Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem planners approve CRIZ-related zoning amendments

Aim is to improve functionality

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Bethlehem Planning Commission approved three amendments to the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone ordinance at its Thursday meeting.

The first amendment lifts dimension restrictions for parcels associated with CRIZ-qualified projects if the developer separates what is termed a CRIZ-qualified lot from adjacent lands functioning as a front, side or rear yard, or which provide parking, storm water related management facilities or runoff, and other site-related accessory functions.

The developer would build structures associated with their project on the CRIZ-qualified lot.

The adjacent lands could be placed on a separate lot called a support lot.

The CRIZ-qualified lot would be exempted from all dimensional setbacks, minimum lot size, building coverage or any other dimensional requirements, provided the deed restrictions of the ordinance are met.

The support lot would be governed by all of the dimensional requirements of the ordinance.

A support lot could serve 2 or more CRIZ-qualified lots as long as the parking, storm water-related management facilities or run-off and other site-related accessory requirements of the CRIZ-qualified lot are met by the support lot.

Deed restrictions would remain in place on both the CRIZ-qualified lot and the support, lot so that the developer could not sell the two parcels separately.

The amendment is intended to ensure that CRIZ funds go directly to CRIZ-related projects and to land that contains buildings and other structures, and not to adjacent lands.

The amendment was proposed because “the intention of the city is to match the area of CRIZ-designated parcels to the actual footprint of a building or structure receiving CRIZ benefit,” according a letter to commissioners by city director of planning and zoning Darlene Heller.

The second amendment would prohibit fast-casual restaurants with a drive-through lane in the Central Business and Limited Commercial zoning districts.

The third amendment eliminates building coverage requirements for mixed use buildings containing one or more dwelling units. The ordinance had previously restricted building coverage to 75 percent on non-corner lots and 80 percent for corner lots.

The city created the CRIZ in 2013. The CRIZ designation provides tax benefits to parcels of land in order to encourage development and redevelopment of non-residential economic development projects. 

The proposed amendments will now go before Bethlehem City Council.

Other business

The commission approved a swim school facility on 3055 Linden Street.

The Goldfish Swim School would be 9,012 square feet, with 79 parking spaces on a 1.3 acre lot. The site had been approved as a personal care facility in 2015 in conjunction with the abutting pre-school building.

Small children would be taught to swim through hour-long classes at the school, which would be open until 8 p.m. on weekdays. Morning classes would be held on weekends.

The pool would be 4 feet deep and 25 yards long.

Board Chairman Robert Melosky said the swim school is a “unique opportunity for our city,” noting that not many swimming facilities currently exist in the city.

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