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Agreement Will Allow Parking To Continue At Former Sterling Lot

October 20, 2018 GMT

WILKES-BARRE — The battle over parking at the former Hotel Sterling site appears to have been resolved with a tentative agreement to allow parking to continue through the middle of next year. H&N Investments LLC bought the two-acre downtown lot from the city for $600,000 earlier this year and has been leasing more than 200 parking spaces for up to 18 months. But the city parking authority has challenged the operation, alleging it violates the city zoning ordinance and is unfairly siphoning revenue from other parking facilities that do abide by zoning requirements. The authority had been seeking an injunction to stop H&N from continuing to operate a permit-parking lot, but the matter was put on hold Wednesday with word of a tentative agreement. “They have some leases and the leases expire at the end of June next year, so we said we would honor that,” authority Executive Director Tom Torbik said after the hearing. Authority attorney John T. Zelinka of the Wilkes-Barre law firm Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald said other terms of the agreement call for the authority to cease its objections at the zoning hearing board as well as H&N likely withdrawing its application. However, the deal had not yet been signed as of the hearing Friday morning. Luzerne County Judge Tina Polachek Gartley continued the hearing until 11 a.m. Nov. 20 to allow the parties to finalize the agreement. After the city razed the dilapidated hotel at North River and West Market streets and acquired the lot in 2014, former mayor Tom Leighton’s administration began leasing parking spaces there to downtown workers and residents. The city eventually used that parking revenue to recoup the cost of the hotel demolition. After H&N bought the property in June, Mayor Tony George’s administration supported allowing parking operations to continue until construction on a $35 million development begins in 2020. But the authority objected, with Torbik arguing the authority was losing about $13,000 a month from potential parking customers. Earlier this week, the zoning hearing regarding H&N’s quest for variances to allow parking to continue at the site was continued until next month. Contact the writer: jhalpin@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2058