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Council rejects Neighbors sitemap – Times News Online

By March 17, 2022Site plan

Published on March 17, 2022 at 2:07 p.m.

A power outage caused by high winds dampened but would not have extinguished the February 22 meeting of the Hellertown Borough Council, as its chairman Thomas Rieger, council members and attendees improvised – with Rieger broadcasting the session on Zoom with his laptop and a mobile wireless “hotspot” until the electricity was restored.

The most widespread topic of discussion was the resounding rejection of a revised proposal by Gabriel Solms of Lou Pektor’s Ashley Development Corporation in Bethlehem to transform the former Neighbors Home and Garden Center site at 42 Main St. between Walnut Street and Polk Valley Road into three -building apartment complex.

Since the plot is currently in a shopping center zoning district, the council would have to allow a waiver. When representatives for Ashley first presented their plans to council in November 2021, the site plan called for 142 apartments, which raised several concerns.

Despite changes to the plan that Solms and Associates presented to the board, members expressed many of the same reservations. Between “setting a precedent” for so-called “spot zoning,” as planning commissioner Liz Thompson said, and traffic and maintenance issues, most of the reception of the proposal was cold at best.

Some council members have expressed apprehension over what has been called an “explosion” of multi-family, mixed-use developments across the borough. Only Mayor David Heintzelman shared a positive view of the idea, saying there was worse than the 112-unit structure that could be built.

In the end, council decided to place the item on the agenda for the next meeting for the formal rejection of the zoning variance. Due to recent changes to Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act, any such proposed motion must be made public before any action can be taken.

In addition, Borough Director Cathy Hartranft announced an electronics recycling and document shredding event scheduled for April 30 at Dimmick Park. The two-hour event is free for residents of the Borough of Hellertown only.

A discussion also took place on the Borough’s difficulty in obtaining bids for a renovation project for the Community Pool concession kiosk. Borough engineer Bryan Smith recommended reposting it and said contractors had been “extremely hesitant” due to supply chain and personnel issues. The board voted unanimously in favor of Smith’s suggestion.

Along the same lines, Hartranft and Rieger reiterated the need for candidates for various seasonal positions at the pool: a water sports manager, a ticket/concessions manager and lifeguards. “If we don’t get any of those, the pool can’t open,” Rieger said.

Hartranft noted that the borough has increased its salaries for the upcoming season and is offering a 50% reimbursement for the cost of lifeguard certification training.

press photo by Chris Haring Hellertown Planning Commission member Liz Thompson raises concerns about the proposed development of the Neighbors Home and Garden site.

The Neighbors Home and Garden site on Main Street in the borough has been vacant since its closure in 2020.

The Neighbors Home and Garden site on Main Street in the borough has been vacant since its closure in 2020.

PRESS PHOTOS BY CHRIS HARING The Neighbors Home and Garden site on Main Street in the borough has been vacant since closing in 2020.