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New Stanton tries to push hotel project forward

| Saturday, July 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

New Stanton is trying to remove itself from a tangle of red tape between a would-be hotel developer and PennDOT.

Council voted on Thursday to try to broker a meeting between PennDOT and Shirish Stahl, a retired surgeon living in DuBois who wants to build a Hampton Inn in the borough.

Stahl has owned a piece of land near Bair Boulevard for about six months.

He said he wants to build a $10 million hotel in New Stanton, where he hopes the high volume of traffic will bring plenty of customers.

There is a small strip of borough-owned land between Stahl's property and Bair Boulevard, where Stahl wants to put the hotel's entrance.

Bair Boulevard used to be a privately owned road.

It recently was purchased by the state as part of its plans to build an interchange in New Stanton during a $50 million Interstate 70 improvement project.

PennDOT officials are preparing for construction in 2015.

The state wants to make sure no other construction projects interfere with the interchange plans, and that has led to an unusual amount of red tape for Stahl.

“I've told him a lot of things he wants to do are very complex,” PennDOT project manager Barry Lyons said on Friday.

If PennDOT is to approve Stahl's hotel, it likely would not happen until next year.

“We're still on a fact-finding mission,” Lyons said.

In the meantime, Stahl wants to begin doing preliminary work on the hotel, such as having an architect develop designs.

Stahl said he will not begin construction until he receives approval from PennDOT, but he wants preliminary approval from the borough so he can start on the basics.

“What I want — and it's very simple — is for them to give me conditional approval ... until I get the permission for right of way from PennDOT,” he said. “It is not a big thing I'm asking.”

The borough has decided to leave the matter between Stahl and PennDOT.

Council members said they do not want to give local approval for a project that has not received approval from the state.

“We're involving ourselves in something we have no business in,” Councilman Dean Clark said.

Council members voted unanimously not to give Stahl an answer, at least until he meets with PennDOT.

They voted to attempt to broker such a meeting.

“We pretty much don't have a dog in the fight here,” council President Scott Sistek said.

“All we are going to do is ask PennDOT to arrange a meeting with him. And if PennDOT does or doesn't, that's their concern,” Sistek said. Stahl did not attend council's meeting on Thursday.

In addition to the potential right-of-way problems the hotel might cause on Bair Boulevard, borough officials expressed concerns about adequate stormwater management being implemented.

Stahl said he hopes council will deal with him directly, allowing him to work at a local level rather than holding up progress until he can get approval from the state.

“The trouble is that PennDOT has a government concern,” he said. “They have a different management system than a small (borough).

“You get lost in the bureaucracy.”

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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