The Bethlehem Zoning Board held a hearing regarding proposed Resident Treatment Facilities at 2110 Center Street and 2349 Linden Street.
David Harte, Vice President of Pennsylvania Venture Capital, Inc in Whitehall was the star witness at the hearing. Harte was involved with the proposal regarding 2110 Center Street and testified that he would be involved with management at the proposed facility.
Harte stated that the rights of this property were signed over to Pennsylvania Venture Capital, Inc through a Mutual Assignment of rights in March of this year.
The property in discussion is zoned as an “RS” or a Residential Zoning District. This type of facility is only allowed to be built in an RS Zoning District under Special Exception in the recently passed new Zoning Ordinances of Bethlehem. Surrounding the proposed facility are Calvary Baptist Church, a residential neighborhood, as well as Bethlehem Catholic High School.
The proposed location is residents’ sole concern because, according to Harte, this facility will temporarily house individuals with drug and alcohol dependencies.
Audience members present at the hearing expressed concern for the safety and wellbeing of the children, students, and families in the surrounding area.
The facility is a 28-bed facility with a staff to resident ratio of six to one. According to Harte, there will be no more than 16 staff members on duty at one time, including facility directors and supervisors, counselors, and kitchen staff.
Harte explained to the Board that the facility is a voluntary program, so it is not on lock down and there will be no security guards on staff to prevent residents from leaving the premises.
“The residents can withdraw themselves at any point,” said Harte. “Someone could walk out of the facility,” he continued.
According to Harte, “the facility is not a confined or secure facility,” so no one would be serving a jail sentence or confinement at the proposed facility. Due to this, Harte does not believe the residents at this facility pose any danger or threat to the surrounding community. Harte stated that the facility would be housing residents that may already live in the surrounding neighborhood, so there would be no real difference in the area with the addition of this facility.
After a brief recess, the Zoning Board questioned Harte regarding his second proposed Resident Treatment Facility located at 2349 Linden Street. Shortly into questioning, it came to the Board’s attention that the description regarding the property was not consistent among audience members, attorneys present, and Board members. The Board decided to cease discussion and resume at a later date once the description was corrected.
The hearing regarding 2110 Center Street will continue on October 16th starting at 6 PM and the hearing in reference to 2349 Linden Street will resume on October 18th at 6 PM. Both hearings will be held at Town Hall.