|Floyd Best General Store has been demolished for Negrao development|
Negrao is the owner of Alexandria Manor, a popular assisted living facility that already has two locations in Nazareth and one in Bath. In 2005, he received a green light from zoners to build an 83-unit facility on 2.64 acres at the southwest corner of Johnston Drive and Linden Streets, directly across the street from Elias Market.
In 2012, he decided to try something new. Instead of an assisted living center, he proposed operating a pre-school center called Rainbow Academy at the site. Rainbow, which currently operates 18 New Jersey locations, offers pre-school children infant sign language, musical beginnings and reading and writing readiness. Although zoners at that time unanimously granted a special exception for a 180-student pre-school, they ruled out Saturday classes for physical activities like gymnastics and karate. They also placed an age cap on the Summer camp, restricting it to children 10 years old and younger.
Instead of building, Negrao continued to buy properties along Linden Street, including the iconic but dilapidated Floyd R. Best General Store at the northwestern corner of Macada and Linden, along with several other residences that have seen better days, with driveways that empty out onto Linden Street.
With these purchases, Negrao approached zoners with a new plan. Instead of a personal care facility or pre-school center, how about both? Represented by Bethlehem Attorney Jim Preston, he persuaded zoners to grant the necessary approvals that will change the location and sizes of both previously approved designs.
Kevin Horvath, from Keystone Engineers, showed the board a plan that will locate the 1-story Rainbow Academy at Macada and Linden, along with a 6,800 sq ft outdoor play area to the immediate north. A 3-story personal care facility, comprising 20,300 sq ft, will be at the other end of the block, where Linden and Johnston intersect. Horvath told zoners the stone and stucco buildings will be close to Linden to act as a buffer for parking behind the facilities. There will be no access from Linden. Visitors will use a 24' wide access road at the western end of the properties, connecting Johnston Drive and Macada Road.
The personal care facility will remain an 83-unit facility, but in a larger building because the trend is for private rooms with kitchenettes, explained Joe Negrao, Jr.
Horvath told zoners that, in his opinion, the plans submitted by Negrao provide a "safer environment" along Linden Street, an arterial road, than the current arrangement with residential driveways.
There was no opposition to the relief requested, but Johnston Drive resident Al Bernotas voiced his support.
In other business, the Board granted Jarice Bonilla's request for a special exception so that she could operate a day care at 734-738 Pawnee Street. Bonilla will care for between 4 and 56 children at the 3-bedroom home with a fenced in yard. "I'm looking for babies," she said. "I love babies." She will operate on weekdats between 6 am and 6 pm. In addition to the xoning approval, she is required to obtain a state license, and the City will inspect the property.