|Historic District Resident Bob Romeril|
Planners first considered changes that would tighten the parking of recreational and commercial vehicles in residential districts to include any vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, as well as box trucks, cargo trucks and container trucks.
Planner Andrew Twiggar called this proposed change "somewhat overbearing." He spoke of a neighbor who keeps a race car at his property, noting that "There's no way he could comply with all the provisions.
Planning Director Darlene Heller agreed that the changes are "somewhat stringent," but added that it is a "quality of life" amendment.
Twiggar was the sole Planning Commissioner to vote against this recommendation.
The other proposed change was prompted by the public hue and outcry that arose when the Zoning Hearing Board recently permitted a community bank consulting business at The Bethlehem Inn, a former bed and breakfast located in Bethlehem's exclusive historic district.
Under Bethlehem's new zoning ordinance, corner lots like The Bethlehem Inn can now be used for limited commercial purposes, even in a residential district, as long as it can be established that it was at one time used for a business. But City Council wants to limit this commercial use to "uses that are small in scale," like a coffee shop or a green grocer. A barber shop or hair salon could have no more than two chairs. No frying at any breakfast nook. Tattoo parlors and pawn shops would be prohibited. The building must have a large, storefront window.
Unanimously, planners declined to recommend this proposed amendment because it is too restrictive.
When Darlene Heller told planners that "it would be helpful if we could have an explanation," Chairman Jim Fiorentino summed it up in one sentence: "We want a coffee shop to be able to fry an egg," he stated.
Planners also questioned the large window requirement, the limitation on chairs, and even the ban on tattoo parlors.
"I see no reason why a tattoo parlor should be excluded," argued Twiggar. "It's generally a pretty quiet use."
"What about the screaming?" wisecracked Fiorentino.
|Bethlehem Planning Comm'n|
But Historic District resident Bob Romeril told Commissioners that the proposed changes are not restrictive enough. He advocated against any commercial use in the Historic District. Romeril noted that Historic District residents must invest a great deal of money in their homes, and are governed by the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB). "I think we're entitled to a little protection in return," he concluded.
Beall Fowler, who also resides in the historic district, favors the City's proposal, with the possible added condition that some residential character in the corner store building be maintained.
Although proposed changes to the zoning ordinance must be reviewed by the Planning Commission, City Council is still free to reject or reject any recommendation.
In other business, planners unanimously agreed, without discussion, to grant a sidewalk deferral to Habitat for Humanity. Developer of 17-acre neighborhood called Minsi Ridge on the slopes of South Mountain, Habitat argued in September that the topography and remoteness of the site made sidewalks unrealistic.
Updated 6:30 PM: In my original report, I confused Beall Fowler with Bob Romeril. I have corrected that error, and apologize for any misunderstanding.