rental period?” Witt asked. “Is it day to day, week to week, month to month?”
Altman said it would depend on each customer's needs. She said she would be catering to executives that will be in the area for periods of time and other professionals and travelers who do not want to stay for extended periods of time in a commercial facility.
“These people will not be moving in to stay. They will not be living there,” Altman said. “These are quality people with quality jobs who are looking for a quality place to stay. Call it a suite, call it an apartment, whatever you call it they will be for temporary housing.”
Although a motel is listed under allowed use of a B-1 zone, Altman said she was told her intended use for the facility would not allow it to be considered a motel.
“I was told that I had to come here for a variance,” she said.
Several issues were discussed, including lack of parking, mail delivery, housekeeping responsibilities, process of registration and regulation of length of stay.
Saloom Department Store owner Charlotte Mowry said she feels a suite facility would be an asset to the borough and to the business district.
“I think that it would bring more people into Mt. Pleasant,” Mowry said. “Customers will then go to the restaurants, to my business and to the other businesses in town.”
After an executive meeting with council, the zoning board granted Altman's petition.
“We needed clarity on her intended usage,” zoning hearing board Chairman Bill Steiner said. “There was a confusion over her intended usage and deviations in the requests that she made. We needed to clarify that it would indeed not be used as a permanent residence.”
Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.