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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Bethlehem's Proposed Zoning Ordinance Reviewed at West Side Moravian Church

West Side Moravian Church was the venue for a Bethlehem Planning Commission review of a proposed new zoning ordinance on May 4. Despite the presence of engineers, lawyers and politicians in this hallowed atmosphere, there were no thunderbolts. Everyone survived. From her pulpit, Planning Director Darlene Heller provided 26 people with a detailed review of the City's latest revisions to a proposed new zoning ordinance draft, its first in forty years. This latest draft is now on the City's website, and public comments are still being accepted. Once an ordinance is recommended by City Planners, it will go to City Council.

Lauded as a "user friendly" ordinance, Heller stated that it provides for more appropriate, yet flexible, urban development. It maintains existing, healthy neighborhoods. Finally, it makes provisions for environmentally sensitive lands.

Here's some of the major changes:

* It will be easier to reuse the old corner store, vacant in many neighborhoods of many cities, with more flexible parking requirements.

* A "work force housing initiative," designed to encourage more affordable housing,s will permit an increased density for developments with more than 20 units in certain areas.

* Solar panels will be permitted by right.

* Buildings making use of green technology can be slightly larger.

* "Shared parking," in which a church or neighbor could agree to allow parking, will be permitted.

* "Cluster development" will be allowed in rural residential areas in exchange for pockets of open space.

* In the City's "downtown" areas, a building height of 150' is permitted, but if it's within 60' of a residential area, that height is reduced to 75. Along Broad Street, a building height of 60' is permitted, but if it's within 50' of someone's home, the height is restricted to 45'.

Heller continues to recommend rezoning a portion of Easton Avenue, between West Boulevard and Rodgers Street, to "limited commercial." When Bethlehem's Planning Bureau first tried that in 2005, thirteen nearby residents complained about "the Stefko-ization" (a reference to the commercial development along Stefko Boulevard) of Easton Avenue. Every member of City Council echoed those reservations, and the rezoning idea died. Bethlehem resident Dana Grubb reminded Heller of that concern, but Heller responded that the type of development allowed along Easton Avenue would be more limited.

Grubb also complained about billboards, which will be permitted along Routes 22, 378, I-78 and 412. He referred to what he called the LED "monstrosity" on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. "I know a number of people whose living rooms and bedrooms ... have been impacted by the intensity of the light," he noted, and warned that there are many apartments and residential areas near Route 378. One unidentified resident agreed, stating that the LED billboard makes his living room look "like a lightning storm." Heller stated there will be a separation distance from residential zones.

Bethlehem zoning activist and City Council candidate Al Bernotas warned that, because of the deletion of certain definitions, large trucks could be parked in residential areas. He suggested that the ordinance still needs work.

Planners agreed, and Chairman Jim Fiorentino asked Heller to review Bernotas' concerns. Planners will continue their review at their May 12 meeting.

(Blogger's Note: In the photo, Planning Director Darlene Heller reviews the proposed zoning ordinance.)


Olive Peeke said...

One should note that Grubb complains about anything and everything this administration does.

Also you did not point out that Benotas is running for council. His one and only claim is that he is against the Ellias market and thus wants to change all zoning to his particular opinion

Bernie O'Hare said...

I will add a notation that Bernotas is a Council candidate. Incidentally, he's the only Council candidate who was there, from either party.

Olive Peeke said...

Guess that tells you what the other candidates think. This is a very big issue and they didn't bother to attend and learn. Guess they're just in it for the free muzikfest tickets

Anonymous said...

This sounds like the "Allentownization" of Bethlehem. Allowing more density will benefit some political contributor developers but ruin the neighborhoods of Bethlehem.
People who own homes are already pissed at the lax attitude taken to zoning in the city, These are bad ideas.

Anonymous said...

"One should note that Grubb complains about anything and everything this administration does"

golly, i wonder why?

Megan said...

disgruntled ex-employee?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Excuse me, but the whole purpose of yesterday's meeting was to solicit precisely the kind of comment made by Grubb. Those were constructive criticisms.

The point about the LED billboards was shared by a resident who is impacted by the 378 "monstrosity."

Al Bernotas said...

The City is going to let each resident park a Road Tractor in their driveway. See additional comments here: http://bethlehem.patch.com/blog_posts/the-city-thinks-your-tractors-sexy

Anonymous said...

This zoning ordinance is bad for business. It's proposing to change existing industrial zoning with existing businesses to residential or commercial zones. I have no idea why the City's Planning department wants to chase out jobs and industry. Isn't that the foundation of the tax base? It means any time one of these businesses wants to expand, they are going to have to go through piles of hoops to get it passed because it'll be a non-conforming use.

I'm shocked LVEDC and the Chamber haven't weighed in. I'm shocked Council, and this mayor, in its quest to squeeze every drop out of the tax base, is ok with it.

Anonymous said...

Wee willie Reynolds and Johnny casino are a lesson in not electing high school sports stars to city government.

But it is Bedlam!!!

Clinton Wood said...

no one is responding to your blogs, Al. That should tell you how many votes you'll get