Monday, March 04, 2013

No Drive Thru at Broad & New, Say Zoners

Concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety has prompted Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board to deny a drive-through bank branch at the former Bank of America building, located at 1 West Broad Street. This unanimous decision followed a February 27 hearing in which zoners heard from engineers who acknowledged that they had not yet conducted any traffic or pedestrian studies. The drive-through would have replaced an old ice-skating rink facing Broad Street, and would exit onto New Street. Bethlehem's new zoning ordinance permits bank drive-throughs, but they must exit onto alleyways or low-traffic streets.

Assistant Planning Director Tracy Samuelson, whose department wrote Bethlehem's new zoning ordnance, dismissed testimony from realtor Phillip Schenkel that a drive-through would make the building more attractive to a bank. She testified that it had operated as a bank at that location without a drive through for forty years. She added that this proposed use would be contrary to a "pedestrian friendly" atmosphere being encouraged in the commercial business district.

Diversified Capital - Bethlehem, LLC, the building's owner, had previously sought approval from the Planning Commission, and ran into the dame obstacles there, Samuelson told zoners. The owner was represented by Terry Faul, whose firm is a tenant. He had argued that traffic and pedestrian studies would be done as part of the PennDot approval process, and that no other location was feasible for a drive-through.

Att'y Terry Faul seeks drive-through at 1 W Broad
In other business, zoners approved the demolition of a vacant building at 1832 W. North Street so that the Rosemont Fire Company could construct a parking lot for its private social club. Its president, George Warren, told zoners that a parking lot would take traffic off the street completely, and put everything on site.

The club already has one parking lot, but Warren told zoners that members must still park on the streets.

At the request of neighbor Donna Scrafano, Warren agreed to install a guard rail along the edges of the parking lot. "If you don't have happy neighbors, you're in trouble," he explained, in response to questioning by his attorney, Jim Preston.

Zoners also decided that 38 West Union Boulevard is a multi-unit dwelling, and not a single family residence, as insisted by Zoning Officer Suzanne Borzak. Owner Jerry Faschnat, represented by Steven N. Goudsouzian, produced multiple photographs and previous city documents demonstrating that the building was a multi-unit dwelling. Zoner Bill Fitzpatrick was concerned that the City had failed to respond to several letters from the Easton attorney about their recent conclusion that this was a single-unit delling. Goudsouzian argued that the City determination was "fundamentally unfair."

Finally, Mary Vresk was granted a dimensional variance to build a small porch for her property at 817 Shield Street. She pointed out that the house itself was inside the setback, and a porch was a matter of safety. She and her contractor built the porch, without being aware that a variance was needed. She was unpleasantly surprised by a City letter telling her to take it down. She and zoner Bill Fitzpatrick joked that she's entitled to a senior citizen discount for her zoning appeal.

No comments: