Disruptive student housing a concern
Unscheduled business dominated city council’s July 16 meeting, when citizen-speakers took the floor and expressed concerns ranging from plastic bags to cunbridled development ruining neighborhoods in South Bethlehem through construction of “luxury” student housing.
Elizabeth Behrend, with the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), spoke about the proposed city ban on use of plastic bags given to consumers at the point of sale. According to Behrend, Pennsylvania “lawmakers snuck a three-paragraph provision into the 2020 state budget which would prohibit municipal bans or taxes on plastic bags for one year while legislative agencies study the impact ... on the [state’s] economy.”
Behrend said she would like to see the city “move forward with the proposal from the EAC and include language that says our ordinance will go into effect on July 1, 2020”
The other hot topic, introduced by Montclair Avenue resident Anne Evans, was what she and other home owners see as too many Lehigh University students renting rooms in neighborhood homes.
“Neighborhoods with a mix of students and residents can work, but thats not what we have ended up with around Lehigh University,” said Evans.
“The first step is to get developers, like the developer of First Terrace, to respect the integrity of the neighborhood and their neighbors who have made their homes there for many years.”
Evans was talking about tentative plans by Lehigh Property Management LLC to raze four homes on First Terrace and replace them with eight townhomes, each with five bedrooms.
Other residents told stories of students trashing streets with post-party litter, and of students defecating and urinating in yards.
Hillside Avenue resident Seth Mogle asked the city to “develop tools to combat predatory student housing developers.”
Resident Christine Handler saw no need for luxury student housing units. “I don’t want to leave [my home] until I’m dragged out feet first.”
A phone call requesting additional information from Lehigh Property Management, LLC was not returned.
Bethlehem resident Connie Daniels complained of “property blight” caused by “slumlords” in the area along Wyandotte Street and the Five Points neighborhood in Southside Bethlehem.
She also wants the city to “knock on doors [to] find out what the problem is.” She suggested the city should help seniors bring their property up to par.