(34th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)
“What is the standard against which a citizen petition is judged?”
Gadfly post #33
Gadfly’s focus on a “standard” in his previous post sent him – for the first time, really – to read deeply in our Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan this morning, assuming that these documents would be/should be touchstones in the 2 W. Market controversy.
Gadfly is not a lawyer, of course, just an average citizen like most of his followers, but he shares with you here some sections from these Constitution-like documents that seem to be relevant to this petition.
[A standard: “promote the public health, safety and general welfare.” Sections (i) and (j) specifically.]
1301.03 Purposes. The purposes of this Zoning Ordinance are to promote the public health, safety and general welfare by:
(a) Encouraging the most appropriate use of land.
(b) Preventing the overcrowding of land.
(c) Conserving the value of land and buildings.
(d) Lessening the congestion of traffic on the roads.
(e) Protecting important natural features.
(f) Providing for adequate light and air.
(g) Securing safety from fire, flood and other dangers.
(h) Facilitating the adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks and other public facilities.
(i) Giving reasonable consideration, among other things, to the character of districts and their peculiar suitability for particular uses.
(j) Guiding and regulating the orderly growth, development, and redevelopment of the city in accordance with the adopted Comprehensive Plan of the City of Bethlehem, and to serve the objectives and principles of such Plan.
(k) Carrying out the authorized purposes of a Zoning Ordinance, as provided in the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, as amended.
(l) Carrying out the purposes of the Pennsylvania Floodplain Management Act, as amended.
[The intention of the entire 1323 to “provide a gradual remedy for incompatibilities” relates to the opposition view that the purpose of zoning is aspirational, that is, to turn non-conforming uses into conforming ones when possible. It is not clear to me whether 1324.04 would include “office use” as “use,” but it does seem like a “new nonconformity.” The language of 1323.08 sounds applicable here.]
1323.01 Purposes. The regulations governing existing non-conforming uses are set forth in this Article and are intended to provide a gradual remedy for the incompatibilities resulting from such non-conforming uses. While such lawful uses are generally permitted to continue, these regulations are designed to avoid changes that could increase nuisances and hazards. These regulations are thus designed to preserve the character of the districts established in this Zoning Code in light of their peculiar suitability to particular uses, and thus to promote and protect health, safety, and general welfare.
(c) Any expansion of a nonconforming use or structure shall meet all required setbacks and all other requirements of this Ordinance. No new nonconformity shall be created.
1323.08 Displacement. No non-conforming use shall be extended to displace a conforming use.
[Establishes right of the individual petition.]
1326.02 Who May Initiate. Proposals for amendment or repeal may be initiated by City Council on its own motion, by the Planning Commission, or by petition of one or more citizens, subject to the following provisions:
[The introduction to the CP is relevant to the opposition position of aspirational planning and zoning — a look to a future different than conditions that existed in the past.]
What is a Comprehensive Plan?
Bethlehem’s new comprehensive plan charts a course for the future. The plan describes how Bethlehem should continue developing over the next decade. The plan also highlights what should not change – those community features the City should strive to preserve.
A Timely Update
Bethlehem last updated its citywide comprehensive plan in 1991. At that time, Bethlehem Steel was the City’s largest employer and landowner. Since Bethlehem Steel closed in 1998, the City has attracted millions of dollars of commercial and residential development. Bethlehem was a recent Money Magazine choice for one of America’s most livable cities. Today, the former Bethlehem Steel site is home to a prosperous business park with construction underway or planned for a variety of other uses. Numerous adaptive reuse projects have brought new life to both the City’s North Side and South Side downtown business areas. New housing, new cultural attractions and growth of the City’s major educational institutions continue to reshape Bethlehem. The next steps in Bethlehem’s growth promise to attract more new people and new investment to Bethlehem. The City looks to its updated comprehensive plan to help guide this ongoing renaissance.
The Zoning Ordinance is not an exciting read, but Gadfly recommends the Comprehensive Plan. Note that both are linked from the Gadfly sidebar for always easy access.