Lehigh Valley

Variances granted to advance Bethlehem Armory Apartment project

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board granted special exception relief to the developer of a proposed apartment complex around the Floyd Simons Armory complex on Tuesday night. The vote was 3-0.

The decision was a victory for the developer, Peron Development, on many fronts. The company received permission to utilize 99 on-site parking spaces for the project, fewer than the 123 spaces that would be required if relief were not granted.

The company plans to construct a 64-unit, four-story apartment building in the armory's parking lot. This building will then be connected to the property's maintenance garages, which will also feature six one-bedroom apartments, for a total of 70 units.

The board agreed, stipulating Tuesday night that the project should have no more than 70 total units. The total number of two-bedroom units cannot be greater than 22 and the number of one-bedroom units cannot exceed 51 units, according to Tuesday night's decision. The board also prohibited the construction of three-bedroom units for this project. Peron's plan did not call for any three-bedroom units.

The board also approved several dimensional variances Peron requested, including for one for total lot coverage and one for the building's length.

The developer does not have a plan for the Floyd Simons Armory building itself, which is located at 301 Prospect Ave. The structure is on the National Register of Historic Places. During previous hearings, Peron stated there was no intention to demolish the building, which was built in 1930. It has been unoccupied since 2010.

Peron's plan must still receive land development approval from the city's Planning Commission. Any appeal of the decision would be under the jurisdiction of Lehigh County Court.

Bethlehem's zoning hearing board consists of members William Fitzpatrick, James Schantz and Michael Santanasto.

Tuesday night's decision did not include testimony, public comment or debate. Previously, some neighbors of the Armory argued against the project, requesting that the total floor count be reduced from four to three stories. Others said that, aesthetically, the project was out of character for the neighborhood.

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