Developer Scraps ‘Marywood South’ Plans Over Zoning Dispute

SCRANTON, Pa. -- A California developer has pulled out of a controversial project in Lackawanna County. The former Scranton School for the Deaf was set to become a restaurant and apartments but is now back on the market.

Developer Lance Robbins had big plans for the former deaf school property that's in both Dunmore and Scranton.

Robbins told us he had to walk away because of a zoning restriction from the city of Scranton.

The former Scranton School for the Deaf, now owned by Marywood University, is a sweeping property with nine buildings. Eight of them are in the borough of Dunmore. Only one, along North Washington Avenue, is in Scranton.

A developer from California says Scranton's zoning restrictions on this one building are making him walk away from a project to develop the entire property.

We met Lance Robbins last year. He detailed his plans for what he would call "Marywood South." Plans included apartments, artist studios, and a bar and restaurant inside the Scranton building. He called that piece the linchpin for the entire project.

But many neighbors here in Scranton's Green Ridge section weren't fans of that plan.

"We never had a bar in this neighborhood; we're in an R-1A zone. We pay high taxes, and it just wasn't conducive to this area to have a bar open," said Gary Scott.

"I don't think the stipulations were outlandish. I think it was protecting him and the neighborhood, you know, and keeping the integrity of the project. Maybe he just looked at it as restriction and didn't want to move forward on it," said Mark Seitzinger, Green Ridge Neighborhood Association.

Robbins told Newswatch 16 he was willing to comply with all of Scranton's zoning restrictions except one -- a restriction that Robbins said would make it tough for him to subdivide and possibly sell off portions of the property.

"I think this fellow tried to do everything he could, the developer, to make this thing work. And I agree with him, I think it was a tough pill for him to swallow and I think it's too bad," said Scranton resident Joe McCarthy.

Neighbors who supported the Marywood South project now worry that the property will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

"Now it's going to sit there for who knows how long, and by that time it probably won't be worth anything but tearing everything down. That's the way I look at it," McCarthy added.

Robbins told us that he was woken up on the west coast by a call from officials with the borough of Dunmore saying they still want Marywood South.

Robbins says he's considering Dunmore's offer and might look into developing just the buildings in that borough.

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