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Plans for 4-story self-storage facility shelved by Allentown officials

Allentown City Hall, Lehigh County Jail, prison, Allentown Center City, Lehigh valley
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board on Monday tabled a proposal for a four-story, 445-unit self-storage facility after two hours of discussion.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A developer is going back to the drawing board after the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board was reluctant Monday to approve its plans for a 445-unit self-storage facility.

Two hours after the board opened discussions on the proposal from New St. Allentown LLC, attorney Erich Schock asked the board to table it before making a ruling.

The developer planned to consolidate several properties in the 600 block of North New Street and 900 block of Utica Street and convert them into a self-storage facility, according to details presented Monday.

The proposal included adding more than 34,000 square feet of floor space by making those buildings four floors tall, an increase of 139% over the roughly 25,000 square feet that exist now.

“I’m not by any means closing the door on (the proposal). I think it’s a good one, but it needs to be modified.”
Robert Knauer, Zoning Hearing Board chair

An addition that large requires zoners to approve a variance, which its three members were not ready to do Monday.

“There’s no doubt that this collection of buildings needs to have a purpose,” board member Scott Unger said.

“I’m essentially supportive of the project, except for the fact that I think four stories is too many."

Proposal 'needs to be modified'

Unger pointed to testimony from Jonathan Yandle, a Sands Investment Group advisor and specialist in self-storage development, who said operating companies still would be interested in the facility if it was only three stories.

Allentown zoning ordinances require the board to approve only the “minimum relief” that would require the least change to current regulations, Unger said.

Approving a fourth story for the self-storage facility would go beyond that minimum if there is a market for a smaller facility, he said.

“I’m just uncomfortable that four floors is appropriate."
Allentown Zoning Hearing Board member Scott Unger

“Does it generate as much revenue for the proposed buyer or operator? Certainly not. But that’s not entirely what’s before us,” he said. “What’s before us is a balance between an existing neighborhood, the existing residents, and the property rights of the owner.

“I’m just uncomfortable that four floors is appropriate,” he said.

Board Chairman Robert Knauer also told the developer and others working on the project that the “proposal could go better” if it wasn’t so large.

“This use is reasonable and appropriate and the least impactful of any other that I can think of,” Knauer said. “But it’s the extent of the expansion that concerns me.”

“I’m not by any means closing the door on" the proposal, he said. “I think it’s a good one, but it needs to be modified.”

But before the board voted to deny the four-story self-storage facility, Schock requested and took a few minutes to speak with his client about changing their plans.

He indicated the developer would return with new plans that call for a three-story facility with about 320 units, prompting the board to continue the case.