Developer seeks postponement of hearing on Bethlehem student housing plan after surprise appearance

A surprise appearance by the Bethlehem city attorney Wednesday night at a preliminary zoning hearing prompted a sudden request for a postponement by the developer’s attorney.

The city intended to oppose the project at the meeting, according to Michael Santanasto, attorney for the developer. He said he wanted more time to discuss the matter with the city before proceeding.

“I didn’t know the city was going to oppose this bid,” Santanasto said. “We will try to have an extension until next month if the council allows it, so that we can try to have a dialogue with the city to discuss their opposition.

The developer proposes the construction of seven 1,968 square foot, five-bedroom single-family attached homes at 608 Pierce St. for student housing. They were looking for several deviations for the project, before the continuation. The property is on the outskirts of the Lehigh University campus.

Owner Dallas Basha is under a sales contract with Blakeworth Properties, LLC, Santanasto said.

A preliminary hearing is postponed until September 28.

The Zoning Hearing Board also denied an appeal Tuesday for a proposed four-unit building at 508-512 Selfridge St.

The board did not say what prompted its decision to dismiss the appeal, but evidence revealed that the spreads sought by the developer were calculated incorrectly and that the developer’s plans were based on an assertion disputed that the property was actually three separate lots, not just one.

“There are five specific criteria that must be met to grant a waiver. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving each of these elements…based on tonight, the plaintiff has failed to meet his burden,” Assistant City Solicitor Matt Deschler said in his closing comments.

Residents have spoken out against the plans. They said they feared the project was an encroachment by potential student property trying to circumvent the student housing overlay enacted last year.

“This ordinance is vital to the health and well-being of our neighborhoods,” said Bethlehem resident Kim Carrell-Smith.

The promoter, 2529 E. Fourth St, LLC was also represented by Santanasto.

The board unanimously dismissed the appeal.

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Glenn Epps can be reached at gepps@lehighvalleylive.com Where glenn_epps_ on Twitter.