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Thursday, November 20, 2014

30-Unit Apartment Building Approved Behind Roosevelts 21st

ZO Suzanne Borzak and Solicitor Erich Schock 
Michael Perrucci is a co-founder of a prestigious law firm that includes former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio. But he's really made his mark as a developer. He owns Peron Construction, and recently received approval for Bethlehem's first CRIZ project, the conversion of a vacant bank building into a distillery. His soft-spoken approach and willingness to walk away from a project when legitimate concerns exists, sets him apart and disarms opposition. That style was very evident last night, when Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board unanimously granted dimensional variances for a 30-unit apartment building at 1325 Chelsea Avenue. Perrucci was not there. It was his son, Christian, and principal Rob Tebeer, who persuaded zoners and even some of about 20 opponents with serenity instead of swagger.

At the moment, 1325 Chelsea Avenue is a chained off parking lot, inaccessible to everyone, located behind Roosevelt's 21st along East Elizabeth Avenue. A Perrucci spin-off, PD Property Holdings, has an Agreement to purchase that property along with contiguous 57 East Greenwich Street, giving it a total of 75,000 sq ft. It could build 62 units by right at a building on both properties. Instead, it was proposing 30 units (18 - 2BR and 12- 1BR) at the Chelsea site in a building that will be 3 1/2 to 4 stories tall. It would agree not to develop the East Greenwich Street property. The apartment building would be 193' long instead of the 180' length permitted. Also, unit sizes would be much smaller, just 758 sq ft instead of the 1,200 sq ft required in a commercial zoning district.

Christian Perrucci, who like his father is a lawyer, presented the case. He relied solely on the testimony of PD Property principal Rob de Beer. For his part, de Beer explained that there would be on-site parking for 30 vehicles and room for another 23 on another lot being purchased. He described the project as upscale rental housing that would be aimed at Moravian College staff and recent grads. He assured neighbor Lynne Brolley that a church using that lot would still be able to do so.

James Lawrence asked whether a geological survey would be done, adding that there are rumors that the property was once a dump. De Beer responded that this would be part of their due diligence,and if they found something negative, they would have to decide whether to remediate or walk away.

Alex Chabot expressed concern over noise pollution, noting that intoxicated Roosevelt patrons already congregate at the end of his driveway. De Beer responded that the apartment building would actually buffer the noise.

Katie DeVine questioned the lighting at the rear of the property, which is near where she lives. "We would have to be soft," answered de Beer, adding that the rear would receive more attention than other buildings because it faces residential properties.

Jeff Marsh, who with his son owns Chelsea Court across the street, suggested that it might be time to consider metered parking in that area so that residents do not park in front of the businesses who are his tenants.De Beer stated he was amenable to that proposal. He also told Marsh that it's likely pets will be banned because there are so few green spots in that area. "There's going to be a lot of people running around with sandwich bags," joked Marsh.

Marsh also questioned whether children would be permitted. De Beer stated that, while there is no desire to discriminate, 'those units are not conducive to families with children."

Planning Director Darlene Heller was there on behalf of the City. "We support the project," she said,noting "it would be a very attractive neighborhood for people who want to live in the City." She indicated that concerns about lighting and traffic would be vetted during the planning process.

"We want to make it another great development for the City of Bethlehem," concluded Perrucci.

After the variances were granted, Chairman Gus Loupos thanked the audience, who was concerned but very civil. " I hope you are able to work with the neighbors," he advised Perrucci and de Beer.


Anonymous said...

It appears all they needed were some minor dimensional variances. Not sure they needed friends in high places, especially when they were trading off building a more dense project for those variances. This is the kind of stuff that is routinely granted by zoning boards.

Anonymous said...

More apartments to go bad and more cars in limited spaces. Yeah, nothing can go wrong there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I deleted the troll comments.