Northampton Press

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Board denies Abra appeal for VFW site

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 by AL RECKER Special to The Press in Local News

Developer fails to get enough votes for variance to modify building use

Abra Development, seeking a favorable interpretation of zoning regulations and variances as part of its plan to acquire the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4714 building, 1204 Main St., Northampton, failed to receive the majority vote June 13 from the Northampton Borough Zoning Hearing Board.

After two-and-a-half hours of testimony, the appeal vote ended in a 2-2 tie. This resulted in the appeal not being granted.

Voting in favor of granting the appeal were Robert Baer and Chairman Jerome Kroboth; dissenting were Sylvia Wasko and Robert Solderich. Kenneth Richard was not present for the vote.

Post 4714 Commander Larry Schlittler replied “no comment” when asked what the VFW will now do in the wake of the zoning board’s rejection. It was previously reported the sale of the building to Abra Development, Whitehall, was contingent on the appeal and variance being granted.

Abra took the appeal to the zoning hearing board after plans were rejected by the borough on zoning matters. Abra can appeal the decision further to Northampton County Court. There has been no indication if the developer will continue its pursuit in acquiring ownership of the VFW building via further appeal or step aside.

Jonathon Wolfer, VFW post senior vice commander and home association secretary, testified the VFW would be provided a room for its uniforms and other inventory if the appeal is granted to Abra. The post would continue meeting at the building.

There was also a document shown that Norfolk Southern Railroad, owner of land at the rear of the VFW and a long-closed railroad station, would continue its lease with the new owner.

Wolfer said there was only one prospective buyer for the building.

The historic building is in need of a new roof, estimated at $50,000, a cost that would be borne by the new owner.

The developer would like to modify the use of the property to include food processing with potential retail sales. It would continue to use the social/catering hall for both VFW functions and a future private catering operation, according to the zoning hearing board’s agenda. The new owners would not sell any alcoholic beverages.

Matthew Weaver said he would lease the premises for his pierogi-making business, noting he would employ five to nine people.

Jeremy Straub, of Bayou Boys Hospitality Group, said the use of the building fit in with the neighboring businesses.

Borough Solicitor Steven Goudsouzian recited a litany of permitted uses in a C-2 commercial district, which the present zone does not permit. An industrial zone in the borough would allow such a business. Juliann Edelman, zoning officer, replying to Goudsouzian’s inquiry on permitted uses in a C-2 commercial zone, listed a number of such uses, including a bank, dry cleaner, bakery, hardware store, finance, auto supplies and others.

Borough resident Kathy Novogratz raised concerns about parking. It was mentioned there are parking spots on the VFW grounds, in addition to the municipal parking lot on nearby Laubach Avenue.

Councilman Anthony Lopsonszki Sr. questioned if the current club’s liquor license could come into play at some time in the future regarding ownership and was told that would not occur.