Lehigh Valley

Allentown Council OKs more off-campus housing in West End

Impacts Muhlenberg College students

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - By unanimous vote, Allentown City Council expanded a Student Residence Overlay District in the West End during the legislative body's Wednesday night meeting.

The overlay district — which limits the number of college students who live in a single home to two — was created in 1997 after years of complaints by residents who not enthusiastic about undergraduate frivolity among Muhlenberg College students. The city responded by creating a district that wrapped around the liberal arts college, extending to Tilghman Street on the north and to North 27th Street on the west.

Wednesday night's vote extends the district north to Washington Street, and west to North Broad Street. The district's south border — the campus itself or Parkway Boulevard — and the east border of North Lafayette Street are unchanged.

With passage, the district includes 346 additional parcels, according to the city's Bureau of Planning and Zoning.

Allentown's creation of the district 21 years ago was done to protect the integrity of the neighborhood, the city said. The college fought it and took the case all the way to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, where attorneys attempted a reversal by saying it violated the constitution because it implicitly discriminated against Muhlenberg students. The court did not agree, and the zone stayed.

Fast forward to last autumn: Some residents requested that city officials expand the district. Those requests gained traction only a few months prior to Election Day. The city offered a proposed expansion and it was approved November 14 by the Planning Commission in a 5-0 vote. Unlike two decades prior, the college has remained publicly neutral on the expansion.

No residents spoke for or against the legislation, Bill 87 on Wednesday night's docket, prior to city council's vote.

Other business

Council approved the transfer of a liquor license to a neighborhood grocery store, Little Apple Market, at 630 N. Seventh St. The vote was 6-1, with Councilman Edward Zucal dissenting.

Councilman Daryl Hendricks said that initially he was hesitant to approve the resolution, but he voted for the transfer because otherwise it would be "discriminatory" against residents of that neighborhood. To support this rationale, he cited grocery stores in the West End, such as Wegmans and Weis Markets, that hold liquor licenses so residents in those neighborhoods can purchase alcoholic beverages.

"It would be discriminatory to not allow our residents in Center City to have what other residents have," Hendricks said.

The transfer will occur pending Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board approval.

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