Northampton County is famous for its cacophony and dissonance, but Aug. 22 was an unusually harmonious day. It occurred, strangely enough, during the dedication of a new, 100-bed treatment center for drunk drivers and domestic relations offenders in tiny West Easton Borough. The person who set the tone was West Easton's 73-year-old mayor, Gerry Gross.
During the dog days of summer, when temperatures soar, the alluring aroma of garbage beckons. That's when municipalities with several trash haulers, like Bethlehem Township, wonder whether they would be better off with just one. Township commissioners considered that option during a hot July in 1999 and in 2008. And at their Aug. 6 meeting they dabbled in a bit of trash talkin' yet again.
You won't see his name mentioned too often in the newspapers, and that's the way Bethlehem Township Manager Howard Kutzler likes it. Like many of his counterparts in local government, this 47-year-old father of two is happiest when he's working behind the scenes. He's a Konkrete Kid, having graduated from Northampton HS. He's also a West Virginia University Mountaineer.
QHow did you get interested in local government?
At a time in which it's getting increasingly difficult to find volunteers, Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Co. has added a new firefighter to its rolls. At the Aug. 6 commissioners' meeting, the first thing President Paul Weiss did was administer the oath to John Halleman IV, age 32.
A 1997 Notre Dame HS graduate, Halleman's interest in firefighting was sparked by a distant relative. He and his wife, April, have been married a year and have just moved into the township.
The southeast corner of Center Street and Dewberry Avenue, once part of a sleepy cemetery, is now the most hotly litigated piece of property in Bethlehem. Frustrated residents, normally very cordial, lashed out against owner Abe Atiyeh during an Aug. 16 meeting of the Planning Commission. But neither he nor anyone from his sundry business concerns was present, despite having submitted plans for review. Atiyeh, who has zoning approval for an assisted living facility at the 5-acre site, has abandoned that project as a result of market conditions.
When David "Nature Dave" Gorczynski walked into two downtown Easton banks, dressed in black, with a sign saying "You're being robbed," all he wanted was attention. That's what he told police when they apprehended him in a Bank of America parking lot Aug. 6.
He was charged with two counts of attempted robbery, terroristic threats and disorderly conduct. He was also jailed briefly, until he posted bail.
When Hanover Township Supervisors met on July 24, they directed their solicitor to terminate their legal challenge to Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). That's where developer J.B. Reilly has plans for office buildings, a luxury hotel and housing.
But that's not all.
Supervisors also approved plans for Reilly's 55+ active adult community on Bridle Path Road, located next to the former St. Frances Academy.
Bethlehem zoners have denied a use variance that would have permitted developer Abe Atiyeh to relocate his offices from Whitehall Manor to a residence at the northeast corner of Center Street and Dewberry Avenue. Following a three-hour hearing July 23, attended by approximately 40 neighborhood opponents, Atiyeh's application was denied by a 4-0 vote.
Hanover Township got the ball rolling. It was the first municipality to support a legal challenge to Allentown's controversial Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ). A creature of a 2009 state law that could only ever apply to Allentown, it authorized the diversion of all earned income taxes from workers inside a 130-acre NIZ, even those who reside outside the Queen City.
Sixteen townships and boroughs, along with a school district, eventually joined this litigation.
Wegmans thinks of everything. Though customers love those oatmeal raisin cookies and Chuckles candy bars, they can still have perfect smiles. That's because Dr. Luis J. Alvarez will be moving his orthodontist offices to Stoke Park Road and Wegmans Drive, right across the street from the upscale grocer. Following a July 26 hearing, Hanover zoners unanimously granted dimensional variances from setback requirements.
Representing Alvarez, Attorney Christine Durso argued that the irregular, flagpole-shaped lot, makes those variances necessary.