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Zoners approve new pharmacy at Hotel Traylor in Allentown

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 02 2013 04:34:09 AM CDT

Randy Kraft/69 News

A new pharmacy will be located here at the back of the Hotel Traylor in Allentown.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

It may not open for six months, but a new pharmacy is coming to the rear of the Hotel Traylor at 15th and Hamilton streets in Allentown.

The Lehigh One Pharmacy unanimously was approved Monday night by the city’s zoning hearing board.

“It fits the neighborhood; it’s a positive for the neighborhood,” said David Bodnar, owner of Hotel Traylor.

Nimesh Patel of Breinigsville, one of the partners in Lehigh One Pharmacy, said its newest location probably won’t open for five or six months because it still needs approval from the state’s pharmacy board.

Unlike the variety of merchandise offered in large chain pharmacies such as CVS, Rite-Aid or Walgreens, Patel said his retail stores strictly sell prescription drugs as well as some over-the-counter drugs.

Also during the meeting, the zoning hearing board approved a small addition for Volpe’s Sports Bar at West Tilghman and N. Lafayette streets.

The board also approved a variance so an old hotel at 1327-1331 Chew St. can continue allowing people to stay longer than 30 days.

But most of the meeting was spent on just one small project – a request for a variance by developer Bruce Loch to construct a two-unit dwelling on a triangular lot he owns on the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Street and Roth Avenue.

Five nearby residents and an apartment owner objected to Loch’s plan.

Patel’s Lehigh One Pharmacy will be at the southwest corner of the Hotel Traylor, next to the Traylor Mini-Mart.

A tattoo studio is on the other side of the mini-mart.

The pharmacy will be in about 1,500 square feet, largest of those three retail spaces on the south side of the hotel.

Zoning approval was required because the city’s zoning ordinance allows retail businesses at hotels to only have interior entrances, apparently strictly to serve hotel guests, but not exterior entrances.

The pharmacy will have only an exterior entrance, facing the parking lot on the south side of the building.

Zoning board chairman Dan McCarthy indicated Hotel Traylor pre-dates any city zoning ordinances. Bodnar said the south side of the building has had retail uses throughout the life of the hotel, which was built in 1917.

Hotel Traylor will be the fifth location for Lehigh One Pharmacy. The others include Lehigh Drugstore at 504 N. Seventh St. in Allentown and another along Cedar Crest Boulevard opposite Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township.

The retail space previously was occupied by New First Class Transportation, a limo company. Bodnar said First Class Transportation still is based in Hotel Traylor, but recently moved.

“They really didn’t need a retail-type location,” he explained, “so I was able to move them into the interior of the building; into a smaller, more affordable suite.”

Patel expects to have only two full-time employees, including a licensed pharmacist.

The pharmacy’s sign will only be illuminated when it is open. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Volpe’s

Robert Volpe testified his family has owned Volpe’s Sports Bar at 1926 Tilghman St. since 1941.

Volpe got approval for the 315-square-foot addition, which will “square off” the front of the establishment.

He said it will improve the exterior appearance on the Tilghman Street side of the bar, which still will have an entrance.

The change also will give his servers better access to an outdoor patio area along Lafayette Street.

He said five tables will be moved, but no additional seating is being added.

Zoner Scott Unger called it a reasonable expansion of an existing structure.

McCarthy agreed, saying it’s been a non-conforming structure for many years.

Chew Street hotel

Richard Smith, owner of the Chew Street property once known as the West End Hotel, sought zoning approval to continue operating as a non-conforming use.

The city’s zoning law requires maximum hotel stays of 30 days. Unger said some people stay at Smith’s place for months and others have been there for a couple of years.

Unger explained that at a June zoning hearing board meeting, the owner argued his property should be “grandfathered” because the city’s ordinance, not the use of the hotel, is what changed.

Zoner Michael Rosenfeld said the place lacks many basic features offered by hotels, including parking, standard room amenities and a lounge.

Unger said people staying on each floor share one restroom, rather than every room having a private bathroom. And the hotel and its restaurant no longer are run by the same owner as they were in past years. (Jabber Jaws Bar & Grille is on the street level.)

Zoner Michael Engle said “this is an existing property that goes back to the days when we had stagecoaches” and it has a long tradition of people staying for extended periods of time. He said that establishes a non-conforming use for the property.

Zoners waived the 30-day maximum stay requirement, but a condition of approval was that the place must be inspected by the city, to ensure public health, safety and welfare under its rental unit licensing act.

Loch’s lot

The board spent well over an hour on Bruce Loch’s proposal to build two units --probably a twin home -- on his vacant lot at 1737 W. Pennsylvania St. He said each 1,200-square foot unit will have two parking spaces.

Loch said he has built more than 1,000 homes in Allentown in the past 40 years. He also is the developer who plans to build a 33-story skyscraper in Allentown.

Loch maintained traffic on Roth Avenue makes his property undesirable for a single-family home. He said buyers will look at Roth Avenue as a real detriment to a single-family dwelling, particularly if they have children. “It might be extremely difficult to sell. I’m not sure I’d want to build a single-family dwelling unit on this lot.”

He described the two homes he proposes as starter-type units rather than family-style units.

Objectors didn’t like the idea of two homes on the property. At least one said she doesn’t want any home built there.

Resident Barbara Parry objected because she said Loch plans to rent rather than sell the homes, but McCarthy explained the zoning board generally does not get involved in decisions regarding rental vs. ownership.

Resident Sandra Long disagreed with Loch’s description of Roth Avenue as a major thoroughfare where traffic has increased dramatically. She described it as a quiet neighborhood and said Roth Avenue has not gotten busier in the seven years she has lived there.

The proposal apparently meets most requirements of the city’s zoning law except for a clear sight triangle issue.

Unger challenged Loch’s assertions about traffic safety because he is not a professional engineer.

Atty. William Malkames, Loch’s lawyer, requested a continuance so an engineer can testify on Loch’s behalf.

The board agreed to delay action until an engineer can testify at a future meeting.