Bethlehem: Corner store zoning amended
An amendment to the zoning code that would create more restrictions on what is allowed to occupy a corner store was unanimously approved to be sent to the planning committee at the Oct. 2 Bethlehem City Council meeting.
The zoning code that was passed in early August allowed use corner homes in residential neighborhoods to be used as businesses. The proposed amendment would exempt tattoo parlors and pawn shops from operating out of these corner stores.
The amendment comes after city residents such as Bruce Haines voiced complaints about the new zoning codes.
"I think it's important for this body to set the ground rules for what can and can't be in a corner store instead of allowing the decision to be left up to the zoning hearing board," Haines said. "There's already a provision that doesn't allow for a pawn shop within a mile of a casino, it seems only fair not to have a pawn shop next door to a residence."
Haines also asked that the council put in a residential component that would require the store owner to live on the second floor of the building, as in the mom and pop shops of old.
"I propose that it should be owner-occupied," Haines said. "That tended to be what a corner store was if we go back to the original concept. At the very least there should be someone residing at the facility. There are already provisions now for bed and breakfasts, for example, that do require the owner or operator to live there, so there are precedents in the zoning to require something like that."
A residential component was not part of council's proposed amendment, however.
The amendment was referred to the planning commission, which is scheduled to meet Oct. 11.
The council also unanimously approved the expansion of the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program, as well as changing the renewal period for the program from two years to five years.
"I think that this is the right thing for the city and I think we need to do everything we can as far as encouraging investment in these areas," councilman William Reynolds said.
LERTA's expansion will be along the eastern gateway of the city, which includes Daly Avenue, Lynn Avenue, Fifth Street and Edward Street. Third and Fourth streets from Hayes Street to the business district, as well as Wyandotte Street will be part of the expansion on the western side of the city.
The LERTA program allows companies to forgo paying property tax in the first year of new construction and then pay 10 percent more each year until they return to paying full property tax after a decade.