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Advertising mix-up delays self-storage facility on Allentown’s East Side

Allentown City Hall
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
Allentown zoning officials continued a hearing Monday after a developer presented plans that called for more units at a proposed self-storage facility than advertised.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A proposal for a large self-storage facility in Allentown will be delayed for more than a month because an official advertisement did not match the details presented Monday.

The city’s three-member Zoning Hearing Board voted to table Stack Storage’s proposed self-storage facility at 2118-2124 Hanover Ave. after a company representative said there would be 868 units in the building, instead of the 749 units that Allentown officials advertised in the notice for the public hearing.

  • Allentown zoners continued a hearing Monday after being surprised by an increase in the number of units at a proposed self-storage facility
  • The details presented Monday did not match those advertised by city officials
  • Allentown zoners granted special exceptions last month for a proposed 628-unit storage facility in the city's Eighth Ward

Though no residents at Monday’s meeting objected to the proposal with 749 units, zoning officials said they could not assume no one would object to the larger facility.

“I think it’s important that we follow the proper procedure."
Allentown Zoning Hearing Board member Scott Unger

Board members said they worried about establishing a problematic legal precedent for the city if they approved the proposal presented Monday, which includes about 16% more units than advertised.

That could open “Pandora’s Box and put the city in a non-defendable position,” board member Scott Unger said.

Unger said he doesn’t think any residents will object to the facility because Stack Storage added 119 units to its proposal, but it would be “a very slippery slope” for the board to assume that.

“I think it’s important that we follow the proper procedure,” he said.

Chairman Robert Knauer said he believes Allentown’s Zoning Hearing Board has a “duty to require accuracy” in public notices.

The zoning hearing board approved the developer’s request to continue the hearing instead of voting down the proposal as presented Monday. Officials told the developer to advertise again with the correct details for the project.

That continuance will delay any potential zoning approval by at least a month, with July 24 likely the earliest date the project could be back on the board’s agenda, Allentown zoning staff members said.

Public notices have already been sent out and schedules have been set for the board’s next few meetings, they said.

Project specs

Stack Storage’s Nache Nielson said he didn’t know how the proposal was submitted with 749 units before describing the company’s calculations that led to 868 units.

About 75% of the 115,000-square-foot building is rentable space for self-storage units, which will range from about 25-300 square feet, Nielson said.

The average unit will be about 100 square feet, he said.

Stack Storage is asking Allentown zoning officials to grant the project relief from ordinances that regulate building on steep slopes and parking requirements.

“I think it’s important that we follow the proper procedure.”
Scott Unger, Allentown Zoning Hearing Board

Ben Kutz, a civil engineer with Gilmore & Associates, testified that industry standards — based on a building’s total square footage — show there would only be about seven cars at the facility during peak demand hours.

But Allentown zoning ordinances regulate parking requirements based on the number of units in a building, causing something of a disconnect Monday between zoning officials and the developer.

City ordinances would require the 868-unit building to provide at least 30 parking spaces, but Stack Storage’s plan includes just 10 spaces.

Zoning hearing board member Alan Salinger said he believed the increase in units would generate more activity at the facility, therefore increasing the need for parking, but Nielson testified 10 spaces would be enough.

Stack Storage is also working to develop facilities in several Lehigh Valley municipalities, where officials have provided zoning relief for parking, Nielsen said.

Sumner Avenue proposal

Allentown officials recently granted zoning approval for a proposed self-storage facility in Allentown’s Eighth Ward.

A developer is working to build a 93,000-square-foot self-storage facility with 628 units at 1014 Sumner Ave.

Engineer Dan Witczak, president of Allentown-based Acela, led a presentation for the facility at the zoning hearing board’s May 22 meeting.

Current plans call for one employee to be at the self-storage facility from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends, Witczak said.

Anyone who is renting a unit would have access to the facility from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The board granted the project relief from zoning ordinances that regulate building on steep slopes and parking requirements.

A traffic engineer testified self-storage facilities do not need as many parking spaces as are required by Allentown ordinances.

Michael Drobny, highway division manager for French & Parello Associates, told zoners he studied traffic and parking at three similar self-storage facilities in New Jersey. He said his observations showed the proposed Allentown site would only need about nine parking spaces at its busiest times.

The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board approved a special exception that requires the project to have 10 parking spaces, with an option to create up to seven additional spaces if zoning officers think they are needed.

There were no advertising issues with that proposal.