Editor's Note: The King George Inn remains on the agenda for Thursday night's Zoning Hearing Board meeting, though it is likely—based on what solicitor Joseph Zator said on Wednesday night—that developer Atul Patel will request a continuance on his parking variance request.
A developer has agreed to rethink plans to demolish the historic King George Inn and replace it with a bank, South Whitehall Township officials said Wednesday night.
“The demolition of the King George Inn is not imminent,” said Township Solicitor Joseph A. Zator II. “I can’t say for certain that it wouldn’t happen some time in the future. No [demolition] permit has been issued.”
Zator made the announcement to applause during the township commissioners meeting Wednesday night. Anticipating comments from citizens aiming to preserve the King George, commissioners President Christina Tori Morgan invited Zator to say a few words before the courtesy of the floor portion of the meeting got rolling.
Zator said he and Township Manager Jon Hammer met with developer Atul Patel of Hamilton Hotel LLC, his attorney William Malkames, King George owner Clifford McDermott and his attorney.
The result of that meeting, which commissioners had requested, was a call from Malkames requesting that the hearing be postponed, Zator said. Patel was receptive to the idea of incorporating a preserved King George into his development plans, Zator said.
Several residents still took to the podium to speak out on behalf of preserving the King George.
Nancy Lloyd, who has organized much of the opposition to the proposed demolition over the last several months, urged commissioners to consider adopting a historic district ordinance and a historic overlay district for the neighborhood around the 257-year-old stone building on Hamilton Boulevard.
She said she would welcome a reuse of the building as an extended-stay hotel, which was Patel’s initial intention when he first started pitching redevelopment plans to township officials.
That was the inn’s original purpose when it was built along what was then the King’s Highway in 1756. Patel initially intended to put up extended-stay suites and market it to families of Lehigh Valley Hospital patients, Lloyd said.
The plan changed after Zoning Hearing Board solicitor Maria Mullane told Malkames and Patel that hotels and extended-stay motels are not permitted in a highway-commercial zone.
Since then, proposed development plans have gone through several iterations—the most recent being a bank, a restaurant and a drug store on the King George lot and adjacent lots that have been the site of a shuttered Carvel and a shuttered Burger King.
Lloyd said she would favor a variance to allow an extended-stay hotel if it comes with a historic overlay district.
Former township commissioner Larry Bernhard appeared to sum up the sentiment in the room when he said: “To take a revered building like this and demolish it would be a travesty.”