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NCC looks to expand; school wants to build new dorm

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Dec 03 2012 08:37:18 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 04 2012 06:52:39 AM CST
BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. -

Community colleges have long been considered as higher-education of last resort.

But that stigma has been partially erased off the chalkboard thanks to the math that has squeezed many families during the Great Recession of the 21st century. Even a rudimentary understanding of economics recognizes the idea of sending Johnny or Mary to a prestigious academic institution isn't a thrifty proposition. Hence the idea of attending a community college for two years before transferring to a four-year university has become far more fashionable.

On Monday night Northampton Community College officials went before Bethlehem Township’s Board of Commissioners seeking zoning relief that would allow them to build a new dormitory that would house up to 300 more students.

While the board took no action, they seemed inclined to support the concept of the construction should the time come, heaping modest praise upon the academic institution during the meeting.

“The college has been a good neighbor for many years,” noted President Paul Weiss.

The college is in an institutional overlay district, according to Mark Culp, director of facilities and campus safety at NCC.  In order to construct the proposed two-story dormitory adjacent to the existing student housing on Green Pond Road and Hecktown Road, the school would need that exemption.

Should Culp be able to line all his ducks up in a row and gain the township’s support, he would anticipate construction to begin in the fall of 2014, with an opening set for the fall 2015 semester.

Commissioner D. Martin Zawarski was also supportive of the measure, but made it a point to Culp to make sure pedestrian stop signs would be posted to stop wandering students from walking out in front of traffic.

“Most of them walk out” expecting traffic to yield to them,” he noted, like they own the road.

They don’t, he added.

Culp said he agreed, and that the issue would be addressed.

The issue will now go before the township’s planning commission in January for review and Township Manager Howard Kutzler will also eyeball the proposal and the township zoning laws to make sure things are on the same page. If the school should garner their approval, the matter would come back before commissioners for a vote.