In an unusual move for a quasi-judicial body, ZHB Solicitor Mickey Thompson has fired off a letter to Judge Smith, pressuring him for a ruling. "The Board requested that I contact you so that this case may be resolved. Can you please let me know when we can expect a decision to be filed?"
Under Pennsylvania law, zoning hearing boards are subject to the open meeting provisions of the Sunshine Act, except for their actual deliberations during appeals. Interestingly, there is no record that Thompson was directed to contact the Court. When asked to explain this apparent discrepancy, Attorney Thompson declined comment, directing all inquiries to Zoning Chair Constantine "Gus" Loupos. Attempts to reach Mr. Loupos have been unsuccessful.
In Thompson's missive to Judge Smith, he complains about "several negative" news accounts. He grumbles that the Planning Commission "chastised the Zoning Hearing Board in public for this decision." He even laments that a proposed ZHB expansion, from three to five members, is a "manipulation" stemming from dissatisfaction over the Elias decision.
During a lengthy Planning Commission meeting on August 18, Elias Market did agree to give Bethlehem Planners additional time to review the proposed business expansion. But at no time did any planners offer any derogatory remarks about the ZHB. Neither Attorney Thompson nor any zoner attended that meeting.
Bethelehem City Council is considering a proposal to expand the ZHB from three to five members. But it has nothing to do with the Elias zoning appeal. Council President Robert Donchez first floated the idea in January 2008, long before the Elias matter. In fact, Donchez advocated increasing the size of the ZHB when he himself was a member of that body.
Attorney David Backenstoe, who represents Bethlehem homeowners in this zoning appeal, declined all comment.
Thompson to Judge Smith Letter 2010-09-17
Photo Credit: Public portion of Mickey Thompson's Facebook page. Ladies, he's not just a lawyer, but a model, too!