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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Moravian Hits Home Run With Bethlehem Zoners

If you lived next to a baseball field, wouldn't you want something protecting you from errant foul balls and line drives? That's what Moravian College officials thought, and for that reason they decided to erect a black vinyl coated chain link fence along their third base line. Bethlehem's Zoning Ordinance allows six foot fences, but they wanted one a little higher. Thirty feet higher, to be exact. So Moravian needed what is called a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board.

During a November 20 hearing, VP Mark Reed explained the college is concerned about safety, and told zoners that there are least five incidents every season in which an errant ball smashes through a window or dents a car. "We've been lucky so far," he observed. "There hasn't been a child involved.

Colleen Marsh, who lives next to the diamond on Center Street, told zoners she sustained $1,000 in damages over the last two years. This includes a line drive that beaned her car as she was driving. Moravian paid for the damage, but decided to be more proactive. "Maybe our baseball players are getting better," remarked Doug Plotts, the College's Facilities Director.

Moravian finished its 2013 baseball season with a 24-19 record.

But some residents would rather see a smashed window than a 36' high chain link fence.

Warren Wagner, who lives near the ball field, told zoners he can live with a smashed window. "No big deal. But I can't live with a 36' high fence."

Echoing Wagner, Center Street resident Kevin Craig told zoners that even prisons don't have 36' high fences, and worried that some child or teen would fall while climbing it. "If you break a window, that's fine; but if somebody falls off a fence that high, I don't think that would be good."

Though college officials were seeking permission to extend the fence down the entire third base line, they told neighbors they would approach it incrementally, building only as much as is needed to ensure safety. They also explained there would be a gateway through the fence at the third base dug out.

Wagner and Craig struck out with zoners. But Moravian hit a home run, and was granted relief in a unanimous vote by four members the Zoning Hearing Board. Linda Shay Gardner was absent.

In addition to Moravian College, Lehigh University was also successful in a zoning appeal. It wants to move its Small Business development center from South Mountain to the old St. Joseph's rectory at 416 E. 5th Street. But because the rectory was both an office and a residence, Lehigh needed and obtained what is called a use variance, which will permit the property to be used exclusively for office space.

Architect Julia Parker told zoners that the the center will employ five people full time, with part-time positions held by 8-10 students.  A nearby property, owned by Lehigh, will serve as their parking lot.


Anonymous said...

Well you can't have a zoning hearing without some phony, control freak objecter citing concern for the safety of children. I'm glad this was approved, colleges have unique needs, which residents should accept if they buy a house near a campus.

Anonymous said...

Can't they errect safety netting that can be taken down between in between games or at least after the baseball season is over? Maybe they already considered the option and it won't work. It would seem like a better option than a permanent fence that will be an eyesore for the neighbors.