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Bethlehem Commerce Center developer gets 10-year period to request planning code waivers

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Nov 21 2013 09:14:00 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 21 2013 09:55:21 PM CST
Bethlehem commerce center master development agreement
BETHELHEM, Pa. -

The developer of the Bethlehem Commerce Center will have the next decade to take advantage of the same kinds of planning code waivers given to the first two phases of its six-phase project.

The Bethlehem Planning Commission voted 5-0 Thursday afternoon to make the commitment to developer Majestic Realty in the center's Master Development Agreement.

The center is being developed on about 500 acres in the northeast corner of Commerce Boulevard, not far from Applebutter Road and Route 412. Crayola has opened a warehouse there, and Walmart is slated to build a "wish fulfillment center" aka distribution center there.

The planners came up with the 10-year time frame in response to Majestic Realty's request for a more open-ended guarantee.

Bethlehem Attorney James Preston, representing Majestic, asked the planners to "memorialize" their approach to landscaping, impervious ground cover and utility line placement waivers given to the first two phases of the Bethlehem Commerce Center.

By doing so, he said, Majestic would be confident about what the undeveloped lots and buildings would look like.

Commission chairman James Fiorentino said if the planners would make such an open-ended commitment about the waivers, "we will have hamstrung future planning commissions and city councils [who act on planning commission recommendations]."

If Majestic was asking for waivers for specific projects, "I wouldn't be [raising] these questions," Fiorentino added. "I'd say, 'We gave you waivers for [phases] one and two, so it's likely we'd give them for three, four, five, six."

Commission vice chairman Andrew Twiggar then suggested the 10-year limit as a way to resolve the matter, and after some discussion, his proposal was agreed to by his colleagues.

Preston was supportive, too, although he noted that even though Bethlehem Commerce Center projects will be eligible for the waivers, "we still have to make the case for them."