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Friday, June 03, 2011

LVPC's comments on Bethlehem's New Zoning Ordinance

The LVPC discussion of Bethlehem's proposed zoning ordinance, which occurred at their April 28 meeting, are excerpted here. (Emphasis is my own).

"Mr. Taremäe said the City of Bethlehem has completely revamped their zoning ordinance. We have a copy of the zoning map on the wall. Mr. Taremäe said on pages 8 and 9 of the agenda, we have the draft letter as approved by the Comprehensive Planning Committee. The draft ordinance is generally consistent with the County Comprehensive Plan. First, on the housing side, Bethlehem will become the first municipality in the Lehigh Valley to adopt inclusionary zoning. That is, zoning that provides an opportunity for a mixture of income restricted housing with housing that is market rate. Density bonuses are part of that package. It is consistent with our model ordinance. Mr. Taremäe said mobile home parks are permitted only in Commercial zoning districts. We believe that mobile home parks belong in Residential zoning districts. The City has a number of innovative land use techniques in the ordinance, many of which are consistent with the model ordinances we have prepared. They include open space development, mixed uses and density bonuses. We encourage the adoption of such measures. There is one particular aspect of the open space requirement. The City is requiring that, as part of the development, a substantial percentage of the area be left as open space and at the same time requiring the developer to contribute additional land or cash in lieu thereof for recreational purposes. Our model ordinance considers that double dipping. We have some comments about areas along arterial roads that are currently zoned for industrial uses that the City proposes to rezone for commercial uses. We recommend the City take a look at this to make sure that some of the less desirable aspects of strip development do not take place. We also comment about some particular industrial areas other than that which are proposed for rezoning for commercial uses that do not meet the criteria for commercial uses set forth in our County Comprehensive Plan.

"We have some commentary about the area of South Mountain. This area is currently partially developed with the former Bethlehem Steel Research Center. We are looking to protect the environmentally sensitive areas, and the zoning district that covers this area allows building coverage up to 40% with impervious coverage up to 80%. Even though there is steep slope zoning protection and forestry protection, we suggest they take a look at further protecting this area. Many environmental protection features are included in the ordinance, but we recommend the City look at our model regulations.

"Ms. Heller said we talked about this at the Committee and talked internally after that meeting to go over some of the comments. We appreciate the fact that you note where we are trying to be a bit innovative with housing, affordable housing and utilization of some of the LVPC’s model ordinances. Some of the comments we really had a different view or approach with what we are trying to do. Ms. Heller said with the open space provisions, we don’t necessarily see it as double dipping. We think there is a privilege of additional density and additional units that are granted. In order to get that privilege, you provide additional open space. That is the way the open space development provision works in the ordinance. There were some comments about rezoning to commercial along the arterial corridors. We are doing that along Stefko Boulevard and along Rt. 412 near I-78. They are fairly large lots, and we think there is a lot of opportunity for flexible and diverse development. In fact, with those parcels, we believe we have some friendly developers there. LVIP owns a portion of that land. We think that is appropriate to be rezoned for commercial development. Ms. Heller said there were some comments about map changes. It is true some of the areas we are rezoning are from a zone where the current use is a permitted use to a zone where it would be a non-conforming use. There are many areas in Bethlehem that are in transition. At this point we are changing some of the zoning districts to reflect the types of uses we would like to see. These are very specific instances. The other thing we did since the Tuesday Committee meeting was take a look at some of our environmental provisions on steep slopes and woodlands and compare them to the LVPC model ordinances. We don’t think they are that different. We feel pretty confident they say what we need them to say. Mr. Glennon said one comment made on Tuesday was there were probably more positive aspects in this ordinance than most of the other municipal ordinances we have commented on. Mr. Glennon made a motion to approve the letter from staff and committee. Mr. Herman seconded the motion with Ms. Heller abstaining."


Al Bernotas said...

Bernie - Thank you for your coverage of LVPC's view of Bethlehem's draft zoning ordinance. I hope City Council reads your review, and I further hope they heed residents' comments in up-and-coming zoning ordinance reviews by City Council.

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem is a city, like many others, that is struggling on multiple fronts. It could be argued that since the closure of Bethlehem Steel, the city has been in a period of decline, aside from some localized developments (Main St. Commons, Sands Casino, Steel Stacks).

Why would such a city, which also faces dire financial straits, embark on a process of enacting what can properly be described as broad and byzantine zoning regulations?

Anonymous said...

LVPC is worthless. they are more than content with sprawl in the suburbs. LVPC needs to be revamped or closed.

Anonymous said...

Agree, LVPC should be revamped or closed. Their writing is poor as well.

B-town new regulations look pretty strong but I didn't read anything about setbacks in the comments. Allentown's recent zoning overhaul had some pretty innovation measures written into it provide more appropriate setback requirements in urban areas.

New buildings in A-town will now be allowed to align with the street-scape, with out a variance, rather than be forced back 15-30'.

Anonymous said...

The last two comments brought to you by Renew LV, who aren't busy doing much besides blogging.

I think LVPC reviewed the city's ordinance more critically than city council did, and that's troubling.

Wren Periwal said...

city council, AKA the uneducated blind leading the blind, will vote which ever way they feell will be politicaly safe for them. After all the vast majority of them are prior or present union cry babies who want to keep their free musicmess tickets.

Bernotas is just jealous because he's not getting free tickets.