|Historic Farmhouse Saved|
Bethlehem planners unanimously rejected Applebutter Village, a proposed manufactured home park, at their August 18 meeting. Developer Chris Zajacek sought approval for a 58-unit complex. Because a PPL power line traverses the 11.8-acre tract, 58 pre-manufactured units would be have to be crammed into the western portion of the site, located along the 1100 block of Easton Road. A 5-window wide stone farmhouse at the front of the tract, built in the 1830s, would be demolished or moved.
Bethlehem's Planning Department had recommended rejecting the plan in June, but Bethlehem Attorney Jim Preston persuaded Commissioners to grant an extension because he had just been retained that day. He was to submit new plans, a point-by-point response to the Planning Department's many concerns, from fire safety to traffic. Planner Steve Thode had recommended that Preston meet with neighbors and "get everyone talking."
But that never happened. Attorney Preston confessed, "I would if I could. I'm not going to lie to you. It's not my preferred outcome."
The Planning Department still had concerns over a line-of-sight problem for traffic entering and exiting the development, located along a winding road. In addition, planners were unhappy with Zajacek's failure to address concerns over stormwater infiltration and a new pump station. Preston responded he was only seeking preliminary approval, but was told that the Bethlehem Planning Commission only approves final plans.
"I'm very uncomfortable with the various and sundry leaps of faith we are being asked to take," complained Planner Steve Thode. Echoing those concerns, and referring specifically to stormwater concerns raised by Bethlehem engineers, Planner Andy Twiggar cautioned, "You shouldn't play with guns."
Retired Bethlehem firefighter Eugene Novak, who had been employed by the City for 42 years, spoke on behalf of several neighbors. He worried that this development, which he claimed is located in a flood plain, would be a high crime area. He noted that right now, without the traffic that would be precipitated by 58 new homes, he has already experienced 14 crashes at his home at 1102 Applebutter Road. Most of all, he worried about fire. "If any home catches fire, it will go down in five minutes," he warned.
According to U.S. Fire Administration, fires in manufactured homes claim 345 lives every year, and are 32-50% more likely than in other dwellings.
In other business, Planners unanimously approved an 811-apace parking lot for Sands employees on a 10.8 acre lot, located at Founders Way and East Second Street. "We're going to need every bit of this," commented Sands President Robert DeSalvio, who predicted that a 200,000 sq. ft. retail complex will be ready by November and an event center by Spring.
Planners also unanimously approved a 122' cell tower for Metro PCS, a new wireless provider. Located at 2005 Chester Road, the tower is close to East Hills Middle School and Freedom High School, prompting Chairman Jim Fiorentino to ask, "Is this going to block East Hills and Freedom students from using their cell pones during school hours?".
"I don't think there's any way to do that," joked Metro Attorney Nicholas A. Cucé, Jr.