Lehigh Valley

ANIZDA passes property guidelines resolution

Some objections voiced

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Following months of deliberation, public feedback and revisions to an initial springtime draft, the Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA) passed a resolution Wednesday afternoon establishing guidelines and procedures for the transfer of commercial properties in and out of a Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). 

According to ANIZDA Executive Director Steve Bamford, who summarized the revisions before the board prior to their passage, the following are the the most significant changes:

  • Properties currently located within the NIZ that are unable to produce substantial revenues to contribute to the authority's tax revenue bonds will be transferred out.
  • Business owners without objection to being transferred out of the NIZ will be permitted to do so.
  • Parcels lacking development or improvement although utilizing NIZ financing will be transferred out.
  • Under-maintained properties and those deemed blighted by the city will be removed. 
  • No parcel will be transferred out of the NIZ before Nov. 1, 2019, without the consent of the property owner. 

Allentown riverfront property owner Jeremy Wells, who owns 10 acres near the Jaindl Waterfront development, voiced his concerns about the transfer revisions.

He requested the authority inquire whether a property owner has already begun land development or needs more time to do so prior to being released from the NIZ. Under the revisions, an owner has 30 days to appeal such a release. 

Allentown Brew Works owner Jeff Fegley said he objects to the language used in the revisions because it aids in freeing up new properties at the expense of current business owners already in the NIZ who may have already begun the redevelopment process and made investments in their properties. 

Other business

The ANIZDA board approved the second of two promised $7,500 performance bonuses for Executive Director Bamford.

This past January, he received a salary increase, from $135,000 in 2017 to $140,000 this year.

Justifying the pay bonus, ANIZDA Chair Sy Traub noted several of Bamford's most recent achievements in hos job performance including:

  • Facilitated a $10 million credit line to open Jaindl's downtown Vault 634 banquet venue.
  • Closed a $100 million bond issuance on behalf of City Center Lehigh Valley.
  • Assisted in securing $9 million in financing to renovate and reopen the Americus Hotel.

Also, Allentown Parking Authority director John Morgan made a presentation to the board regarding replacing parking meters in the NIZ with pay stations, particularly on Hamilton Street downtown.

He added that the pay stations also would provide reduced pay-to-park hours on nonevent evenings downtown.

He pointed out that two pay stations located at the ends of a given city block would replace approximately 32 parking meters.   

Although the board placed a moratorium in May on any public projects funded through ANIZDA, Morgan said parking meter replacements would strongly complement the revitalized downtown's streetscapes. 

Board members said, although on an initial review of the idea they favored the initiative, they would need to review the latest recommendations from Boston planning firm Goody Clancy, which evaluated and recommended the necessary plans and steps towards the downtown's revitalization to date.

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