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Apartments, warehouse projects forwarded for review

South Side apartments
LoopNet Real Estate
The 240-unit apartment complex is proposed for the current site of IQE PLC at northeast corner of Second Street and the Fahy Bridge.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A 240-unit apartment complex proposed in South Side Bethlehem on Thursday got the recommendation of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

The commission also approved recommendations for three proposed warehouse projects — two in Lower Nazareth Township and one in Lowhill Township.

  • Lehigh Valley Planning Commission approved recommendations of its Comprehensive Planning Committee on proposed apartment building and three warehouses
  • The 240-unit apartment is proposed to be built on a four-acre parcel at 119 Technology Drive in South Side Bethlehem
  • Two warehouses are proposed for Lower Nazareth Township with another in Lowhill Township

Thursday's votes accepted letters of recommendations from the planning commission's Comprehensive Planning Committee.
Recommendations for all projects will be forwarded to local governments for review.

Serfass Development of North Whitehall Township has proposed building the apartments on a 4-acre parcel at 119 Technology Drive, at the northeast corner of Second Street and the Fahy Bridge.

The site now is occupied by IQE PLC, a British-headquartered global supplier of advanced semiconductor wafers, which announced in 2020 it would suspend operations in Bethlehem by 2024.

'A bad example to rezone'

Serfass last month requested Bethlehem City Council to amend the city’s zoning code map from the property’s designated use as an Industrial Redevelopment zone to Central Business District, paving the way for the proposed apartments.

Darlene Heller, the city’s director of planning and zoning, has recommended the change to the city’s planning commission.

In a recent memo delivered to city council, Heller said the zoning change is paramount to the city’s desire to create areas “that are walkable from the downtown, SteelStacks, Banana Factory, and other community amenities.”

“I’m afraid this is a bad example to rezone for the wrong uses.”
Steve Melnick, chairman of the LVPC's Comprehensive Planning Committee

But Steve Melnick, chairman of the LVPC's Comprehensive Planning Committee, voted against his committee’s approval of the rezoning ordinance amendment.

“I’m afraid this is a bad example to rezone for the wrong uses,” Melnick said. “Even though we need apartments, I think it’s shortsighted to tear down that building and lose parking spaces. There’s also no mention in the proposal of affordable housing.”

Residents oppose warehouses

LVPC also heard from several residents who oppose the proposed warehouse projects in Lower Nazareth Township and Lowhill Township.

One would be a 450,000-square-foot warehouse at 523 Nazareth Pike, along Route 191 in Lower Nazareth Township. Another is a nearly 73,000-square-foot warehouse at 4215 Lonat Drive, near Route 191.

A third is proposed for Lowhill Township.

Residents complained about the warehouses bringing increased traffic to the area that they believe the current infrastructure can't handle.

Other concerns were complaints about delays that will be incurred by school buses and residents going to and from work.

Kim Weinberg of Weisenberg Township told commission members, “We are under attack by national developers with these massive warehouses that are encroaching on our townships in the Lehigh Valley.”

"This is a real disaster waiting to happen.”
Lowhill Township resident Bill Pleban

Weinberg noted the warehouse in Lowhill Township would be located where there are no municipal services such as police departments or fire companies.

“We don’t have public water in these townships,” she said. “We don’t have the proper infrastructure to handle all the trucks that are coming. We don’t have climbing lanes or deceleration lanes.

“We’re not against growth; we just want it planned out properly.”

Lowhill Township resident Bill Pleban said of the proposed warehouse: " This is a real disaster waiting to happen.”