Bethlehem gives OK for warehouse in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park
Bethlehem city planners have granted conditional approval of a developer’s plan to build a nearly 90,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park.
Engineers on behalf of New Jersey-based developer J.G. Petrucci Company, Inc., presented the land development plan to the Bethlehem Planning Commission on Thursday.
The 88,000 square-foot single-story structure would provide enough warehouse space for two light manufacturing companies, with parking on both sides of the building and dual entrances for each unit. On the recommendation of the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, the developer agreed to improve accessibility by including a 50-foot sidewalk along the eastern driveway entrance.
Corporate neighbors of the 7.4-acre property include Walmart Distribution, DHL, and Lehigh Valley Rail Management, among several others.
The developer will benefit from the city’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program, which gradually phases in property and real estate taxes by 10% annually over a decade. City officials have said the LERTA incentive has led to economic growth in the city’s south side, with LERTA properties employing more than 4,000 employees and generating about $9.4 million annually in taxes.
With the planning commission’s approval, the developer plans to break ground on the project pending a final assessment from the state Department of Environmental Protection. renters, but Intile said he believes the structures are “past their useful life.”
Whether or not the units should be defined as townhouses or multi-family dwellings became a point of contention between the developer and the planning board.
Bethlehem attorney Jim Preston, speaking on Intile’s behalf, contended that the units fit the definition of a townhouse and should therefore not be subject to the minimum parking requirements reserved for multi-family dwellings.
After examining the site plan review, city engineers determined that the units were multifamily dwellings because the project calls for more than three units on one land parcel, according to City Planning Director Darlene Heller.
“Townhomes by definition are on separate parcels,” Heller said. “Really, it’s a matter of semantics. The project is what the project is, but typically, we’d look at this as a 5-unit multi-family dwelling.”
The commission recommended the site plan review be sent to the zoning hearing board to determine whether the units meet the requirements to be considered townhouses.
Fifth Street Properties has purchased about 60 properties in south Bethlehem and turned them into student housing, according to Intile. He declined to say whether the Van Buren properties would be turned into student housing.