BETHLEHEM ZONERS-Multiple variances sought, granted
After announcing that the case of 2105 Creek Road would be postponed until December, the Zoning Hearing Board’s Sept. 23 meeting featured the case of 526 Broadway.
The owner, Bright Horizon, LLC, represented by Chenguang Huang, was seeking three variances, for parking and the renovation of the first floor of the building. The first floor is currently partly occupied by a gym, and partly vacant. The second floor would be retained in its existing nonconforming position. The building itself is about 100years old, and the structure is built out to the lot lines, so no parking is available on site.
Huang wants to convert the first floor into five apartments; John Lee, of Phillips & Donovan Architects, described the site plan for the apartments. Board member Peter Schneck noted that one of the units was only 385 square feet. Huang said he would be willing to consolidate two apartments into one, or take square footage from one to add to another.
Neighbor George Strauss questioned whether the site plan could be altered.
Zoming Officer Craig Pfeffer explained that only the number of bedrooms per apartment could be changed.
Board Chairman William Fitzpatrick said, “The board will be very specific on what will be approved.”
During the public comments, George Strauss, who is also a landlord, said, “Affordable housing is needed [in the city].”
The board approved the variances, with the condition that the five first floor units cannot have more than nine total bedrooms. The owner will also need to meet with the zoning officer to discuss the plan for removal of garbage from the property.
The next case was 327 East Market St. Attorney Christopher Spadoni represented Glemser Technogies. Raymond Glemser II, founder, wants to move his company’s offices to the Market Street location. The building is owned by Glemser Chief Operating Officer David Kmetz. The building is located a a high density residential area.
Glemser explained the lease on their New Street office was ending, and they wanted to keep their office location in Bethlehem. Further, it would be convenient for Kmetz to work from a building he owns.
Neighbors Barbara Diamond and Kelly Frackenthall objected to the plan, citing the potential altering of the residential character of the neighborhood. Bruce Haines also voiced his objections, though it was determined that since his personal residence is not in the immediate neighborhood, he had no standing to admit exhibits.
David Kmetz, who owns the property and is also the COO of Glemser Technologies, described his property as having four apartments on three floors. He said the tenant in the first floor apartment moved out in June, and he had made improvements, and attempted to rent the apartment for $1,600 per month, but had not been able to find an acceptable tenant. He said he would charge Glemser the same rent, $1,600 per month. He also described the parking easement as able to accommodate two or three cars. He added the layout of the apartment would be convenient for offices for Glemser.
Much in keeping with similar cases, the board voted to deny the use variance.
The next case was 482 Elmhurst Ave. The owner, Oscar Lizardo, was seeking a setback variance for an above- ground pool he built on what he thought was his property. He claimed to be unaware of the city’s setback rules for the location of swimming pools when he installed the pool in June 2020. Lizardo also added a fence behind the pool. He identified his property line based on a pin in his yard. While he has ample space in his yard for the pool to be moved closer to his house, he stated he liked it where it is, and that moving it would be costly.
Board Attorney Erich Schock asked Zoning Officer Craig Pfeiffer if Lizardo had received a permit for the pool. Pfeiffer said he had not, and there are two permits required, one for the pool, and an electrical permit.
Lizardo explained he had gone to the city hall on Easton Avenue. (Bethlehem City Hall is on Church Street).
Board Chairman Fitzpatrick asked if Lizardo had gone to Bethlehem Township hall. Lizardo said he had.
“Did you file an application with the City of Bethlehem?” asked Fitzpatrick.
Lizardo said, “They send me to Bethlehem City Hall, but it was closed.”
Lizardo’s neighbor, Roseanne Martinuzzi, lives at 493 Dewberry Ave., directly behind Lizardo. She testified she wanted to get her fence replaced, but her contractor refused, saying the pool was too close, and would be too much of a liability. Martinuzzi’s fence had been put in many years prior, and she said the installer had placed the fence three feet inside her property. This would put Lizardo’s fence, and part of his pool, on Martinuzzi’s land. Lizardo believes his pool and fence are on his property.
Martinuzzi said she contacted the city when the pool went up, but before it was filled. Lizardo has since filled the pool.
The board voted to deny Lizardo’s setback variance, and told Lizardo to get in touch with the zoning officer, but also that city enforcement would be interceding.
The Zoning Hearing Board convened on Sept. 30 for a special hearing, on the case of 251 Church Street. The case had been remanded to the board by the Court of Common Pleas for Northanpton County. However, the meeting quickly came to a close, because the owner, Valerie Peters, had sent the board a letter Sept. 25, withdrawing her application. This meant the Zoning Hearing Board no longer had jurisdiction, and the appeal was moot. The board will notify the Court of Common Pleas.