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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Miracle on Carlton Avenue

Back in February, when Hyoung Joon Park first asked Bethlehem Zoners for permission to convert 454 Carlton Avenue from a single family detached dwelling into a 2-family home, he told them it's his "duty" to help people who need housing. He may be the President of the local Korean American Association, but he still had two big problems - no lawyer and an angry Bethlehem Housing Inspector.

Like a deer frozen in the headlights, Park was speechless as Housing Inspector Suzanne Borzak detailed a litany of problems.

On November 4, 2010, a "cease and desist" order was issued when it was discovered that Park was already using the home as a combination church and single family dwelling. An inspection at that time revealed that the place was also home to several families of rats, fleas and cockroaches.

On January 25, another "cease and desist" order was issued when it was discovered that Park was again using Carlton as a multi-family dwelling. In response to a no-heat complaint from a tenant, Borzak visited the property, and learned Park was using all three floors as a multi-family unit. Plug-in space heaters were the only source of heat. Borzak took 10 pictures revealing, among other things, rat feces, exposed wires, inoperable sinks and loose floorboards.

Zoners quickly rejected Park's application.

At their May 25 meeting, Park was back. This time, he brought Bethlehem Attorney Jim Holzinger, and let him do the talking. Instead of appealing the decision, Holzinger directed Park to vacate the building, clear up every possible problem, and make sure that Inspector Borzak was involved in every step of the process. Holzinger also slightly modified the zoning request to prevent the application of res judicata, a legal doctrine that prevents a board from deciding the same matter a second time. Then Holzinger patiently waited with Park through four other cases on the evening's agenda.

After three and a half hours, when Holzinger was finally at the plate, he actually called the very witness who had buried Park in February. Borzak told zoners that she was satisfied that Park now understands the safety requirements, and every problem had been corrected. She added that she will be conducting additional inspections. Holzinger also argued that very large homes like the one owned by Park are impractical for single families and he requested a special exception for a two-family dwelling.

A suspicious Ken Kraft grilled Borzak, pointing out the "unpleasant" pictures she submitted in February, but was eventually satisfied that Park had brought the property up to code. He and Chairman Gus Loupos voted to allow Park to convert the home to a two-family dwelling. Bill Fitzparick, who has previously opposed similar conversions, dissented.


Anonymous said...

Make fun of the housing inspector all you want Bernie, but she is performing a duty that includes the issue of safety, not only the on-site residents safety but those of the community at large as well.

Olive Peele said...

SB is a good person and a good inspector. She does her job right every time. If the gentleman cleaned the place up and is now within codes then so be it. She did her job.

What remains to be seen is if this guy will continue to keep his property in the proper manner. I am sure that SB will give this matter the proper attention.

Anonymous said...

Approval for two families. How many residents will that include? Is it possible 25 people could eventually live in this dwelling?

Anonymous said...

Does the term "family" still constitute blood or by marriage relationships or could this man allow anyone to live there? Bernie, maybe you know.

Anonymous said...

"Plug-in space heaters were the only source of heat"

Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? We'll never know how many lives the housing inspector may have saved by her actions.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Make fun of the housing inspector all you want Bernie,"

Excuse me, but I never made fun of Bethlehem Housing Inspector Suzanne Borzak. Frankly, I think her work did save lives, as somebody pointed out, as well as educating Mr. Park on the importance of these safety regulations.

I agree that she did a terrific job and wish every municipality had people like her.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:12, No more than 8 people will be allowed to reside at that home bc of the size of the kitchen and bathrooms, according to Borzak.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:13, According to a Beth ordinance, no more than 5 unrelated people may live there.

Al Bernotas said...

Res Judicata

When neighbors invoke res judicata principles to block the zoning board from granting relief to a previously unsuccessful applicant, the neighbors almost inevitably lose; by contrast, when a zoning board invokes res judicata principles to avoid hearing a subsequent application, the board almost always prevails.

For all you will ever want to know on Res Judicata, visit: http://works.bepress.com/stewart_sterk/3/ (then click the download button on the right side of the page)

Anonymous said...

“Pennsylvania courts generally apply res judicata narrowly in zoning matters, because the need for flexibility outweighs the risk of repetitive litigation.” Callowhill Ctr. Assocs., LLC v.
Zoning Bd. of Adjustment, 2 A.3d 802, 809 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010).

"[T]he doctrine of res judicata subsumes the doctrine of collateral estoppel, which forecloses re-litigation in a later action of an issue of fact or law that was actually litigated
and was necessary to the original judgment. Collateral estoppel applies if: (1) the issue decided in the prior case is identical to one presented in the later case; (2) there was a final judgment on the merits; (3) the party against whom the plea is asserted was a party or in privity with a party in the prior case; (4) the party or person privy to the party against whom the doctrine is asserted had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding; and (5) the determination in the prior proceeding was essential to the

Maybe, just maybe, the reason that a board invokes res judicata not to hear a case or doesn't invoke it to hear a case is that it knows the law and when and how to apply the doctrine?