After two nights of testimony, Bethlehem’s Zoning Hearing Board Dec. 12 cleared the way for a 70-unit apartment complex at what used to be called the Floyd Simons Armory on Second Avenue. The board voted 3-0 to grant numerous dimensional variances The biggest of these allows the project to move forward with 99 on-site parking spots instead of the required 123. Voting in support were Bill Fitzpatrick, Jim Schantz and Attorney Mike Santanasto. Two other members of the board, Gus Loupos and Attorney Linda Shay Gardener, were unable to participate.
Mary Toulouse teaches French at Lafayette College. But on Nov. 30, as president of Bethlehem’s Mount Airy Neighborhood Association (MANA), she gave a history lesson to the city’s Zoning Hearing Board. It concerned the Armory, a National Historic Landmark located at 345 Second Ave. Peron Development is seeking a special exception and 11 dimensional variances for a four-story, 70 unit apartment complex at the 2.57 acre site. There will be 50 one-bedroom and 20 two-bedroom units.
One of the biggest issues in November’s election was Executive John Brown’s plans for a new jail at Gracedale. Did he want to build there or not? Brown had told council last spring that he had visited a dozen different locations and had ruled out a new jail in Easton. He would build on a greenfield. In July, prison advisory board chair Dan Christenson called Gracedale a great location.
Until he resigned in July 2016, David Tidd was Magisterial District Judge in Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township. It was a position he had held since 2009. He should be there now. But he stepped down because of an ethics inquiry that resulted in 13 separate charges against him. Following five days of testimony, Tidd was cleared by Pennsylvania’s Court of Judicial Discipline recently of all violations, except for one instance in which he angrily confronted his staff.
Twelve-year-old Emma Raymondo was a seventh-grader at Easton MS, a member of the Junior National Honor Society and a high yellow belt at the Lehigh Valley Martial Arts School. On Sept. 22, while she and her siblings were walking home from an ice cream trip to the Sheetz Convenience Store along Route 248 in Palmer Township, she was struck and killed by a person whom Palmer Police believe was distracted by his cellphone
At its Nov. 27 meeting, Northampton County’s nine-member Gaming Board awarded $530,834.40 in “impact” grants to the municipalities surrounding Bethlehem’s Sands Casino. But they may have played Santa Claus for the last time.
Drug overdose deaths have increased sharply in the Lehigh Valley since 2014, according to records maintained by both the Northampton and Lehigh county coroners. These fatalities have increased sharply even though drug overdose reversal kits have been widely available and have been used by first responders over the past year.
What’s Northampton County doing about the opioid crisis? That question stumped County Council candidates at a recent debate. But Tiffany Rossanese can answer that question. She’s the Administrator of Northampton County Drug and Alcohol program. She updated council members Nov. 16 on what her department is doing to combat America’s heroin epidemic.
Commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 20 to advertise a budget for next year that holds the line on taxes for a second year in a row. But to do so, officials will have to dip into cash reserves. They will start 2018 with an opening cash balance of $3.2 million, but expect to have only a little over $2 million left at the end of the year.
The spending plan will maintain the current real estate tax of 7.09 mills. According to Finance Director Andrew Freda, this translates to an annual tax bill of $647 for the average taxpayer.
Without a business plan or feasibility study in hand, Northampton County Council is nevertheless considering a $1 million grant for the Da Vinci Science Center project in Easton. An ordinance establishing the grant was introduced at the Nov. 16 meeting. Payments would be made in $100,000 increments over the next 10 years. The money would come from hotel taxes, not real estate taxes. Hotel taxes may only be used for projects that promote regional tourism.
The proposal is similar to a grant that helped fund SteelStacks and PBS-39 in South Bethlehem.