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Court overturns zoning ok for drug treatment center

A developer has been denied permission to convert a closed thread mill in Lehigh County for use as a residence by addicts undergoing drug rehabilitation. The developer plans to both appeal the judge's ruling and to prepare and file a new application for the project under Bethlehem, Pennsylvania's recently modified zoning laws. The city's altered zoning ordinance, the developer contends, makes it possible for a special exception for zoning for such drug treatment facilities.

A spokesman for the city indicated that such a new application would be looked at favorably, noting the proposed site for the drug treatment center was not in close proximity to any neighborhoods or schools. The court's decision overturned prior zoning approval, holding that the application did not meet existing legal requirements for a variance. Additionally, the city complained the developer did not live up to promises that he would withdraw applications to construct similar facilities at other locations in exchange for zoning approval for the project. There had been opposition by local residents to a number of such planned facilities.

Zoning for the property, the site of a now-vacant factory, had previously been granted for 67 residential apartments, but that development never really got started because of financial problems. The developer has indicated that he plans to appeal the latest ruling to a higher court.

The judge also denied the developer approval to install a large, lighted billboard on the property since the city limits such billboards to less than 100 square feet, rather than the 625 square foot billboard the developer planned. Clearly, the case illustrates the need for an experienced zoning law attorney to seek approval for commercial developments that require any kind of variance from existing zoning.

Source: The Morning Call (mcall.com), "Judge reverses zoning decision for Bethlehem treatment center" Nicole Radzievich, Jul. 04, 2013

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