Zest is on Gadfly’s plate again (10)

(10th in a series of posts on 306 S. New St.)

Glenn Koehler, “Restaurant review: Zest delivers mouth-watering menu and eye-popping views.” Morning Call, February 12, 2019.

So Zest, the new restaurant atop 306 S. New St. that opened around Christmas/New Year’s is, for some, settling in to the Bethlehem scene.

For others it might never settle in.

The Call reporter says the food is “mouth-watering.”

For some the way the restaurant was built might forever leave a bad taste.

Do you remember the almost perfect storm that occurred on the verge of the restaurant opening? Gadfly covered it in some detail. There are 9 posts in the 306 S. New thread. You might want to refresh your memory. Gadfly will only provide a bare-bones account here.

306 S. New is in the southside historical district. The Historical Conservation Commission (HCC), concerned about the height of new buildings in the district, approved a 6-story building but with a recessed 6th floor to diminish the sense of height. City Council approved HCC approval. Later, Zest, the 6th floor tenant engaged by the building owner, submitted plans to the City encroaching on that recess. The plans should have been rejected, but the City mistakenly gave approval. Construction started and was somewhere in progress when the error was discovered, kicking the issue back to HCC. HCC denied the extension unanimously without any further recommendation of what to do or how to proceed. City Council then heard the case again. The owner/developer claimed ignorance of the recess provision, the restaurateur claimed ignorance as well as his large financial outlay and the planned upcoming opening, the City admitted its mistake. The Council was called upon to decide what to do – a decision framed as either support HCC’s denial or give permission for the originally unapproved design. Council voted 5-2 against the HCC decision and thus to allow construction to continue.

Now this was a hard case. If you will go back in the thread, you will see that Gadfly believed that, all things considered, realistically and pragmatically, there was nothing else Council could have done at that point. But you will find a strong counter-view there as well.

Move on, Gadfly, you’ll say. It’s water under the bridge. Zest is open, the food is mouth-watering, the view eye-popping, pitchers and catchers are heading to Florida, Spring is coming, the birds will be chirping. Move on.

The reason Gadfly can’t let this “case” go is that it highlights so well the recurring tension between development and history in the City, and a sense that many have that developers are shady, that developers get their way, that Council tends to buckle under to developers (and worse things are intimated), that historical ordinances aren’t worth the paper they were printed on and the breath with which they were conceived, that what the “people” want doesn’t matter.

So this is an important case.

Candidates for City Council take note.

And another reason Gadfly hasn’t been able to let this case go is that several aspects of it just don’t seem right, just won’t be smoothed over.

The only way Gadfly knows to seek closure, to let a problem go, is to write it out.

So please bear with him for a couple posts. He’s a slow methodical thinker.

Maybe there something important to be learned in this review.

One thought on “Zest is on Gadfly’s plate again (10)

  1. Agreed. But let’s remember that this building violates the zoning ordinance & the historic district guidelines, but was approved by the Historic Conservation Commission, the Planning Commission, and City Council. Apparently our ‘leaders’ are more concerned with the developer’s profits than with following the law.

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