Selkirk's exit 22 eyed for travel center

Area would have to be rezoned; developer to plan community meeting

— A developer is looking to make the Thruway's exit 22 more attractive to travelers, but there could be a long road ahead before anything's built.

John Holahan and Phil Saunders, who have formed an LLC called Selkirk Development, hope to build a small hotel, travel center with gas pumps and a fast food-type restaurant just off the Thruway on River Road. They brought preliminary plans to Bethlehem's Development Planning Committee on Thursday, Aug. 18.

The project would sit just south of the exit 22 tollbooths. The two developers said they've been involved in about 40 such travel plaza projects during their careers, and that the Selkirk stop would be a relatively small one. Saunders said the location is prime for leisure travelers, truckers and businesspeople alike because two major roads meet just to the south.

“It's the only place you have the Thruway and 87 coming together,” he said.

The hotel is envisioned to be relatively small, with 50 to 60 rooms. Holahan said he expects 600 trucks and 2,000 cars would make their way through the plaza daily should it be built. He described the travel plaza industry as fairly insulated from economic distress.

“We think there could be an employment payroll of about — I figure, a $2.5 to $3 million payroll,” he said.

The hurdle the project must clear is zoning related. The land is now zoned for “mixed economic development,” which restricts secondary uses like restaurants, stores or hotels to just 30 percent of the project's floorspace. The rest must consist of elements like offices, warehouses, technology businesses and the like.

That presents a definite problem, since the project has no primary users. The parcel is small at 25 acres, and about half of that in constrained by wetlands and can't but built on.

“Most developers sort of laughed at us when we talked about an office building,” Saunders said.

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