Penn Allen was a glass manufacturing, warehousing and distribution company that operated at that location since 1949, said McCarthy. He added the oldest part of the building was constructed around 1900.

Representatives of the developers testified the proposed complex will be a less intensive use of the property than the old glass factory.

The exiting building covers 23,300 square feet, testified Amit Mukherjee of Base Engineering, the project’s engineer. Part of it will be demolished. Mukherjee said the proposed building will be smaller, covering 13,208 square feet.

The property will have a 60-space parking lot, 12 spaces more than the city requires, said Mukherjee.

The engineer said the maximum building coverage allowed is 50 percent in that zoning district. He said the glass plant exceeds that, at 57 percent. He said the proposed development will only cover 32 percent of the property.

The glass company went out of business at least two years ago, according to testimony, and the property now is owned by Fleetwood Bank.

The developers have a conditional agreement of sale with Fleetwood Bank, based on zoning approval.

Christopher Raad , a real estate broker, testified for the developers, identified as 513 MK Investment LLC. One of the principal developers, I.Q. Wang, was at the meeting but did not testify.

The property is between Andrew and Early streets. Early also is an alley.

The old glass plant is surrounded by homes on three sides, but only garages and yards of most of those homes are along the two alleys.

Homes along Fulton Street do face the property. Trees and other landscaping are planned on that side of the new center. Such landscaping does not exist now.

The only interested party who testified was James Oleskowitz of Coopersburg, who owns a property in the 500 block of N. Fulton Street.

Oleskowitz asked if the location of trash receptacles could be moved away from the Fulton Street residences. “Landscaping won’t stop the smell,” said Oleskowitz.

Mukherjee said that is the most ideal location for trash trucks making pick-ups.

It’s been a non-confirming use in a residentially zoned area for many years, said Somach, who represented the shopping center developers.

Representatives for the developers argued it would not be feasible – or at least “significantly difficult” -- to convert the property into residential uses.

McCarthy indicated the zoning board rejected one proposal for residential use in 2007.

“It would be an ideal use for the neighborhood,” said Raad. “It will be for the benefit of the whole neighborhood.”

Zoner Joseph Rosenfeld said he is “very much a proponent of keeping zoning ordinances pure and simple, if at all possible.” But he called the proposal unique and accepted arguments that redevelopment of the property for residential uses is not practical.

Rosenfeld also said zoning approval will alter the essential character of the neighborhood, but in a very positive way. “This is very complementary to the other commercial and professional uses right across the street.” He said it also will not negatively impact parking in the neighborhood.

Zoner Michael Engle and McCarthy agreed it will not be detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood. The three of them unanimously approved the project.

Developers hope to build the center next year.