The Mayor finds his “No”

(The latest in a series of posts on the Southside and Neighborhoods)

ref: The Planning Commission couldn’t find its “No”

But the Mayor did find his “no.”

Ashley Stalnecker, “Bethlehem mayor opposes proposal for student housing in residential neighborhood near Lehigh University.” Morning Call,  June 23, 2019.

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez wants board members to reject an appeal at the upcoming Bethlehem zoning meeting that would pave the way for more student housing on a sloped street near Lehigh University.

“The plan as presented is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood development which consists of single family detached homes,” he said in the June 19 letter. “The project more than doubles the density of these four parcels when combined.”

At a Planning Commission meeting this month, residents voiced concerns that bringing students to the area would add to an already overloaded parking situation. The board voted 2-1 to advance the proposal to the zoning board with no action for or against. Vice Chairman Matthew Malozi cast the lone no vote because he did not believe the project would fit with the community.

Now this is interesting.

Gadfly agrees with the Mayor’s petition, as will be obvious from Gadfly’s post on the Planning Commission meeting referred to and linked above.

For one thing, Gadfly is glad to see an official negative response to a developer. Gadfly was upset by the Commission decision (well, 2 of 3 members) when the evidence so clearly required a negative vote (at the very least, negative commentary) .

But two mayoral decisions within a few days makes Gadfly wonder about the role the Mayor’s position has in Planning and Zoning decisions.

Is it suggestive? influential? determinative?

Coming from someone just like us or from He-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed?

Gadfly was troubled by the recent 9th-inning Administrative (Mayor?) affirmation of a developer proposal in the 2 W. Market case.

Now in the 1st Terrace case, on the other hand, he gets a position he likes from the Administration.

So it gets him wondering about the principle and the practice involved here.

I believe Planning and Zoning are designed to be independent.

What is the relation between the Mayor and these groups in general? Is his input welcome, helpful, or disruptive — especially since, in this upcoming case, it comes before the ZHB has heard a word of testimony? Should he be weighing in personally at all?

A City official sits at the head table at Planning meetings. Gadfly has been at Planning meetings at which a report from the City professional staff has been presented. Gadfly, frankly, is not quite sure that he has heard such official make definitive statements that the PC either should or should not approve a proposal. Gadfly’s memory sense is that such positions are communicated more softly.

But the Mayor is upfront and direct.

Here in the 1at Terrace case, though I very much agree with the Mayor’s position and hope it prevails, his letter, coming before the Board has heard any testimony, seems peremptory.

More on this upcoming hearing shortly.

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