On November 3, 2001, Newsflash reported on the battle of residents in the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to stop the rezoning of an excellent light-industrial site for a commercial shopping center anchored by a Lowe’s. The group No Mall has sent us this update on their progress to stop a rezoning for big box retail: “Our group, No Mall, made a very successful 90-minute presentation to the Bethlehem City Council in December. We gave a well-documented & illustrated, multi-person presentation on (1) the illegality of transactions thus far [both procedural violations as well as ‘spot zoning’ and ‘contract zoning’ violations]; (2) the “Sordid History” of the Durkee site; (3) the traffic bad news [33% increase in daily traffic on congested corridor vs. 5.6% increase for a substantial light-industrial development]; severe increase in hazards at nearby Middle School; (4)the economic Bad News [significantly less tax revenue generated by commercial- shopping than light-industrial]; and (5)erosion of the quality-of-life of Bethlehem.The presentation had such an impact that not only were Council members effusive in their praise (and the Beth. Steel attorney called it a model of democracy at work like none he had seen in Bethlehem before), but apparently minds were changes and one member of council began to step back and look for an alternative, appropriate form of development on the site (or so we found out in January). City Council was due to vote on January 15. At the last minute (around 4:30 that afternoon), the developers contacted one city councilor and promised to hire local contracters to build the development, thereby ‘softening’ this councilor’s opposition. The city also moved to substitute an amendment to rezone only 23 of the 35 acres so the development couldn’t build out beyond the 220,000 square foot the developers had reluctantly agreed to, at least without returning for another rezoning. At the Council meeting the very first members of the public (13 of them) to speak in favor of rezoning in a year and a half made some ‘comments from the floor’ (about half, we calculated were either city employees or had a relationship with the developers or the administration) — along with several NoMall members. During the debate, another City Councilor urged the council to ‘step back’ and make a decision that would find an appropriate use for this site. The motion was, however, amended successfully by the apparent supporters of rezoning, 4-3, and it was tabled pending another City Council public hearing, which is scheduled for March 19.”
For more information on the efforts to keep Lowe’s from building in Bethlehem, go to the Newsflash from 11/03/01 or search this database with the word “Bethlehem”.