59° F

Zoners consider mid-city bar and approve East Allentown cell tower

Published On: Jun 25 2013 12:37:44 AM EDT   Updated On: Jun 25 2013 06:10:28 AM EDT

The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board is considering whether it will allow a tavern named Elmo’s Place to open at 604 N. New St. in the city.

The owners, Elmo and Grisell Gonzalez, already have zoning approval for a 40-seat restaurant on the property, although they have not yet opened that restaurant. The couple now wants to add liquor service.

In addition to hearing the Gonzalez appeal Monday night, the zoning board also approved the erection of a 154-foot high monopole for Verizon Wireless, off S. Dauphin Street in east Allentown.

No one from the public attended the meeting to ask questions or express concerns about another bar opening in mid-city.

Elmo Gonzalez told zoners he already owns Nikitas Bar at 712 Turner St. and Washington Grille at 929 W. Washington St. He testified he has liquor licenses for both of those establishments.

Gonzalez has applied for a liquor license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for the New Street restaurant, but has not yet received a decision. He testified he has received no complaints or concerns in regard to that liquor license application.

Gonzalez is a responsible business owner and a well-respected member of the community who has been operating restaurants selling liquor in the city for up to 20 years with no citations on his record, said Atty. Matthew Mobilio, who represented the applicant.

“The zoning board should not reject a request for a special exception based solely on the liquor license issue because that is solely within the purview of the Liquor Control Board,” said Mobilio.

While the state would allow Gonzalez to remain open until 2 a.m., zoning board chairman Daniel McCarthy suggested a midnight closing because it is a residential neighborhood. Gonzalez said he would be willing to do that.

Gonzalez owns the New Street property for eight years. In 2011, he received zoning board approval to open the restaurant, which once operated as the New Street Cafe. He said he wants to serve alcohol to increase the business and make more money at that location.

The previously approved restaurant use allows him to be open until 11 p.m. every night except Sunday, when the place was to close at 9 p.m.

Based on the owner’s experience with the other two bars, McCarthy asked how many people he anticipates will come to Elmo’s Place. Gonzalez estimated each of his other two places gets 30- 40 patrons on weeknights, 50-60 on weekends. He anticipates the new place, which will serve pizza and sandwiches, will draw similar numbers.

McCarthy is concerned about what impact it will have on the neighborhood, regarding parking and traffic. Gonzalez believes Elmo’s Place will draw more people who live in that neighborhood.

The New Street property has 13 off-street parking spaces, with lights and a security camera, according to Gonzalez.

The zoners took the case under consideration, which will include reviewing Mobilio’s legal brief, before they meet to make a decision.

The Verizon cell phone tower, which will stand at 317-243 S. Dauphin near Mosser Elementary School, first came before zoners on May 6. They were presented with a revised plan Monday.

The tower’s location has been moved northwest on the heavily-wooded property, so it will be least 77 feet from the property lines. It is being relocated so, if it should fall, it will not fall onto adjoining homes or properties.

Petros Tsoukalas, an engineer working for Verizon, testified the monopole will be 188 feet from the nearest house on S. Ellsworth Street and 334 feet from the closest home on Fairview Street.

Neighbor Charles Callaway of 502 S. Ellsworth was concerned if the pole falls, it will cause a chain reaction by taking down large trees, creating a cascading effect of falling trees that could threaten his house.

“I don’t remember ever hearing one fall, but that would wipe us out,” said Callaway. He told zoners his house is 20 to 30 feet from the nearest trees.

A 50-by-50-foot fenced “compound” containing an equipment structure will be at the base of the tower. Tsoukalas told Callaway if the monopole fell toward his house, by structural design the pole’s “collapse zone” is only 51 feet. “It will fall virtually within the fenced compound” where no trees will remain standing, said the engineer.

The initial proposed location for the monopole was too close to property lines and too close to the nearest residential zoning district. “It’s rare for towers to have failures, but it would have fallen on another person’s property,” said Zoner R. Scott Unger of the previous location.

Callaway also asked abut evergreen screening around the tower. He was assured 23 white pine trees that are six feet tall will be planted around three sides of the site to block the base of the tower – including the side facing his home.

Callaway was told the tower will be surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain link fence topped with barbed wire to deter children from attempting to climb the monopole. The tower also will be designed so it cannot be climbed without special equipment.

The first 25 feet of a driveway to the tower off S. Ellsworth will be paved, as requested by zoners, but the rest of the drive and parking area will be gravel.