Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem tables maximum building coverage change

Council specfies businesses allowed on first floor

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem City Council has indefinitely postponed voting on a zoning amendment that would have increased maximum building coverage by 10 percent in high-density residential neighborhoods with a mix of housing types.

The postponement, moved by Councilman J. William Reynolds during the legislative body's Tuesday night meeting, effectively ended the legislation, at least in its current form.

Reynolds made the motion after some residents alleged the bill would undermine the integrity of residential neighborhoods.

Reynolds insisted the origin of the legislation was to reduce red tape for owners of smaller homes.

"There is nothing nefarious in this legislation," Reynolds said.

The councilman made the motion to pull the bill because he was confident that the administration would alter the language to cast out any ambiguity that could favor larger developers from avoiding city zoning regulations.

A rewritten document will likely come before council at a future date, he said. 

First-floor businesses specified

Council approved a resolution requiring businesses in commercial districts to restrict their first floor units to retail operations, restaurants or personal services. The amendment clarifies the previous language which just required businesses to be on the first floor.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilwoman Olga Negron casting the "no" vote.

The amendment was offered by Darlene Heller, the city's director of planning and zoning, who said Tuesday night the ordinance would make commercial quadrants in the city more attractive to pedestrian traffic and shoppers.

Council approves land sale for apartments

The Bethlehem City Council approved the redevelopment authority's sale of a portion of parcel of land in the Monocacy Creek Urban Renewal Area during Tuesday night's meeting.

The authorization allows the sale of 1.3 acres of land to Skyline West, LLC in the amount of $30,000. The vote was 7-0.

The price for the property was established by the authority based on two appraisals and one final review appraisal.

The developer intends to redevelop the property as multi-family residential living units, according to document from the city.

Newest member sworn in

Dr. Paige Van Wirt became the latest member of the legislative body after a swearing-in ceremony by Judge Stephen Baratta. Van Wirt, an elder-care physician, was appointed to the post by a city council vote March 1. She waged a write-in campaign for a seat in last year's general election.

Van Wirt thanked her colleagues and residents Tuesday night who put their faith in her abilities to be a good legislator for Bethlehem. 

She replaces former Councilman Eric Evans, who resigned to become the city business administrator in the Donchez administration.

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