"I really don't like when government officials tell business people who are investing their money, their maintenance - they're actually putting their skin in the game - and then have an official tell them, 'That's not the best use of your building.' I think a businessman who is coming up with $1.5 million for a building, he probably is in a good position to day, 'Yeah, this is what we should build for.'"Ordinances that ban apartments on the first floor of business districts are rather common in urban environments.
As explained by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission,
"Mixed use buildings are most appropriate in town and village centers, whether existing or part of a planned mixed use development. ... [T]hey represent a means of increasing the intensity of the use.Bethlehem is one such community. DCED Deputy Director Amy Burkett rather smugly dismissed Phillips's concerns, and went on to say that Bethlehem's next tricks will be "landlord training" because government knows best. She even told this rugged individualist that she wants everyone on the same page. Phillips rather politely let her go
"Live-work buildings are a specialized kind of mixed use buildings. The concept is that the first floor would contain the store, office or business. The floors above would provide the living quarters for the proprietors and their families. The arrangement provides convenient access between work and home. Typically, live-work buildings are listed as a separate permitted use within the list of allowed uses."
DCED Director Alicia Karner was a little better, telling Phillips it is "more profitable" to concentrate businesses and on the first floor.
|Nazareth's lance Colondo and John Samus|
Ray Orwig, who owns a lot of the properties in the business district, is justifiably concerned, He told Council that many of those buildings are long and narrow buildings. While it might make sense to ban apartments on the front of the property, how about the rear? .Solicitor Al Pierce, who was doing his best to avoid discussing the matter, ultimately stated that Orwig could seek relief from a zoning hearing board.
This totally defeats the whole point. The ordinance, if Nazareth Borough Council wants it, should be crafted in such a way as to minimize zoning appeals, instead of encouraging requests for variances. The oirdionance should be amended before adoption.
In addition to a disdain for business owners, Nazareth Borough Council and Council member John Samus, in particular, have an animus against citizens who own no real estate. This is an anti-tenant ordinance, At a recent meeting, Samus went so far as to instruct all members of the audience who own real estate to raise their hands. When I failed to do so, he specifically asked me to confess that I own no real estate. His attitude betrays a classism in which only the landed gentry matter.
Despite the snobbery of Nazareth Borough Council, this is probably a good idea. But the proposed ordinance should be amended to address Orwig's concerns and also, to allow a residential use in a business district first floor so long as the resident is using an adjacent building for commercial purposes.
At one time, not all that long ago, Nazareth Floral was located on Main Street, and the owners of that business lived in the adjacent home. There is also an optometrist who lives in one building and conducts her business next door.
Permitting this kind of use would still serve the goal of live-work buildings.