Bieber parking lot up for auction
Charcoal Drive-In property scheduled for tax sale in September
At one time, Carl R. Bieber Inc. handled as many as 60 buses a day coming in and out of the Charcoal Drive-In parking property.
These days, the buses have stopped docking there; financially troubled Bieber abruptly ceased operations in February amid financial woes, and owner Steven G. Haddad blocked access to the 150 parking spaces at Charcoal.
Now the property at 4440 Hamilton Blvd. is available next month at a Lehigh County upset tax sale; Haddad owes more than $95,000 in property taxes.
Local and state officials, including representatives with PennDOT and LANTA, said they had no plans for the property.
“There have been no talks,” said Ronald W. Beitler, Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners president. “But since there is an immediate need for more park and ride space, it’s a strategically important spot for the township.”
Beitler said the township has no plans to obtain the property.
Township officials in April approved an ordinance allowing for parking along a stretch of Service Road One, which stretches along the south side of the parking lots. Before that, commuters had to squeeze into curbside spaces between parking lot rows, on grassy medians or in the nearby neighborhood. People complained that their cars parked in the Bieber lot were towed.
Other transportation companies have added buses to take people from an adjoining 121spot public lot to New York and Philadelphia. That lot, the Wescosville Park and Ride, is owned by PennDOT.
Gregg R. Ciocca, CEO of Ciocca Dealerships, said he’s monitoring developments and has spoken with Haddad. His
Subaru and Audi dealerships sit across Hamilton Boulevard from the Charcoal.
“I don’t know about the pricing and how we can get it, but we will be at the auction and make sure the bank knows that we’re interested in the property,” Ciocca said. He said he was unsure of how the dealership would use the property.
County property records show Bieber Inc. in 2002 bought the Charcoal Drive-In for $856,000, about one year after Haddad acquired the Kutztown company. Financial problems began surfacing more than a decade ago, and Bieber has been sued for at least $7 million over loan defaults, health care and pension obligations.
Efforts to reach Haddad on Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.
An upset sale is conducted once a year and is the first sale at which a delinquent taxpayer’s property may be sold, according to Sean Shamany, director of operations for Northeast Revenue Service LLC of Plains, Luzerne County, which acts as collection agent for the Lehigh County Tax Claim Bureau. Properties that are delinquent in real estate taxes for the previous two years are eligible for the sale.
“It is recommended that potential buyers seek the advice of an attorney and research the property,” the tax bureau says in an online post. That’s because anyone who buys delinquent property faces any other liens on it, including mortgages.
“We can’t hammer that home enough,” Shamany said. “They think, let’s bid, and they don’t realize the repercussions.”
The sale is set for 10 a.m. Sept. 18 at Lehigh County Government Center. For information, go to lehighcountytaxclaim.com and search Upset Sale, or call either 610-782-3119 or 844514-5091.
Six Bieber parcels in Kutztown are also scheduled for upset tax sale Sept. 19 in Berks County. Starting bids range from $4,000 to more than $50,000 per parcel, totaling about $127,000, according to the county’s website.
After Bieber shut down, leaving some riders stranded, Bethlehem’s Trans-Bridge Lines Inc. made additional buses available to take daily commuters and other passengers to New York from Wescosville Park and Ride and Hellertown. Other companies, including Klein Transportation and A1 Limousine, have also been picking up passengers for trips to New York or Philadelphia.
Trans-Bridge spokeswoman Jennifer Lechiski said the company had no comment about the tax sale.
About 107,000 people live in the Lehigh Valley but work elsewhere, while 97,000 work in the Lehigh Valley but live elsewhere, according to a recent Lehigh Valley Planning Commission report based on census data.
The Charcoal Drive-In has been converted into a Bieber bus stop. Bieber Transportation Group, which operates scheduled bus lines and charter services from the Lehigh Valley to New York City and other destinations, may lose its ability to operate out of Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.