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Lehigh Valley Local News

Proposed Allen Township warehouse project advances

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Becky Bradley
Jay Bradley
Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Becky Bradley in file photo

ALLEN TWP., Pa. — A proposal for construction of a nearly 300,000-square-foot warehouse in Allen Township advanced Tuesday to review by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.

The draft review by the LVPC Comprehensive Planning Committee examined plans for a 295,760-square-foot building at 2893 Howertown Road in the Northampton Business Center.

The proposed complex is under construction and partly operational, the draft review showed.

The applicant, JW Development Partners LLC., proposes construction of the warehouse as well as enhancement of parking for tractor-trailers, loading docks and the addition of a parking lot on Lot 3 of the four-lot parcel, the draft showed.

Upon review, the LVPC recommended signage to notify commercial vehicles waiting or needing to stage that spaces are available.

The review recommended the developer plan to have emergency access drives and provide necessary charging stations for electric vehicles.

The LVPC strongly recommended sidewalks be added leading to Howertown Road and the access point across from Cesanek Road and that sidewalks be included from the Liberty Drive existing sidewalks to the western side of the proposed building.

The LVPC also recommended pavement-marked crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signage across Howertown Road leading the established sidewalks along Cesanek Road.

Given that a part of the property is within a farmland preservation area, the LVPC recommended it remains predominantly agricultural.

Committee backs apartment limits

In other business, the Comprehensive Planning Committee had multiple concerns upon reviewing a New Jersey-based developer’s petition to amend a zoning ordinance in Bethlehem in order to build an apartment complex.

The property at 2300 Hanover Ave. would straddle the border of Bethlehem and Allentown, with mostly parking on the Allentown side and apartment units in Bethlehem.

The project by BAHX LLC, of Morris County, New Jersey, plans for 317 apartments and 550 parking spaces. The complex would be a four-building, five-story development.

At issue is BAHX’s plan to put up structures as long as 290 feet at the planned Hanover Apartments development.

The plan surpasses the 180-feet limit allowed in a Limited Commercial zone by Bethlehem.

The project would affect properties along Easton Avenue, Stefko Boulevard, West Broad Street and East Fourth Street, the review said.

This month, the attorney for the proposed Hanover Apartments development called a length limit on apartments “arbitrary” and asked Bethlehem Planning Commission to change it.

However, the commission voted 4-1 to recommend rejecting the call for a curative zoning code text amendment to eliminate the maximum building length.

'Restricts property rights'

BAHX subsequently filed a curative amendment, which permits a landowner to challenge a municipality’s zoning ordinance.

It argued that the ordinance does not provide for all uses or for a reasonable share or mix of a specific use or uses, and suggested a “cure” as an amendment to the zoning ordinance.

The curative amendment filed by BAHX would facilitate redevelopment of the site into four multifamily buildings, each five stories tall and 208 to 286 feet long.

“The LVPC disagrees that the 180-foot length limitation on residential apartment buildings in the CL District is arbitrary and unreasonable."
Jill Seitz, LVPC senior community planner

The buildings would consist of 317 one- and two- bedroom units, and the proposal would include about 1.75 acres of combined active and passive recreation areas and 556 parking spaces.

The amendment challenges the Bethlehem city zoning ordinance “on the grounds the ordinance arbitrarily and unreasonably restricts [the] petitioner's property rights,” the petitioner said.

The LVPC found that while the proposed higher density multi-family residential land use has the potential to align with FutureLV: The Regional Plan, the reasoning of the curative amendment does not appear to have merit, and the ordinance amendment conflicts with public health, safety and welfare.

“The LVPC disagrees that the 180-foot length limitation on residential apartment buildings in the CL District is arbitrary and unreasonable,” wrote Jill Seitz, LVPC senior community planner.

“The purpose of the CL District as stated in the city’s zoning ordinance is ‘To provide for less intensive types of commercial uses in areas that include many existing homes or small lots that are immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods. The intent is to control uses that are most likely to generate nuisances or hazards for nearby residents, such as 24-hour operations.’”

'I think that's pretty dangerous'

If enacted, the curative amendment may adversely affect several other areas of the city, is not in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare, and does not align with FutureLV, Seitz said.

Several members of the Comprehensive Planning Committee voiced strong objection to the plan.

“They want to develop something that’s consistent with our plan,” Amato said. “But they want to do something more, which doesn’t align with our existing plan."
LVPC Chairman Christopher R. Amato

“I always look at requests of this nature by developers, and they usually don’t have the public interests in mind — only their own,” planning commission Vice Chairman said John Gallagher said.

LVPC Executive Director Becky A. Bradley said, "They’re not just asking the city. They filed a curative amendment to force the city because they didn’t get the answer they wanted.”

Bethlehem Planning Director Darlene Heller said, “Our summary and conclusion is very similar" to that of the LVPC.

LVPC Chairman Christopher R. Amato was even more forceful in his objection to the plan.

“They want to develop something that’s consistent with our plan,” Amato said. “But they want to do something more, which doesn’t align with our existing plan.

“They had to know this. So now they’re asking the city to change the law. I think that’s pretty dangerous.”

Mobile homes

The Comprehensive Planning Committee also reviewed a second curative amendment regarding a developer seeking to create a mobile home park in Palmer Township.

Lehigh Valley developer Abe Atiyeh proposes placing 182 mobile homes at 1492 Van Buren Road.

The township’s revised zoning ordinance from 2023 does not allow for mobile home parks anywhere in the township.

Among the concerns of the LVPC planning committee regarding a mobile home park at the site are traffic, noise and environmental impacts.

The challenge to the township’s zoning ordinance is without merit, and does not align with FutureLV: The Regional Plan, the LVPC review said.