Zoners nix digital billboard
DUring an Aug. 30 hearing, Lamar Advertising's Meg Kyle was unable to persuade Bethlehem zoners to allow a digital billboard near Route 22, at 2224 Industrial Drive. Despite her promises to run the FBI's Most Wanted list and other public announcements, a unanimous board refused to see the light.
Testimony during the hearing established that the proposed billboard would be approximately 500 feet away from another digital display, in violation of a zoning ordinance that requires a separation of 1,000 feet.
Attorney Jim Holzinger, representing competitor Tri-Outdoor, provided zoners with case law in which courts have strictly interpreted ordinances establishing distances between billboards. He argued that Lamar would have to establish a hardship, no matter how many public service announcements are displayed.
Holzinger said there already are two freestanding and four wall signs at the site. Zoning board member Linda Shay Gardner questioned the relevance of other signs, to which Holzinger answered, "We don't want drivers distracted."
Currently, there are six digital billboards in Bethlehem owned by Adams Outdoor and Tri-Outdoor.
Kyle vowed to return with an application for a static billboard.
In other business, zoners gave Lehigh Valley Community Mental Health Centers (LVCMHC) a green light for administrative offices and a training facility at the former St. John's Capistrano Church, located at 902-910 E. Fourth St. President Melissa Martinez assured zoners that "no client services" will be provided at the site.
Established in 1996, LVCMHC has five locations, with its biggest located directly across the street from the church. Martinez estimates that 10-15 new jobs will be added to the 40-person employment roster at her company.
Realtor Connie Ulans told zoners that Bethlehem refuses to allow church demolitions, but they are actually "albatrosses" that are difficult to sell. She noted that the church is too large to convert to a house economically.
After approving LVCMHC's application, zoners unanimously agreed to allow Rachel Haddad to maintain 1210 Linden St. as a two-unit dwelling, even though it is well below the 6,000 square feet required.
Haddad purchased 1210 Linden St. as an investment property. It was listed as a two-unit building in county and multi-list records. She met the tenant of the upstairs apartment. She saw the separate kitchens, bathrooms and doors. But at closing, she learned for the first time that city records consider it a single family dwelling
Her realtor, Tom Demshock, testified that the entire block was built by a developer who put up multi-family units. He also produced a city directory establishing that, since at least 1949, there were two units at the site.
Attorney Thomas Schlegel, representing Haddad, argued that the expense of deconversion justified a variance. "I would not want to eject a tenant who's been there for 30 years," she said.
She won't have to, because zoners unanimously agreed to a variance for a two-unit dwelling.
Zoners gave David Burian a green light for an enclosed porch at the rear of his residence on 1930 Fenway Ave. They will permit retired educator George "Skip" John to build a porch roof at the rear of his 5 E. Taurus St. residence. Finally, they allowed Richard and Elizabeth Elterich to construct an addition to their home at 2705 Lafayette Ave.
Elizabeth sat through a number of hearings on two different nights before her case was heard. Zoners apologized for making her wait, but she responded, "It was a great civics lesson."