Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three Wise Clerics Follow Christmas Star to ZHB

Nativity scene at Payrow Plaza
Reverend Wesley Jun. Reverend Alan Disbrow. Reverend Lilia Santiago. Like the three wise men following the Christmas Star two thousand years ago, these three clerics followed the South Mountain Star into the little town of Bethlehem on November 28. But instead of meeting Baby Jesus, they ran into Gus Loupos and the rest of the Zoning Hearing Board. Despite having no frankincense or myrrh, which would be bribery these days, two out of three clerics were successful.

Both successful clerics, Reverends Disbrow and Santiago, operate the Calvary Chapel and Iglesia Casa de Adulam inside a warehouse at 2224 Industrial Drive. Though located inside the industrial district, Cavalry Church sought and received a use variance several years before. But because the physical size of the chapel has been reduced as other businesses have moved in, zoners unanimously granted an interpretation that reduced the parking places that must be available.

They also unanimously granted Rev. Santiago a use variance for her church at the same site. She explained that hers is a church "without walls," meaning that much of her ministry is in the community, prison and juvenile detention facilities. Zoners also waived the strict parking requirements for her church.

But the third cleric, Rev. Wesley Jun, who is associated with the University Bible Fellowship at Lehigh University, was unsuccessful. He owns the former Anna Mia Restaurant, located at 114 W Fourth Street, and sought a variance that would allow him to establish a residence on the first floor, where the restaurant was located.

Zoner Bill Fitzpatrick stands for the three wise clerics.
Rev. Jun told zoners that he and his wife already live on the first floor, and the second and third floors are rented out to five people, including his two adult sons. He explained that living there gives him "easy access to students," and helps him fulfill his ministry. "Personally, I don't like the area to live, but there's a purpose," he explained.

But Rev. Jun failed to explain why he waited from July 2004, when he first moved into that first floor, until now, to seek zoning relief.  He was also very vague about whether the second and third floors are used as a boarding house or an apartment.

Zoners unanimously denied Rev. Jun relief, prompting him to ask zoners, at Christmas time, whether he could continue living there. Solicitor Mickey Thompson told Jun that zoners could give no advice.

In other business, zoners approved a dimensional variance at 754 Wood Street that will enable owner Joseph Garbush to expand a kitchen and deck exactly as he's done for the next door property at 752 Wood Street. Garbus's daughters live in both homes. He explained he wanted both to be mirror images of each other so that both of his daughters would be treated the same.

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