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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bethlehem ZHB Wants Decision on Elias Expansion Now

Back in May, when Judge Edward Smith first heard the zoning challenge to a proposed expansion at Bethlehem's popular Elias' Market, he urged owners and neighbors to resolve their differences. Planning Chair Lawrence Krauter echoed that concern in August. Since that time, the Elias family has conducted an open house, at their Linden Street business. "We'll have as many meetings as we need," said Najwa Azar. Not to be outdone, homeowners are planning their own open house. But instead of open houses, Bethlehem zoners want a decision, and they want it now.

In an unusual move for a quasi-judicial body, ZHB Solicitor Mickey Thompson has fired off a letter to Judge Smith, pressuring him for a ruling. "The Board requested that I contact you so that this case may be resolved. Can you please let me know when we can expect a decision to be filed?"

Under Pennsylvania law, zoning hearing boards are subject to the open meeting provisions of the Sunshine Act, except for their actual deliberations during appeals. Interestingly, there is no record that Thompson was directed to contact the Court. When asked to explain this apparent discrepancy, Attorney Thompson declined comment, directing all inquiries to Zoning Chair Constantine "Gus" Loupos. Attempts to reach Mr. Loupos have been unsuccessful.

In Thompson's missive to Judge Smith, he complains about "several negative" news accounts. He grumbles that the Planning Commission "chastised the Zoning Hearing Board in public for this decision." He even laments that a proposed ZHB expansion, from three to five members, is a "manipulation" stemming from dissatisfaction over the Elias decision.

During a lengthy Planning Commission meeting on August 18, Elias Market did agree to give Bethlehem Planners additional time to review the proposed business expansion. But at no time did any planners offer any derogatory remarks about the ZHB. Neither Attorney Thompson nor any zoner attended that meeting.

Bethelehem City Council is considering a proposal to expand the ZHB from three to five members. But it has nothing to do with the Elias zoning appeal. Council President Robert Donchez first floated the idea in January 2008, long before the Elias matter. In fact, Donchez advocated increasing the size of the ZHB when he himself was a member of that body.

Attorney David Backenstoe, who represents Bethlehem homeowners in this zoning appeal, declined all comment.
Below is Mickey's Epistle to Judge Edward:
Thompson to Judge Smith Letter 2010-09-17
Photo Credit: Public portion of Mickey Thompson's Facebook page. Ladies, he's not just a lawyer, but a model, too!


Anonymous said...

Two weeks ago after reading this issue on your blog stopped by the store to check things out. Not very nice inside. Dark and dingy. Saw the back garage and how close the building is to the houses. Shame this has come to such a boiling point. Doubt the neighbors will come out the winners.

Anonymous said...

I've only been in his company twice in my life and you might think he looks like a model but he acts like a "Horses "A_s". So belligerent and bold, and throwing his weight around like he own the town and the ZHB. In my opinion, he gives them very bad advice. Bethlehem would be doing themselves justice if they got rid of him. He makes the ZHB look bad most of the time and makes up his own rules and laws. Oh, btw, he "LIES" like a trooper!!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe Mickey acts more like the Chair than a solicitor. I believe he tends to treat people w/o lawyers more harshly than thise who are represented. I do think he looks for ways to exclude, as opposed to include, the public. I believe his letter to Judge Smith was out of line. Having said that, I respect his intelligence and do consider him a person of integrity. It is easy to attack someone's honor anonymously.