Closing the book on 2 W. Market St.

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Just kidding.

But the longest-running zoning case in Bethlehem history did end its latest chapter February 26th.

Closing lawyer-jargon-heavy final arguments by all sides. Nothing really intelligible for people like us.

Then the vote went 3-0 to uphold the zoning amendment that permits a business at 2 W. Market in a residential district.

Written report due within 45 days. Gadfly has never seen a Zoning Hearing Board report and hopes to get a copy for us to review.

Will there be an appeal?

Will Gadfly live to see this controversy finally settled?

How did the Hatfield/McCoy feud stop?

But fighting for control of and the quality of life in your neighborhood is sacred work.

Score one for the corner-store ordinance!

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Sara K. Satullo, “There’s a new corner bakery in Bethlehem.” lehighvalleylive.com., February 4, 2020.  (with lots of photos — thanks, Sara!)

Gadfly was thinking about the 2 W. Market case Saturday afternoon.

It’s been out of the news almost a month and won’t return till the decision of the Zoning Board February 26.

Gadfly was thinking about it because a new store opened in his neighborhood, a bakery — “Charlie’s Bakery” — at 1401 High, corner of High and Greenwich.

Why was Gadfly thinking about the majestic 2 W. Market in the historical district when a bakery opened in a modest location in the hinterlands?

Because it’s a corner store taking advantage of the relatively new corner-store ordinance specifically designed to return such properties to their former and original commercial use.

And because 2 W. Market is trying to take advantage of the relatively new corner-store ordinance to establish a business where there was never one.

Charlie’s Bakery is precisely the kind of use for which the corner-store ordinance was designed, a space historically commercial but turned residential being returned to its commercial use.

Gadfly’s 50-year-old kids still easily remember Miller’s store where a clerk who dispensed the candy was so much a “character” that she earned from them a (not so nice) nick-name.

One would think that anybody can see that the High St. building style (shaved corner entrance, side windows) on the left for which the corner-store ordinance was designed is not the same as the Market St. property. Anybody but our Zoning Board and City Council.

From all angles, the High St. building was obviously designed for first-floor commercial use.

We wish Charlie well. When Gadfly passed while taking his constitutional Saturday afternoon the store was closed, with two disappointed would-be patrons chatting outside.

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SOLD OUT!

Music to the ears of the new businessman.

Good luck, Charlie

Breaking news: 2 W. Market

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Finally, after almost 20 hrs. of meetings, both sides “rested” at the Zoning Hearing Board last night.

Gadfly joked with Board members before the meeting that maybe his coverage of this case would end at the round number of 100 posts.

Looks like that may happen.

The Board looks to make a decision at their February 26 meeting.

Nothing to report from last night except another night of gritty pick-and-shovel lawyering.

And relief that the end is near.

It may come down to which precedent the Zoning Hearing Board chooses to apply to the 2 W. Market case

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Gadfly has downsizing work to do. He keeps hoping for resolution of the 2 W. Market case. At least at the local level. Whatever happens here, the case will no doubt fly into the court system. And we’ll lose sight of it for a while.

His eyes are focused on tonight. Can we get to closing arguments, please?

But Gadfly thinks there is one more piece that you will be interested in, you who see this case as important to such questions as whether you have any control over your neighborhood, whether zoning laws matter, whether City Hall is for or agin’ you.

And you who are kind of nerdy like he is.

Remember that in skeletal form what’s happening here in this phase of a longstanding argument is that neighbors are questioning the validity of an amendment to the zoning code that enables the owners of 2 W. Market to operate a financial service office in a residential neighborhood.

Now this case has generated a truck load of testimony.

You who are more recent Gadfly followers should look at this chart of testimony of just one meeting done when Gadfly was much younger and intoxicated with his power to help people come to a decision about the controversy: Chart of 11-20-18 testimony . It’s from a post entitled Gadfly’s Study Guide to the 11/20 Council Hearing on 2 W. Market. A post that won an honorable mention at the northeast regional conference of The Gaddies, our national organization.

So the neighbors’ attorney wanted to use a large portion of such testimony — our voices — in the attempt to invalidate the amendment favorable to the Marketers.

The neighbors’ attorney had a document of several hundred pages (Gadfly’s testimony itself took 12 pages) of transcribed testimony — our voices — over several Planning Commission and City Council meetings that he wanted to introduce into the ZHB record.

The marketers vigorously objected. And it would seem to Gadfly that the Zoning Hearing Board is on the side of the Marketers.

As Gadfly understands it, the Marketers want to exclude all (or as much as they can) of the negative testimony that led up to the approving vote on the amendment by City Council. That would exclude all (or mostly all) of the resident voices  — our voices — testifying against the Marketers.

The past does not matter, say the Marketers, a past that the neighbors would argue is full of problematic aspects that call into question the very basis on which Council passed the amendment.

It does not matter whether the amendment was immorally or illegally passed, according to this position. It was passed. That’s it. Get over it. (Hmmm, where in the national dialogue has Gadfly heard that phrase before?) Move on to subsequent events.

The Marketers argue that the clock starts anew with the passage of the amendment, that the reasons and motives on which the amendment was passed are not relevant. The Marketers would start this case with the notion that the amendment as passed is valid.

Now we have seen in a recent post what the impact of such a ruling can have, the post in which we see Mr. Haines sparring with the opposition attorneys AND the ZHB over the relevance of the influential role the Mayor played in passage of the amendment. Such testimony is not acceptable according to this position.

Another example of this view of the restricted legal basis of neighbor testimony  — our voices — is what happened to Gadfly #2 Bill Scheirer.

Scheirer was “precluded” from testifying. Precluded! He came to the big dance dressed up with a prepared statement and was refused admission at the door.

A usually gentle and calm but now exasperated Mr. Scheirer (you know him, you’ve seen him in action) had one word for the proceeding as he exited the arena! One word! Click here to find out what it was.

We are pleased to include here for history the full text of Mr. Scheirer’s precluded testimony: Statement of Bill Scheirer

So each side has its legal precedent. For the Marketers, it’s Streck v. Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners, 1804 C.D.2011, 1809 C.D.2011. (2012), in which we find “the court will not inquire into the motives [reasons] of a municipal legislative body in making zoning changes.”

The neighbors have Baker v. Chartiers Tp. Zon. Hearing Bd., 677 A.2d 1274 , in which we find as a reason an amendment was invalidated “the failure of the Board of Supervisors to provide a full and fair examination of the impact which the rezoning would have on adjacent properties.”

Which will the ZHB go with? Gadfly feels the ZHB has already shown strong leaning to  the Marketer’s case.

Gadfly finds this back-and-forth legal arguing fascinating and invites you to hear the lawyers lay out their cases. In the following video clip, the ZHB solicitor raises the question of what kind of testimony the ZHB should listen to, and then the attorneys for the City/Marketers and for the neighbors respectively make their pitches.

to be continued . . .

A tough question for the City’s witness: “You have a financial interest in this, don’t you?”

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What did you think of the testimony of Mrs. Virgilio, the sole resident witness put on by the City/Marketers?

If I were to boil her testimony down, I’d say Mrs. Virgilio feels it’s ok for a financial service office to operate out of 2 W. Market even though it’s in an area zoned residential because it’s a commercial area and because it has raised property values.

Would you agree with the way Gadfly put it?

Last post I asked you to use Google to “see” what Mrs. Virgilio sees. Now see the area  through the City zoning map. (Have you ever seen the zoning map. Pretty interesting.) Yellow is residential; the other (pink?) is commercial.

2 W. Market 3

Now Mrs. Virgilio “sees” the New and Market intersection as commercial even though 3 of the corners are zoned residential. Councilman Callahan said basically the same thing at a key Council meeting long ago and even extended his purview of the commercial area west on Market toward Main, saying something like “you can’t tell me W. Market St here is residential.”

Here is the audio of the cross examination of Mrs. Virgilio by the neighbors’ attorney.

The attorney makes several points in that cross examination:

  • Though there was a dentist office in the Virgilio B&B before they bought the property, it would not be allowed now by law.
  • Verizon is in the business district, and Glemser bldg and the law offices are grandfathered, so they have no legal bearing on 2 W.
  • Though there is a longstanding law office near the B&B, a new one would not be allowed there now by law.
  • Though Mrs. Virgilio testified that there was no “commercial creep” in the neighborhood, the recent opening of a financial service office at 2  W. itself is indeed an example of commercial creep.

Valid points, Gadfly thought.

But, climatically, the neighbors’ attorney focused on what for Gadfly was precisely his big takeaway from Mrs. Virgilio’s testimony when he asked, “You have a financial interest in this, don’t you?” Go back to the last post and look at her stress on increased property values under examination by the City attorney. Did you notice that?

For Mrs. Virgilio the touchstone is money, thought Gadfly. Hmmm.

Her answer to this question of whether she had a financial interest in the approval of the Marketer’s presence — delivered with emphasis and urgency as if it was a stupid question — almost jolted Gadfly out of his seat with its dollar-sign clarity:

Isn’t that the whole idea of buying property?

A rhetorical question. As if the answer could be nothing but a “yes.” But Gadfly, sitting in the cheap seats, was about ready to shout “NO.”

The principal purpose of buying property is to make money? Not always.

Mrs. Virgilio is a businesswoman. Ok, you buy a property as a businesswoman, and you hope to build on your investment.

She was answering with honesty and complete transparency.

But if you are buying a “home,” you have a lot of other values in mind, the kind of things a long line of neighbors talked about in meeting after meeting embodied in references to a sense of community, eyes on the street, borrowing cups of sugar, shoveling sidewalks, watching each others’ kids, and so forth.

A “neighborhood” for a prospective home owner and for a prospective businesswoman would mean two different things.

Mrs. Virgilio admits of such when she says if she was looking for a place to raise kids, she wouldn’t have bought there.

But kids have been raised in the 2 W. Market house. The previous owner Schadts had one or maybe two children there. One testified several times, and Gadfly believes another may have done so once.

The Romerils (Martin testified  last meeting) were raised on the block. Ms. Van Wirt, also a prior testifier, is now raising kids on the block.

More importantly, by her own admission at the beginning of her testimony, Mrs. Virgilio herself raised three sons at the intersection of New and Market.

So, children can and have been raised at the intersection of New and Market. One can have a home there.

New and Market is residential.

The fact that a street has double yellow lines, the fact that a street has parking meters, the fact that a street has a bus stop does not make an area commercial to Gadfly’s way of thinking.

So Gadfly was no more moved by Mrs. Virgilio’s testimony here than he was similar testimony by many more people during the original stages of this controversy.

And he doesn’t see that she goes anywhere to rebutting the two main conclusions of the neighbors’ expert witness.

Here’s the full interchange between the attorney and Mrs. Virgilio:

Attorney: You have a financial interest in this, don’t you, in that a financial service office has been placed diagonally across from your property that has now increased the value of your property?

Mrs. Virgilio: Isn’t that the whole idea of buying property?

Attorney: Well, isn’t the whole idea of when you buy into a residential neighborhood that it remains residential?

Mrs. Virgilio: I think I stated up front that when we purchased our property we purchased it with the idea of putting a business in there. It was already a business when we purchased it, and we purchased it with the intent of continuing it as a different type of business, but it would still be a business. I already said if we were looking to buy a home as a residence to raise our children, we would have never looked at New and Market.

The case for the defense: the 2 W. Market St. neighborhood is “very commercial”

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Gadfly spent another long night Wednesday at the Zoning Hearing Board at which the owner of 2 W. Market St., the neighbors of 2 W. Market St., and the City are locked like Middle East countries in a feud of such longstanding duration that it’s almost impossible to remember anymore what the core issues are.

Those issues are lost in the legal weeds. Gadfly invites you to peek at the last 45 minutes of Wednesday’s meeting (begin around min. 4:15:00), for a mind-numbing City-lawyer-led tour of city properties by a civil engineer, who, rather amazingly, was permitted to testify as an expert witness on zoning.

Gadfly assumes this kind of thing was necessary for the City to make its case and the attorney to earn his keep, but it was not spectator-friendly. God bless the Board members. One of whom appears to be looking for divine intervention during this punishing latter testimony. One could better hope that he has discovered the beauty in the Town Hall ceiling that Dana Grubb has just revealed to us.

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There was no resolution Wednesday night. We look forward to another try at such next Monday night.

“Some people may wonder why this matters so much and see it as a tempest in a teapot,” neighbor team member Barbara Diamond says in yesterday’s explanatory post in this series.

Yes, some of you Gadfly followers ARE wondering that. Couldn’t we all be making better use of our time, you ask?

Yes, Gadfly hears that.

So what is the City/Marketer case?

Gadfly has done exhaustive presentation of the Marketer position in past posts when as many as 12 or 15 residents testified in their favor at previous meetings. See here for one example among many posts.

But the City/Marketers only presented one testifier this time.

So — since in Gadville we always try to present all sides — let’s look at the testimony of Suzanne Virgilio, owner of the Bethlehem Inn Bed & Breakfast catercorner from 2 W. Market, the sole resident witness put on by the City.

But, first, let’s familiarize ourselves with the 2 W. Market “neighborhood.”

2 W. Market is at the corner of New and Market. Gadfly bets we all have passed it scores if not hundreds of times.

But let’s try to “see” it right now before listening to Virgilio. If the technology works, click here for the google map in (I hope) the mode that will enable you to travel east and west on Market as well as north and south on New. (If the link doesn’t work, you can google-map 2 W. Market yourself and maneuver around in the street view.)

The idea is to see what Virgilio sees as she stands at the intersection of New and Market.

Ok, now listen to her testimony.

Gadfly apologizes that his camera position and YouTube’s choice of image make Mrs. Virgilio look like a mob informant secretly testifying before a Congressional committee

  • “Our objective in purchasing the property was to run a bed & breakfast at that location.”
  • “We did so specifically at this location because it was a great business location.”
  • “If we were looking to buy a home to raise our children in, we would not have chosen this location.”
  • “But it was ideal for business.”

How would you characterize the nature of the neighborhood?

  • “Obviously we’re within the historic district, but within the historic district there’s many different personalities.”
  • “That’s what makes it very appealing . . . in a downtown area you can live on a residential street, but you also can live in a more commercial area.”
  • “Which is how I characterize the neighborhood at the corner of New and Market.”
  • “It’s a very commercial area. It has a 4-way traffic light. It has double yellow lines which indicate a heavily traffic’d area.”
  • “Up until this year we had a LANTA bus stop directly in front of our home. I don’t think residential areas necessarily have that.”
  • “We have a school directly across the street, with drop-offs, pick-ups, school buses, parents, etcetera.”
  • “While maybe some areas in the historic district pose a more residential feel, certainly that’s not the case at the corner of New and Market.”
  • It’s an area in which there are parking meters, already existing offices, and there has been no increase in traffic as a result of the 2 W. Market business.

Have you observed any negative effects in the neighborhood?

  • “Absolutely not.”
  • Quite the contrary, I thing the improvements made to that property have upped the bar.”
  • “Our own property value has increased since that property has been renovated.”
  • “On New St., two houses on New St. from us, sold for very, very high amounts and sold quickly.”
  • “On Market St. two doors down from us another property sold very quickly.”
  • “And I think that has a great deal to do with what has been done to 2 W. Market St.”
  • “It’s improved the neighborhood. It’s improved property value. It’s been a great improvement overall.”

Have you noticed any creeping commercialization in, say, the past five years?

  • “In my immediate 4-corner area, I can’t think of anything that has become commercial.”

Ok, so here is the only testimony by a resident put on by the City/Marketer to defend against the claim by the other neighbors that the zoning amendment permitting a business use at 2 W. Market in a residential district is invalid.

What are you thinking?

to be continued . . .

The 2 W. Market case: no tempest in a teapot

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Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.

Thank you Gadfly for reporting so extensively on 2 West Market St. Some people may wonder why this matters so much and see it as a tempest in a teapot. In fact this has a far-reaching impact that could adversely affect property owners in residentially zoned neighborhoods in the city. It is also about using the levers of government to dispense favorable treatment to a well-connected benefactor.

The simple facts are that the Marketer, as you call him, decided to move his business from the commercial district on Broad St to a house in the historic district. The ZHB declined a variance twice to do so but granted one not long after he made a substantial gift to build the mounted police stable. He commenced renovations knowing that litigation was ongoing and the ZHB’s favorable decision might be overturned — and it was, unanimously, by the Commonwealth Court.

Endeavoring to get his way nonetheless, he decided to get the city to alter its zoning ordinance so that his property would fit in. This was done by a tortured amendment to the corner store provision in such a way that he could operate his business in a residential neighborhood. No analysis was done by the city as required to determine how many other properties might be affected, and no property owners were notified before the city council approved it. Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, acknowledged in a memo to the Bethlehem Planning Commission (BPC) that the amendment clearly benefits the business owner, and that the potential impacts on the city are unknown: “this amendment is specifically written to provide relief for one individual’s property, but there is no information about the overall number of properties that will be affected. . . . the end result of the amendment is unclear.” The BPC did not approve the amendment, but the city council did. With their favorable vote, Councilmen Waldron, Callahan, Martell, and Reynolds failed to abide by the intent of their zoning code to preserve residential neighborhoods throughout the city for the benefit of one special interest business promoted by the Mayor.

We are before the ZHB as part of the appeal process, but because of city politics we suspect that they will rule in favor of the Marketer. You only have to look at the table where the city’s attorney (who is paid by tax-payers) sits beside and confers with the marketer’s attorney to know the outcome.

Nevertheless we believe this is a fight worth the time, effort, and money. When individuals use their influence to get favorable treatment that materially has a detrimental impact on others in the community, it should be challenged.

Barbara

As always, Gadfly invites opposing views.

“He’s not providing us with evidence,” says the Zoning Hearing Board solicitor in the 2 W. Market case

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Here’s another interesting head-scratcher.

In the 2 W. Market case, what constitutes evidence?

Gadfly thinks you will find this 5 minutes of Steve Diamond’s testimony provocatively relevant to that question.

Part of Mr. Diamond’s testimony on the economic impact of a vague zoning amendment on the large investment he and others have put in their historic area properties is dismissed as speculative, and the bottom line in his testimony about the physical and financial stress generated by uncertainty is dismissed as providing no evidence, no facts.

Your own mental state is not a fact, not evidence.

Are you seeing the kind of personal and legal swamp you might have to wade through in order to protect your property, your neighborhood?

to be continued . . .

“I’m missing the point,” the ZHB solicitor says about the Mayor’s involvement in the 2 W. Market decision

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The Zoning Hearing Board meets on 2 W. Market again tonight. Might be the last time. One can hope that we will hear closing arguments.

So Gadfly is kind of rushing to come up to speed and to point out to you interesting elements from the December 11 meeting.

So let Gadfly start with the testimony of Bruce Haines for the neighbors. It will give you a stark understanding of the difference between public commentary at a City Council meeting meant to influence a Council decision and the quasi-legal format of the Zoning Hearing Board.

Simply stated, there are things you can say to Council that don’t “count” at an appeal hearing like this before the ZHB.

Let Gadfly ask you a question.

Do you think a Mayor’s position on an issue can have influence on his Planning Director and City Council members?

Gadfly would say yes. How about you?

Certainly this was an issue in the meetings on 2 W. Market before the Planning Commission and City Council. The Planning Director did not endorse/approve the Marketer proposal. The Mayor weighed in on the side of the Marketer — and did so late in the game. So neither the City Planning Director nor the City Planning Commission approved the Marketer petition. But the Mayor — who, of course, had no formal vote at any time — overrode his Planning Director, and his position favorable to the petition was well known to Council members, some of whom might be thought to be his allies, and the public. There was suspicion that the Mayor’s favorable position was a favor to a prominent financial contributor to the City and that the Mayor’s favorable position was a factor in Council’s approval.

Hmm, has Gadfly characterized that fairly?

So, Gadfly would say that in the mind of followers of the local proceedings the beliefs and actions of the Mayor were quite relevant to the passing of the Marketer petition.

But not so in front of ZHB.

Take 5 minutes and follow Mr. Haines sparring with the City attorney and the ZHB solicitor over the Mayor’s involvement.

You will hear that there is no relevance to what the Mayor felt, said, did. It doesn’t matter if the Mayor was for or against. You will hear that the Board doesn’t care if the Mayor endorsed or not. It doesn’t matter if the Mayor contradicted his Planning Director.

The ZHB solicitor ends this exchange by saying he’s “missing the point” of Mr. Haines’s recurring references to the Mayor’s role.

Really?

Makes Gadfly feel like a country rube.

But you will enjoy Mr. Haines braving the legal dragons.

to be continued . . .

Expert witness “untouched” believes the Gadfly

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So the neighbors’ expert witness Karen Beck Pooley made, as we saw last time, two conclusions about the text amendment relating to a business at 2 W. Market St. in a neighborhood zoned residential.

1) “The amendment didn’t clearly articulate the planning priorities set out in the Comprehensive Plan.”

Doing the course of the long series of meetings on this case that has generated 92 posts dating back before The Flood, Gadfly realized something about himself. He’s a “strict constructionist,” a “constitutionalist.” He saw the City Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning code as “constitutions” and wanted arguments to be based in them, to flow from them. He did not see that from the 2 W. Marketers.

2) “It was very unclear as to how the recommended adjustment would affect properties throughout the City.”

The Marketers presented a list of 8 properties that would be affected by their amendment, the City 142 properties. And there was no duplication! The lists had no properties in common! What the *!*!? To Gadfly, it was obviously unclear to what properties this amendment would apply. One wonders how the amendment could have passed the hurdles it did without clarity on this matter. Unbelievable.

Now it’s one thing to make such unchallenged public comments at City Council, quite another to face cross-examination by lawyers from the City and from the Marketers in the trial-like proceedings before the Zoning Hearing Board. Gadfly knows. He did not do particularly well under his cross-examination two meetings before. Ugh.

Not so with Beck Pooley. Gadfly invites you to sample the skill she showed under cross-examination. In Gadfly’s opinion the cross-examining attorneys succeeded only in giving her the opportunity to once again and more strongly state and elaborate her position.

In this following clip of cross-examination by the City attorney, note, for instance, how Beck Pooley avoids the attempt to make confusion about the amendment her problem. No, she says, it is not my confusion but the confusion of others that is clearly on the record, and as a specific example she cites again the lack of commonality in the property lists submitted by the City and by the marketers. Precisely one of her main points. To which the attorney can only say, “Ok.” In fact, he says it twice.

Note also what Gadfly would consider a crude lawyerly attempt to discredit Beck Pooley as an expert witness by testing her, by asking her the meaning of “text amendment”: “Do you understand what a text amendment is?” Rather than give a definition that the attorney could worry her over, Beck Pooley replies that’s it’s not her term but one used by others to describe the amendment in question — thus eluding a potential trap by avoiding the need to define it.

In this next clip from her cross-examination, Gadfly invites you to see Beck Pooley avoid similar traps set by the Marketer attorney in questions about the definitions of “spot zoning” and “non-conforming,” as well as her ability to avoid answering key questions “yes” or “no” as the attorney urges — rather, turning her answers into mini-lectures that effectively amplify her conclusions and show her grasp of the subject.

Thus, in Gadfly’s opinion, the cross-examination did not “touch” the two main conclusions in the testimony of the neighbors’ expert witness.

Now the testimony of other neighbor witnesses (with whom Gadfly followers will be familiar) the night of December 11 did not go as well for reasons that might surprise you.

to be continued . . .

The neighbors’ expert witness is “taken aback” at the 2 W. Market text amendment

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So — trying to keep things simple for you — this controversy begins with the “corner-store ordinance” on the books as part of the revision of the City Comprehensive Plan and Zoning code revisions about a decade ago.

The purpose of the corner store ordinance was to permit those properties originally designed to have a first-floor store but which had been converted into living spaces over time to be used again as stores.

Once this particular architectural configuration (the punched-in corner entrance) is pointed out to you, you, like me, will see they are abundant throughout the City.  They are distinctive architecturally.

Gadfly could probably find 5-10 without any trouble within a half-hour walking radius of both his home and work place.

The thrust of the owners of 2 W. Market’s efforts, including the text amendment now under fire, is to make this below kind of building originally designed to be a home equate with those originally designed as a store — and to allow a business use there.

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If you put the four pictures together and played the Sesame Street “which one doesn’t belong” game, the young ‘uns wouldn’t strain. Yet Commission and Council members did.

At the December 11 Zoning Hearing Board meeting, the first witness  — an “expert witness” — for the neighbors was Gadfly follower Karen Beck Pooley.

What conclusions did expert witness Beck Pooley reach?

1) “The amendment didn’t clearly articulate the planning priorities set out in the Comprehensive Plan.”

2) “It was very unclear as to how the recommended adjustment would affect properties throughout the City.”

Where does thinking about zoning begin, according to expert witness Beck Pooley? The City Comprehensive Plan.

“The new Comprehensive Plan was updated in 2009. That’s where the community’s priorities, vision, how it wants to see properties used . . . what it’s overall priorities are for how the City’s going to function and how people are going to interact in different spaces throughout the City. That’s set out first, established by that Comprehensive Plan, and the zoning ordinance is the tool the City has to control the way development happens . . . to be in accordance with the priorities set out in that Plan.”

What did expert witness Beck Pooley see comparing the text amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance?

“I was taken aback at how different it was from the original intent of the ordinance. . . . The previous ordinance clearly stemmed from the City contemplating mixed uses, thinking about how a variety of uses existed in neighborhoods, harkened back to historical uses of properties in those neighborhoods . . . . The amendment operated in a very different way to actually allow non-conforming uses to expand which is sort of the opposite of what the typical zoning ordinance does.”

Makes sense to Gadfly. Throughout the long controversy Gadfly wondered about the silence surrounding the Comprehensive Plan in the proposer’s arguments, a Plan that Gadfly began to think of as analogous to a constitution. How could the amendment be good if it is not in accord with the constitution, thought Gadfly.

And, yes, the range, the impact of this amendment tailored to one property on other properties was never, never settled, so how could one vote for its passage?

Are you with me?

Seems a good start for the neighbors challenging the amendment.

Let’s see where the argument goes.

Gearing up for 2 W. Market again

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We are coming up on another in the long march of meetings by the Zoning Hearing Board on the 2 W. Market case.

Note that this is the 90th post on this subject. See “2 W. Market” under Topics on the Gadfly sidebar.

Not a case for the faint-hearted.

But fighting for your neighborhood, as Gadfly always says, is a good thing.

Gadfly does not expect his followers to remember all the details, especially because of the long gaps between action on the case.

Nor does he expect his followers to have the overflowing nerdiness to be as engaged in the argument of the case as he is.

Gadfly loves this stuff. Gadfly loves a good argument.

Some followers will remember that, after painstaking consideration of the case presented by both sides (charts, lists, audio, video), Gadfly sided with the neighbors who were protesting the right of the owners to run a business out of their 2 W. Market property in a zoned residential neighborhood.

Gadfly came to feel that the decisions to approve the business running through City committees up to and through City Council were egregiously wrong-headed.

And the Court has agreed when the neighbors appeal to higher authority.

But the owners of 2 W. Market are not faint-hearted either. In the latest phase of this struggle, they proposed a text amendment to the zoning code to allow their business, and that amendment was approved by the City, again rather astonishingly to Gadfly.

Now the neighbors are appealing again. That’s where we are.

The neighbors have the means and the will to continue to fight what they see is a commercial incursion into a neighborhood that is bent on maintaining its residential nature — allowing us to see full chapters of judicial processes.

The beauty for Gadfly in the fact that this phase of the case is moving so slowly is that it is easy to focus on each stage of argument and think along with it.

That’s what Gadfly is inviting you to do.

The 2 W. Market case is important because it is about the control of and the quality of life in a neighborhood. And we all live in neighborhoods.

But the case is also engaging as we think along with the contestants. Playing lawyer is an intellectually fun thing to do.

And maybe most of all the case is compelling because it has produced wonderful models of thoughtful residents fighting City Hall. Such as the examples of Paige Van Wirt and Martin Romeril as portrayed in Gadfly’s previous posts.

We all have to be ready to play those roles if our time comes.

So Gadfly invites you to hang with him for the next few posts as he thinks through the December 11 meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board on 2 W. Market St. in preparation for the January meeting on the horizon.

The 2 W. Market case: “what am I missing?”

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Kate McVey is a concerned citizen, 30-year resident of Bethlehem, professional organizer, dog owner, mother of two children, been around, kosher cook . . . explorer.

So Gadfly,

I have never understood the hubbub about this property. It looks so much better than it did, and it does bring people in and out of the neighborhood unlike the Verizon building and the fortress that used to be a bank. To my knowledge, I guess we could count the dead people in the cemetery there as residential (?). But the school surrounds that property, there is a B and B across the street, and a lawyer’s office, and there was a small shop farther down Market. There is an old folks home next to the cemetery and only one residential property on the south side of Market street. And what about the one story building behind it on New St.? There is a business in there.

As stated in the other blogs, the zoning board changes the rules constantly to please new projects. At least the 2 Market St kept the old building and the character of the area. Going down New there is the Kemerer Museum and a shop on the other corner of Church and New.

The residents have even admitted that 2 Market people are good neighbors.

Historic Bethlehem needs to sometimes get over themselves. So what am I missing? Also further down on Market there are law offices, a boarding house. Come on, what am I missing?

Let’s focus on tearing down the Judd building and what the new development being proposed will do. Not to mention the Airbnb issue, what happened to that?

Kate

Neighbor-produced-data relevant to 2 W. Market

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Fighting for one’s neighborhood. Always a good thing in Gadfly’s book.

Yesterday Gadfly focused on the forceful testimony of Paige Van Wirt before the Zoning Hearing Board on November 12 as a model of good citizenship.

Gadfly does the same today with the example of Martin Romeril.

The issue in the 2 W. Market case is the insertion of a business in a residential neighborhood.

Unbelievably, from the beginning of the recent chapter of this case, the nature of the neighborhood as “residential” has been questioned, despite what the zoning map says.

Go back to post 49 in this (so-far) journey of 89 posts with Gadfly, the post “CM Callahan on ‘the 2’.”

Here’s what Councilman Callahan had to say about a year ago: “I think what it comes down to is, the main question is this, where does the residential neighborhood begin and where does it end? And the bottom line is it doesn’t. It doesn’t. There’s nobody that can tell me where the residential community in that neighborhood on that block begins and ends.”

As Gadfly said back in December, “The zoning code says 2 W. Market is in an area zoned residential. [Callahan] says, in effect, there is no residential area there.”

That subjective suspension of the zoning code by a Councilman bowled the then innocent Gadfly over.

Now around the same time the City — which supported the owner of 2 W. Market and is now vigorously opposing the validity challenge — produced a map that also seemed to have the same effect, the downplaying of the residential nature of the West Market neighborhood and thus minimizing the impact of the inserted business.

Enter Romeril.

And his production of a color-coded map that shows the neighborhood 87.3% residential!

Romeril map

Here is Romeril testifying about his work at the November 12 Zoning Hearing Board meeting:

But Romeril’s investigative work didn’t end there.

When the City attorney posed this question — “Mr. Romeril, you expressed some concern about the impact of 1304.4b throughout the City, have you been able to identify other parcels where 1304.4b might apply?” —  he seemed surprised that Romeril’s “Yes” answer was embodied in a 3-page chart, done with the help of a friend, based on evidence offered by the 2 W. Market attorney:Romeril chartGadfly invites you to note the long silence at the end of the following clip with which the City attorney responded to Romeril’s work:

Romeril didn’t just accept the study done by the City.

Romeril didn’t just accept the research done by the 2 W. Marketers.

He challenged both and provided data that supported the neighbors’ position.

It is, of course, by no means clear that the neighbors will win this latest round before the Zoning Hearing Board in this marathon controversy (everyone seems to feel resolution in the courts will be necessary), but Gadfly is pleased to help disseminate these examples of active citizen involvement as models for us all when we need to struggle for the quality of our neighborhood life.

The Hearing Board meets again on this case December 11.

The 2 W. Market beat goes on

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Gadfly has lost count. But there was another 4hr meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board last week on the challenge to the validity of a text amendment to the “storefront”  ordinance originally intended to apply to properties like the one on the left but benefiting 2 W. Market on the right — an ordinance passed by a Council, in Gadfly’s opinion, not in its best hour.

This is the 88th post on the long history over the controversy of the zoning on 2 W. Market, and followers can refresh themselves on that history by clicking the link on the Gadfly sidebar.

Gadfly loves examples of citizen participation, of which there were several at this meeting, and he invites you here to both learn about the issues surrounding 2 W. Market and to enjoy a model of good citizenship through the testimony of Paige Van Wirt.

How does this zoning amendment impair or impede the residential character of the neighborhood? (3 mins.)

  • “There’s no families in this business to watch little kids on the street, there’s nobody to see that somebody fell down on the corner.”

What are your concerns given that this property is on the edge of a commercial district? (1 min.)

  • “Now this neighborhood is struggling to come back and have a full residential character to it. Any conversion . . . of a previously healthy residential home . . . is going to erode the fabric of my neighborhood.”

Do you have concerns about commercial creep? (1 min.)

  • “This does give a signal that our neighborhood’s zoning is not a wall.”

Will this amendment erode the reliability of the zoning ordinance? (1 min.)

  • “As a homeowner . . . I would be much less inclined to buy a property on this block if I felt there were going to be more commercial/residential flips.”

Describe the importance of drafting the memo to the City Planning Director asking for more data? (2 mins.)

  • “My concern was that there was no impact study done by the City. . . . that we were asked at City Council to adopt an ordinance where there had been no data and research done.”

Does the amendment support the general health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Bethlehem? (1 min.)

  • “I understand why this is in the best interests of Quadrant, I get it, they did a great job on the building, but it doesn’t pass the litmus test of being in the best interest of the City, and that’s fundamentally what City Council is here as a representative body of the citizens of Bethlehem to do.”

Interesting material came out as Van Wirt parried with one of the attorneys under cross-examination. (9 mins.)

  • “This is a border neighborhood. . . . You’re not going to go six blocks in to the middle of Wall St. to try to set up a business there.”

Are you familiar with uses of the properties on your block? (1 min.)

  • “If this amendment could be so broadly applied that it would affect my own home, it made me understand the potential impact this would have on the rest of the City.”

Why did you wait so long before requesting data from the City? (2 mins.)

  • “Call me naive, but I never thought it would get that far. Once it was apparent that there was enough people on Council considering voting for it, that’s when I said, O, my God, I’ve got to show them, I’ve got to prove to Council why this is not in the best interest of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Bethlehem. . . . That’s my job”

The hearing board will convene again December 11 to continue consideration of this case.

The 2 W. Market case goes south (geographically, that is)

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Note: The Zoning Board Hearing tonight is at Southside campus Northampton Community College, room 605.

The latest chapter in the 2 W. Market case unfolds tonight.

Posts on this recent phase of a controversy that is almost as long as our national involvement in the Middle East wars begin at post #80. Click on the sidebar link if you want to refresh or catch up.

Let’s call it the Neighbors v. the Marketers.

The Neighbors are challenging the validity of a text amendment favoring the Marketers.

The Neighbors are in process of re-introducing witnesses (Gadfly testified last time) from at least 4 major Planning Commission and City Council meetings, re-introducing them under oath so that they can be cross-examined.

The neighbors have about 17 witnesses to put on as well as a few “expert” witnesses. Since the last meeting was dominated time-wise with testimony of the City Planning Director, only three other witnesses were put on.

The ZHB goal is for the Neighbors to finish their case tonight, but one wonders how that will happen given how slow past testimony has gone.

Gadfly suggests turning the heat off in the NCC classroom in order to move things along.

The ZHB members were visibly impatient last time, which does not seem to bode well for the Neighbors’ case.

For those closely following the legal arguments, here is the Neighbor’s attorney outlining at the last meeting the 9 issues that form the basis for the validity challenge of the ordinance.

Now that last meeting was 4 hours long, and Gadfly reported from the equally long meeting before it that one aspect of the Marketers’s position was “what led up to the text amendment approved by Council doesn’t matter. All that matters is the amendment itself, and the effect it has or will have. The basis of Council’s approval does not count, only the fact of that approval embodied in the text amendment itself. The Zoning Hearing Board should not look backward, only forward.”

This position feels very strange to Gadfly, but at the last meeting it was validated based on a 2009 case that Gadfly could not catch the name of.

The basis on which the Council made its decision, what the motives of Council were, what was in the minds of Council — do not count.

Hear discussion of this point between the Board solicitor and the Neighbor’s attorney at the last meeting:

The state of mind of the Council members who voted for the text amendment does not matter.

Ugh.

For this was not — in Gadfly’s opinion — Council’s finest hour. Councilman Martell is not here any longer, so let’s skip him. But Councilman Callahan disputed the validity of the Zoning map itself and cozied up to the Marketer. Councilman Reynolds was impatient with the proceedings and made the famous remark that people who didn’t want commercial nearby should move to the townships. And President Waldron gave no reason at all.

Aiiii — Gadfly remembers well feeling that the “yes” votes were all flawed.

But that doesn’t matter legally.

The challenge has to be based on what they approved not why or on what basis.

Ugh.

Now another issue, related but somehow different, still seems in play.

Remember there was a question before Council about how many other properties would be affected by the text amendment.

The idea was that a decision shouldn’t be made till that was determined.

The Marketers presented a study involving 8 properties, the City did one on 140 properties.

The City study did not become available till the morning of the Council meeting, and Councilwoman Van Wirt reasonably moved to delay a decision to provide time to study the study.

That motion was denied. And the vote approving the text amendment was taken.

Whether that’s a flaw in the approval process (which it sure sounds like it should be) seems to be still in play.

Onward — Gadfly will report on tonight’s doin’s.

Gadfly hopes someone will go to the first tax hearing tonight or watch it live and post thoughts.

Peter telling it like it is: succinctly!

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Gadfly:

Public comment is only democracy in action if the government officials are listening and acting accordingly.

Peter Crownfield

Take a look on the About page at how Gadfly envisions our elected officials in his Norman Rockwell fantasy of a small town. Pretty “fantastic,” eh! But it’s around election time, a time to be thinking about the kind of elected officials we want even though there are no real choices to be made now.

The 2 W. Market “trial”: part 2

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Gadfly is fond of saying that the sound of voices at the public comment spaces of City Council meeting is democracy in action.

The quintessence of the respect for the concerned common citizen that he has high-lighted on his “About” page of the Norman Rockwell image of a small town as the lens through which he looks at his ideal Bethlehem.

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech

Claiming your 5 minutes at public comment, though, is different than testifying at a “trial.”

Facing President Waldron’s usually merciful soft gavel is different than facing smile-less lawyers schooled in “gotchas.”

But sometimes you have to go to trial.

Trials are “Democracy in Action.2.”

The Zoning Hearing Board meeting last night on the 2 W. Market case was trial-like.

Witnesses take an oath, lawyers cross-examine.

But “Neighborhoods are worth fighting for,” as Gadfly titled a recent post.

So you do what y’gotta do.

Last night Mary Toulouse, Frank Mayberry, and Gadfly testified.

Mary Toulouse:

Afterwards, Mary noted to Gadfly the following: “I made 2 points but forgot the most important one. It is true, 1) the petitioner should have respected the zoning ordinance, he knew it was only residential when he bought it. (2) He moved his business from Broad Street. Broad Street needs good businesses, neighborhoods need good residents. But for me, the zoning ordinance for residents is not just a law, it is a COVENANT where residents invest their time, talents, and life savings as well as making it their home in that area. It is the City’s responsibility to respect and protect that.

Frank Mayberry:

Fine models of resident participation here by Mary and Frank.

Mercifully, Gadfly — who is very shy, shuns limelight, doesn’t think well on his feet — can not yet figure out how to do a video-selfie, so you are spared seeing him. But here is the audio.

Gadfly’s message to followers is that if he can do it, you can too.

Last night’s meeting was 4 hrs. again. It did not reach climax. The case has been continued till November 12 at 6PM. at which time the Board hopes to conclude testimony and hear closing arguments. Stay tuned for 1-2 more posts on last night’s proceedings.

Gadfly dusting off his past testimony for the newest hearing on 2 W. Market St.

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2 W. Market is one of Gadfly’s marathon threads.

Look at that — this is post #84!

For a refresher on the very latest chapter in what is a 5-6 year controversy, start at post #80 in the thread for 2 W. Market on the sidebar.

In briefest of brief summary: “The owners of 2 W. Market in the residential Northside historical district want to use a house that they have fixed up at considerable expense as an office. A group of homeowner neighbors object. There is a long history of ping-ponging adjudications ultimately going against the “2 Westers.” But in the most recent our City Council approved their petition, and our Zoning Hearing Board approved as well. A group of neighbors has appealed.”

There is another hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board Thursday, 6PM, Town Hall. It should be televised live as well on the Bethlehem DCED youtube channel.

This is a very interesting case. It has brought out significant testimony on each side. There have been many, many of the good voices Gadfly loves. Gadfly has covered the testimony in deep detail — with video and audio, charts of pro and con, you name it, that all can be found in the archives of this thread.

Gadfly has urged the significance of this case for all our neighborhoods — it’s a case to which attention should be paid.

Because of that widespread relevance and significance, Gadfly has urged and urges now for residents from all over the City to turn out and give witness to the need for a fair decision.

Gadfly, after long and careful weighing of arguments as detailed in his post archive, took a position — a position in favor of the neighbors in opposition to the owners of 2 W. Market.

He testified three times.

You might be interested and can find that excerpted testimony from his three appearances here:

Ed Gallagher Testimony on 2 W. Market St.

He will testify again Thursday night.

Your thoughts for or against his position always welcome!

Late Night at the Zoning Hearing Board

(83rd in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Market

It was tedious last night at the Zoning Board Hearing in which the Market St. neighbors are challenging the validity of the ordinance that enables a professional office at 2 W. Market.

Procedural stuff.

Even Gadfly’s video camera pooped out before the nearly 4-hour hearing was over.

A tip o’ the hat to a couple Gadfly followers who attended for some or all of the proceedings.

Gadfly stuck it out. That’s why gadflies get the big money.

But, actually, Gadfly found the issues interesting. He’s pretty nerdy, you know.

He’ll summarize what went on, highlighting the issues, and then you’ll find video links so that you can taste the action.

First, remember that there were four long hearings on “2 W. Market” — two at the Planning Commission, two at City Council — at which probably over two-dozen people spoke (gave “testimony”) multiple times — and these are well covered on Gadfly with transcripts, audio , and video.

The process was paradise for Gadfly. All that citizen commentary! Totally aphrodisiac. Empowered residents voicing their opinions. How sweet it was!

What the Neighbors attorney (Stevens) wanted to do was “streamline” the proceedings before the Zoning Hearing Board by introducing a transcript of all of that testimony directly into the record. The attorneys for 2 W. Market (Preston) and the City (Deschler) objected.

For two reasons.

First, none of it was given under oath, and there was no cross-examination.

Second, the testimony was irrelevant.

Huh?

Yes, because — forcefully argued the Marketers attorney — what led up to the text amendment approved by Council doesn’t matter. All that matters is the amendment itself, and the effect it has or will have. The basis of Council’s approval does not count, only the fact of that approval embodied in the text amendment itself. The Zoning Hearing Board should not look backward, only forward.

That Marketer attorney is pretty shrewd. Have seen him in action before.

The Neighbors attorney said their case was based on the fact that Council made its decision on irrelevant considerations and did not do due diligence on the impact of the amendment. So how will the Board know that without the transcript.

You will see Gadfly’s camera nodding yes at these points.

But the ZHB voted not to include the testimony, meaning that the Neighbors attorney now has to “recreate” that testimony before the Board by bringing people in now under oath and subject to cross-examination.

Gadfly will testify under oath.

In fact, perhaps a dozen people for the Neighbors case will be called back.

Yuck.

So much time elapsed with these procedural matters that the Neighbors attorney could call only one witness to begin his case: Mary Rose Wilson. She answered a few questions from the attorneys, Mrs. Vergilio from the public, and a Board member.

The hearing was continued till Oct 24.

It might be Christmas before this is over.

Was the opposition to accepting a transcript of prior testimony a legitimate legal concern or a stall tactic?

The wheels of justice . . .

But at least our words will get in there. Gadfly was very worried about that. You might remember that the core of Gadfly’s belief was precisely that the testimony on which it appeared Council made its decision was misguided — focusing on the character of the 2 W. Market people and the money and care they poured into the house. They are good people and they spent a lot of money, but that can’t be a reason to bend the law.

———–

Video 1: Neighbors attorney Stevens makes his case to bring the the transcript of testimony from four prior meetings into the record to streamline the process.

Video 2: See City attorney Deschler at min. 3:31 but especially see Marketer attorney Preston for 4 mins. at 11:35 making the case for the irrelevance of the public testimony. This makes all “our” ideas irrelevant for this phase of the legal process. Preston is reluctant to even call it testimony. And he says what might be quite true, that the Neighbors are “seeking to investigate the legislative motives and methodologies,” which he thinks is a “wildly irresponsible undertaking”: “focus on the amendment itself”; “it stands or falls on it own terms”; “It doesn’t matter if there was an impure motive”; “The ordinance speaks for itself”

Video 3: Listen to the first 3 mins. especially as attorney Preston continues his argument for the irrelevance of “our” words: he finds “bizarre” that the ZHB is asked “to engage in a critique of City Council’s actions.” “The presumption is that the legislation is valid.” It doesn’t matter why a Councilperson voted. The focus should not be on what they were thinking but the effects of the ordinance. And there are rules “out there” to evaluate ordinances. Neighbors attorney Stevens presents his objections to those ideas here as well.

Video 4: And here look especially at mins. 4:05-6:14 for Preston’s reference to “standards the Court has developed” for judging such cases that do not include this testimony.

Video 5
Video 6
Video 7: Interesting that here you can get a bit of a taste about what those testifying will face. Mary Rose Wilson was, of course, a Neighbor witness. Look at the rather lame efforts of attorney Deschler to make her look inadequate. And the bit of a head-to-head with a neighbor holding the opposing view.

Neighborhoods are worth fighting for

(82st in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Zoning Hearing Board, Wednesday, September 11, Town Hall, 6PM
PLEASE BE THERE!

Gadfly finally with a little more time to go through the “history” of the 2 W. Market case in the 80+ posts and refresh himself on the details in case he should speak tonight at the hearing.

He encourages you to browse the posts. This is really a very interesting, informative, and widely relevant case.

Lots of citizen comments are recorded here — text, audio, video — democracy in action!

Gadfly himself was not in on the beginning of the case, which goes back 5-6 years and has been through the Courts at least twice (ultimately resulting in rulings against the Marketers).

There’s an epic battle of wills going on here.

Always remember, “Neighborhoods are worth fighting for.”

Here’s the spot where Gadfly enters the history.

The 2 W. Marketers seek to amend the “Streetcorner ordinance” (1304.04) to permit the use of their property as a professional office. 1304.04 then read, in part, thus:

Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in the RT and RG Districts. The following uses shall be allowed in addition to uses allowed under Section 1304.01:

(a) As a special exception, uses that are small in scale, such as but not limited to a professional office, barber/beauty shop, retail store, nail salon, coffee shop, retail bakery, art gallery, real estate office, photography studio, green grocer, cafe, or antique store may be approved by the Zoning Hearing Board (“the Board”) provided all of the following requirements are met:

(1) The lot shall be at the corner of 2 streets. The primary building shall have an existing storefront character. This shall include such features as large first floor commercial window(s) and a main entrance at the corner or along one of the street facades abutting the commercial windows.
(2) At least a portion of the proposed business space shall have been occupied at one time by a principal lawful business use. This subsection 2 may allow a business use to be established even when a nonconforming use has been considered to have been abandoned.

The ordinance, as Gadfly understands it, was to enable corner properties such as the one on the left with once storefront commercial uses (which abound in our town when you think about it) to become commercial again (most have been turned into living space). The ordinance was not meant to apply to corner properties like 2 W. Market on the right.

The difference in the properties is obvious, isn’t it?

The 2 W. Marketers proposed an amendment to 1304.04 to make a commercial use there legal. Council approved the amendment. Then the Zoning Hearing Board ruled that the new amended ordinance applied to 2 W. Market and their business therein.

Not game-set-match yet. The neighbor group has filed a “Validity Challenge”: Validity Challenge redacted-filed JAN-19-10–hearing 9-11-2019-3 (always go to the primary source and see for yourself in Gadville).

Here are some of the points in the challenge. The amendment:

  • has no rational relationship whatsoever to the corner store provision,
    1304.04 of the Zoning Ordinance which pertains only to those corner
    properties that have an existing store front character and other unique
    architectural characteristics
  • has no rational relationship whatsoever to the spirit and intention of the
    corner store provision of 1304.4 to “Reuse” a former commercial use of a
    property; rather the Zoning Amendment impermissibly introduces an
    entirely new use of commercial office space into the RT and RG
    residential districts
  • reverses the progress in the historic neighborhood of converting commercial and multi-family dwellings to single family residential uses and otherwise violates the spirit and intention of the Comprehensive Plan

The legal challenge of course throws everything including the kitchen sink (tired x-English prof depending on cliches) at the Marketers, but to Gadfly the key points are a charge of a quid pro quo, a split between the City Planning Staff (withholding approval) and the Mayor (approval), serious deficiencies in the amendment of which the Council was aware (successfully fighting an end preposition — good work, Gadfly!) but voted anyway, and — the big gun — illegal “spot zoning” (the placing of a small area of land in a different zone from that of neighboring property).

Gadfly can not speak of a quid pro quo from any knowledge (though he would love to — how sensational!).

But the other points of the challenge make perfect sense to him.

Hence his position on the side of the neighbors.

There might be new Gadfly followers who weren’t here when the original thread was playing out — would you want to make comments?

2 W. Market at Zoning Board tonight — can you be there?

(81st in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Zoning Hearing Board, Wednesday, September 11, Town Hall, 6PM

Gadfly writing in haste again . . .

Gadfly’s approaching his one-year anniversary. The quick look back at the 80+ posts on “2 W. Market” shows his attempt for balance in disputes and some of his best thinking and writing.

If he doesn’t say so himself.

Gadfly did take a position for the neighbor group and against the owners of 2 W. Market.

But only after balanced reflection.

And laying out his reasons in detail.

As he said, “One can deny the petition [of the 2 W. Marketers] without impugning the character, good intentions, and good work of the [2 W. Marketers].”

And he continued to listen carefully to all sides and consider and reconsider his position.

If he doesn’t say so himself.

Though not everyone agreed.

Take a look at these posts from early on in the controversy.

Crunch time! (26)

The Case for the 2 W. Marketers (35)

The Case against the 2 W. Marketers (36)

Crunch Time (2) (39)

Can you attend tonight?

Need butts in the seats — Zoning Hearing Board meeting tomorrow Wednesday Sept 11 Town Hall 6PM

(81st in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Important meeting tomorrow night. Replete with issues essential to the Gadfly project.

  • Citizen participation
  • Control of your neighborhood

Do you remember the “2 W. Market” case? Gadfly did 80 posts on it!

80 posts

See “2 W. Market St.” on the sidebar.

Gadfly will refresh you in a post or two later tonight and/or tomorrow, but the purpose of this post is to get you notice as quickly as possible so that you can clear time to attend.

A skeletal summary: The owners of 2 W. Market in the residential Northside historical district want to use the house as an office. A group of neighbors object. There is a long history of adjudications. But in the most recent our City Council approved and our Zoning Hearing Board approved. A group of citizens has appealed. Tomorrow night these citizens are challenging the Zoning ordinance on which the approval was based, a necessary step before the case goes to Northampton County Court.

The Zoning Hearing Board needs to feel the pressure from City-wide citizens supporting local control of neighborhoods.

But here’s what rubs Gadfly’s nerves raw.

The City is opposing the inclusion of citizen commentary in the record that will go before the Court.

Here’s (the legal reason) why.

There was voluminous citizen commentary (pro and con) in the various meetings on this case. Gadfly even made comments. Gadfly tried to cover it all in the 80-post thread, as you can see. But none of the commentary was under oath. You simply speak your piece and sit down. On the other hand, Zoning Hearing Board hearings are “judicial.” Citizens giving testimony are sworn in and subject to cross-examination.

The City will move to disallow all that “oathless” prior testimony/commentary.

Citizen voices may disappear.

Supporters of the challenge may have to repeat their testimony under oath tomorrow night and perhaps face cross-examination in order to have it included in the record presented to the Court.

Here’s a group of citizens who refuse to give up the fight for the control of their neighborhood. Their issue pertains to us all. They deserve our support.

They deserve butts in the seats!

Gadfly writing in haste . . .

2 W. Market: de novo (80)

(80th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St.)

Charles Malinchak, “On and off again plan to allow office at Bethlehem’s 2 W. Market St. back on again.” Morning Call, June 14, 2019.

Q: How do you [Quadrant Wealth] occupy the property?
A: As an office use.

Forget that there are 79 posts on 2 W. Market before this one.

Forget that the 2 W. Market controversy goes back maybe five years now.

Let’s look at this neighborhood conflict de novo (amazing how much Gadfly attention is given to neighborhood issues, so everybody, no matter where you live, listen up!) .

De novo: Gadfly loves to play lawyer. (But probably not very well!)

The case:

Quadrant Private Wealth operates its business in a house at 2 W. Market St. in a residential district.

Neighbors want to keep their residential neighborhood residential.

Quadrant seeks permission to legally operate its office at 2 W. Market under an ordinance that allows properties in a residential district to become businesses if they meet three conditions:

1 – the house is at the intersection of 2 streets

2 – the property has some form of commercial use in combination with

3 – a single-family dwelling

There is no issue with conditions 1 and 2.

The issue is condition 3.

Those opposing the applicant argue that 2 W. Market is not now a single-family dwelling. It is being used as an office. And thus the request fails to meet condition #3.

Those opposed to the petition argue that the house needs to be used as a single-family dwelling, at which time Quadrant could re-apply under the terms of the ordinance for permission to use it as an office.

Those opposed to the petition argue that just because the house has in the past been used as a single-family dwelling or that it can now be used as a single-family dwelling does not meet the conditions of the ordinance.

Petitioners (and seemingly the Zoning Hearing Board) argue that it would violate commonsense, it would be an absurd waste of resources, it would be hairsplitting, it would be pro-forma adherence to the blackletter of the law to require vacating the office, moving a family in, moving them out again, and reapplying for permission to operate as an office.

The City attorney, after saying at the beginning of the hearing that he would not be involved, stepped forward toward the end of the hearing to say that “the City administration is fully supportive of the project here as a matter of something that benefits the City and promotes the interests of the City.”

The Zoning Hearing Board voted 5-0 in favor of the petitioner.

Gadfly loves a good argument. This hearing lasted four hours. There was good argument.

Gadfly would especially call your attention to the testimony of Beall Fowler arguing against the petition. (He will want to call attention to the Romerils in a later post.) Beall’s testimony is yet another example of the high quality resident rhetoric that continually impresses Gadfly. Beall shows himself thoroughly a master of the Zoning code, and a man whose convictions are strong because solidly based. The interplay between Beall and the petitioner’s attorney and ZHB members should be listened to.

Frankly, Gadfly thought the opposers had the better of the argument. To argue that the letter of the law should not be followed was strange indeed. And indicates the kind of latitude our Planning and Zoning Boards — and even our Council — have that can cause trouble.

And Gadfly thought completely out of bounds the City attorney — out of nowhere —  putting his foot on the scale at decision-time.

Beall took his underlying beef about the flawed nature of the ordinance directly to City Council last Tuesday in an effective challenge to “immediately repeal” the “potential minefield for further exploitation” created by the “rogue” Zoning Hearing Board.

One suspects that this de novo doesn’t mean c’est fini. We’re probably going to hear yet more about 2 W. Market.

Neighborhoods are worth fighting for.