History's Headlines: Historic Moravian Bethlehem gets place on national landmark map


BETHLEHEM, Pa. – During its Tuesday night meeting, Bethlehem City Council approved changes to a zoning text amendment that revises first-floor commercial uses in two zoning districts.

Recommended by Mayor Bob Donchez's administration, the changes would alter first-floor commercial storefront usage in the central business (CB) and limited commercial (CL) zoning districts, which encompass important commerce areas in Bethlehem. 

Darlene Heller, director of zoning and planning, indicated the amendment clarifies requirements for first-floor uses in those two districts, regardless of how upper floors are utilized. The language indicates that first-floor spaces in buildings in the districts will permit only restaurants, retail stores and professional offices.

The amendment also loosens the first-floor requirements in the CL zoning district but not in the CB district. This will allow "a broader range of commercial uses, including professional offices," according to Heller.

"The changes aren't going to apply so much to CB as CL," said Alicia Miller Karner, the city's director of community and economic development.

Tuesday night's vote was on the ordinance's first reading. A second and final vote is scheduled for Feb. 2.

Nomination to World Heritage List

In other news, council approved a resolution supporting efforts to have Historic Moravian Bethlehem added to the UNESCO World Heritage List

The World Heritage List was established in 1972 to "encourage the identification, protection and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity," according to organization's mission statement.

The Bethlehem World Heritage Commission of the Historic Bethlehem Partnership Inc. is currently working with the historic Moravian community of Herrnhut, Germany, to add the Moravian Bethlehem district to the prestigious list of sites. Mayor Donchez is chair of the commission and Charlene Donchez Mowers is president.

There are currently 1,000 attractions on the World Heritage List, with only 24 of them in the U.S., including Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Statue of Liberty in New York.

"This is really a potentially wonderful thing for our city," said Councilman J. William Reynolds.

The comment period for the nomination is open through Jan. 26. Letters of support may be mailed to: Jonathan Putnam, Office of International Affairs, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240. 

A moment of remembrance

Finally, a moment of silence was held for Michael Schweder, who died at 71 years old on Jan. 15. Schweder's public service included serving on Bethlehem City Council from 1998 through 2009. Prior to this, he represented the 135th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly from 1974 through 1980. A bid for U.S. Congress in 1980 was unsuccessful. 

Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt was absent from Tuesday night's meeting.

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