The property never had its own on-site parking, according to Csandl.
Those testifying for Treatment Trends said nearly $2 million specifically was spent to convert the building for use as a residential treatment facility when it became the Veterans Sanctuary, which was not successful.
The proposed halfway home will have segregated accommodations, including showers, for men and women. In addition to bedrooms and bathrooms, the building has a gymnasium, an auditorium, an exercise room, an enclosed outdoor courtyard, an elevator, a kitchen and dining area.
McCarthy of the zoning board said that $2 million investment sent the building down an irreversible path, because it restricted other uses it could be put to –“not in a nefarious way, but simply because you chose that path. And now you’re kind of out on this ledge here.”
McCarthy added a lot of improvements were made to the building, but they are “not necessarily functional for other uses.”
“This building is capable of other uses,” maintained Wiener, who said bedrooms are merely rectangles with windows that can be turned into offices.
As objector, Wiener represented Commonwealth Realty Company, LP, and Lehigh Land Holdings, Inc. He said both own adjacent properties along Hamilton Street and don’t think a drug and alcohol treatment halfway home is a good use for the S. 5th Street property.
In addition to questioning the Treatment Trends witnesses, Wiener also testified against their zoning appeal, but only as vice president and general partner of Commonwealth Realty Company, which owns the Commonwealth Building at 512 Hamilton Street, next to the federal courthouse at 5th and Hamilton streets.
Wiener said Maple Street, an alley between the proposed halfway home and the federal courthouse, essentially has become “a federal parking lot.”
He said at least two or three federal vehicles park on Maple Street, making it tough to get through, but they never get parking tickets. He said it would be next to impossible for a fire truck to get into that alley.
He testified the Lehigh Land Holdings properties are at 520-524 Hamilton Street, including Crocodile Rock and other businesses.
“That would be Mr. Joe Clark,” said Malkames.
“It’s a corporation,” replied Wiener. “The ownership of the corporation is a matter of private record.”
He also stressed he was not testifying for Lehigh Land Holdings. “I have questioned the witnesses for them while sitting down as counsel.”
Replacing a 36-year-old halfway house
Treatment Trends now operates a halfway home in three buildings along N. 8th Street, between Linden and Turner.
The non-profit drug and alcohol agency proposes relocating that halfway home to the S. 5th Street address. If the zoning board approves the Treatment Trends request, Csandl said the existing halfway home along N.8th Street will be closed.
The S. 5th Street location “is a much better facility,” said Csandl after the hearing, who added that the N. 8th Street buildings will be sold.
Csandl testified the halfway home is a licensed drug and alcohol treatment facility. He said those who reside there are further along in their recovery process, because they all first completed programs in residential treatment programs somewhere else.
“A person has to be drug and alcohol free in order to be admitted for treatment,” said Csandl.
He said the halfway home will be staffed round-the-clock.
Residents will stay 90 to 120 days and cannot have a vehicle on or near the halfway home, so it would not add to parking problems.
Participants in the program would have to sign out to leave the building.
“They don’t need supervision when they are out,” said Csandl. “By the time a person has those privileges, they have earned that status.”