Van Buren townhouses approved
South Bethlehem is on track to gain a new housing development adjacent to Lehigh University. The Zoning Hearing Board Oct. 23 unanimously approved local developer Louis Intile’s plan to demolish the existing structures on Van Buren Street between Taylor and Polk streets and build seven 2,100-square-foot, five-bedroom townhouses with expected completion in fall 2020.
This project was the sole item on the board’s meeting agenda with most of the session consumed by a single issue – do these buildings qualify under the Zoning Ordinance as townhouses or multi-family dwellings? The latter would require variances for set-back distances, street parking and other items, while the former would not. Intile and his attorney, Jim Preston, successfully argued against the multi-family classification.
Neighbor Charles Barhight gave testimony to the board, stating that the proposed five-unit row on the western side of the development will abut his house on Taylor Street, which he said has already suffered multiple strikes by cars.
“Where there is zero space between the parking and our boundary line... our house will continue to get hit even more on a regular basis. There just isn’t room to pull in there adequately,” said Barhight. Thus, with the consent of Intile, the board created buffers by modifying the site plan to eliminate the small parking spaces on either end of the row.
According to Intile, the buildings slated for demolition, 305-307, 311 and 321 Van Buren Street, are bordering on blighted. Referencing the ongoing “Bethlehem Renaissance,” Intile said, “...we are pushing really hard to redevelop these properties. You have major issues in the attic, roof leaks, hundred-year-old wiring, functionally obsolete bedrooms that can barely hold a twin bed, low ceilings, outdated plumbing and HVAC.”
He also stated during the hearing that providing high quality housing affordable for students is a major goal of his company, Fifth Street Capital Partners.