Bethlehem Press

Monday, January 21, 2019

Commission discounts mansion plan

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 by Nate Jastrzemski in Local News

During a two-and-a-half hour long meeting Jan. 22, developer Robin Reshetar and attorney Brad Lare, carrying a stack of placards bearing example architectural images, tried to sell their plan for developing the historic Grace mansion property on Fourth Street. The idea was to remove secondary structures, refurbish the mansion itself, and build a five-story apartment building only five feet away.

Though they largely listened patiently, some members were agitated from the start by Reshetar’s having returned for a second presentation without addressing any of their previously-aired grievances. Notably, they were unhappy with the lack of details, such as dimensions and accurate setbacks, and that five stories is considered too high a building for a historic district.

After repeated arguments, some members agreed that a carriage house maybe two porches could be sacrificed for a good project if they were built after the main mansion and are not considered architecturally significant. But it was noted they had been by previous historic officer Christine Ussler. Roger Hudak, joined by others, put his foot down and said bluntly, “Tell us why we should be listening to this presentation if you have not followed basic instructions.”

Following more discussion, members agreed to have another specialist review the parts of the property to for historic significance and let Reshetar return in the future with plans modified with consideration of their expectations.

The committee also agreed to allow changes to the Wyandotte Street New Bethany Ministries’ signage, and additional signs, so long as they conform to color and placement suggestions.

At the meeting’s start, members heard about revisions to a proposed new property at 13 W. Morton St. with a first-floor business and residences upstairs. For about an hour they talked about columns, façade, exterior lighting, parapets, cornices and transoms.

The committee agreed applicant Andrew Twiggar had made a lot of progress, and accepted many elements with some suggestions, but wanted to see more explicit definitions, specific materials to be used and scale drawings.

Obtaining a certificate of appropriateness is only a first step for business owners and residents in a designated historic district who wish to make alterations to a building’s exterior. The BHCC’s recommendations are later reviewed, then voted on by city council before any project is allowed to proceed. The group meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at city hall.