Bethlehem City Council discussed a slew of issues at its Sept. 1 council meeting, including new proposed ordinances and a variety of key zoning issues across the city.
Potential grocery store hits speed bump
Lidl, a German grocery store chain, has corporate approval to construct a 31,000-square-foot grocery store at the corner of Center Street and Dewberry Avenue.
“This could be the nicest grocery store in Bethlehem because we can walk to it,” said Abe Atiyeh, the owner of the property.
Darlene Heller, Bethlehem’s director of planning and zoning, said the grocery store, however, would not fit the criteria under the current zoning laws at that location.
Council President Adam Waldron said the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended on Aug. 18 that council not pass Atiyeh’s proposal to allow for retail at the potential site of the Lidl store.
“We would like to find a place for a grocery store that is more compatible with the surrounding area than this property would be,” Heller said.
City Council to review potential regulations for student housing on South Side
Potential regulations to student housing off Lehigh’s campus — after unanimous support by the City Planning Commission — are in the works and are under review by city council.
The ordinance would further regulate the purchase and renovations of future student houses and create a “student housing and student home overlay district.”
“The proposed amendments provide an opportunity to proactively address where student housing is most appropriate and to provide some general parameters on student housing development,” Heller wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission on Aug. 6 in support of the new regulations.
The proposal comes at a time in which Lehigh is attempting to grow its student body under the Path to Prominence plan.
Wage equality ordinance generates discussion
Councilman Byran Callahan proposed a wage equality ordinance that would ban employers from asking job candidates their prior wage.
Callahan said women experience wage discrimination starting at their first job and therefore wage discrimination follows them throughout life when employers base their employees’ pay off their previous income.
“This is important legislation that helps to empower women, specifically women of color who are more impacted. We want Bethlehem to continue to be a city of equity for everyone,” Callahan said. “This same ordinance has been passed by 21 other cities and 19 other states, including Alabama.”
Councilwomen Paige Van Wirt and Olga Negrón, though, are concerned that the legislation would be too much for the municipality to handle in terms of legal challenges. Van Wirt said the ordinance will be reviewed by the Bethlehem Human Relations Committee and then adjustments should be made to ensure that the city and county can pursue the court cases that could arise from the ordinance.
Police Department applies for grant
Capt. Michelle Kott of the Bethlehem Police Department presented an application for a U.S. Department of Justice grant that would award the department $41,034 to go toward new laptops in the cruisers, printing items, and software subscriptions.
Kott said BPD has received this grant every year dating back about eight years.