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'Back to square one': Apartment complexes, trucking terminal rejected for South Allentown lot

Jason Addy
Allentown zoning officials on Monday night rejected a proposal to convert the vacant office building at 2268 S. 12th St. into 40 apartments. Planning officials on Tuesday ended a proposed trucking terminal in the parking lot.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A South Allentown industrial property appears stuck in limbo after officials pulled the plug on two proposals to redevelop it this week.

Exchange 32 LLC, owned by Abe Atiyeh, sought the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board’s approval Monday to convert a vacant office building at 2268 S. 12th St. into 40 apartments. Atiyeh also wanted to build a second complex with an equal number of units on the property.

Board members said Exchange 32 wanted them “to rewrite the zoning ordinance” to allow apartments on an industrial site before unanimously rejecting both apartment buildings.

Project engineers were back at Allentown City Hall’s meeting room at noon Tuesday, this time asking the Allentown Planning Commission to reinstate its previous approval for a tractor-trailer parking lot on the site.

The commission in August granted permission for Exchange 32 to continue allowing trucks to park there after the lot had been used for months without city authorization but the developer did not agree to the conditions of the approval within a 15-day window, officials said Tuesday.

With the apartment buildings no longer a possibility, the developer hoped to reinstate the initial approval from August and get the trucking-terminal project back on track.

“It’s kind of disrespectful to the city at large, the neighbors, our community, this commission (that) the property is in this condition.”
Damien Brown, Allentown Planning Commission

On Tuesday, the commission rejected that request by a 5-0 vote, sending Atiyeh “back to square one,” commission member Jeff Glazier said.

Christian Brown, who chairs the commission, said he thinks it would be “in the best interest” of the city for officials to take another look at the proposal if it is resubmitted.

Member Damien Brown said he hopes the board’s vote provides Exchange 32 an “incentive” to clean up its property before asking city boards for any type of relief.

Jason Addy
Allentown planning officials on Tuesday voted against reinstating their previous approval for a trucking terminal at 2268 S. 12th St.

Several neighbors raised concerns about the condition of the property Tuesday and provided pictures that seemed to stun Damien Brown.

“I’m really at a loss, a little bit dumbfounded. If this was my property … and I knew I was coming before the Zoning Hearing Board and the Planning Commission for whatever reason, I’d be up all night running in circles making sure someone was out there making sure that property was in tiptop shape,” he said.

“It’s kind of disrespectful to the city at large, the neighbors, our community, this commission (that) the property is in this condition.”

Commission members urged city staff to ratchet up enforcement of code violations at the property to ensure it becomes less of an “eyesore” for neighbors.

"We’re not the garbage guys."
Project engineer David Bray on calls to clean up the property

The trucking terminal is the third proposed use for the industrial property in the past year. Allentown City Council last year rejected a charter school’s bid to open at the vacant office building.

Proposal likely to come up again

The planning commission’s denial Tuesday stops the trucking terminal dead in its tracks.

But it likely won’t stop trucks from parking there, as the property has been acting as an unsanctioned lot for many months, despite regular citations.

Project engineer David Bray told LehighValleyNews.com that he will submit the same application next month to open a trucking terminal on the site.

He said he would share the commission’s insistence on cleaning the property with Atiyeh.

“(But) we’re not the garbage guys,” Bray said, referring to his colleagues leaving the meeting with him.