(9th in a series of posts on 306 S. New St.)
Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.
I agree with Councilwoman Van Wirt’s assessment. While the immediacy of this matter was dealt with on December 18, improperly in my opinion, there is a much larger issue which we can call the “oops effect” and how future trustworthy relationships between residents, City Hall, and developers can expect to be built.
There are some elected officials in Bethlehem who regularly scoff at city ordinances, nearly always falling on the side of development with their words and actions. Often there is potential middle ground, but that point is ignored.
This isn’t a “CAVE” issue, it’s one of legality, fairness, and compliance so that development takes place that is compatible. Over decades I’ve watched as Monday morning quarterbacking has taken place over development projects in Bethlehem, where many have questioned what the thinking was or is.
The Southside CVS was built set back from the street as was the small strip mall in the 100 block of East 3rd Street. An oversized Rooney Building was plopped into the S. New Street neighborhood. An historic Broughal MS was demolished in favor of a modern over-sized school that doesn’t even have a regulation-size athletic field. The Armory on Prospect Avenue received an inordinate amount of variances with little respect shown to nearby residents. These are just a few examples of incompatible development, often where residents have questioned variances, scale, location, traffic and density. And in each case most public officials just rolled over.
We have zoning laws, historic district ordinances, and city planners in place to guide this process and define the end result, yet the laws and ordinances are ignored and circumvented, and city planners plan politically.
“Equal accountability under the law and true accountability” to residents is sadly lacking in this community.