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Allentown developer seeks variance in zoning ordinance to build geriatric hospital

6/14/2012 | Real Estate Blog

Going up against restrictive ordinances can be a real challenge for developers. Sometimes zoning restrictions are out of date and the community is ready for a change. Other times there is considerable opposition to be faced. Moving forward with a project can quickly become political.

A developer seeking to build a hospital in east Allentown had a hearing before the Allentown city planning commission to challenge a city zoning ordinance holding up the project. The hospital would be a 580-bed geriatric hospital located in the former Agere Systems building. According to Allentown Trust, the developer’s company, the hospital would create over 100 jobs and cost around $25 million. That area is currently zoned industrial, which prohibits such a project.

Allentown Trust is apparently challenging the zoning ordinance on the grounds that it is unfairly exclusionary. The company is also contesting a parking agreement from 2005, according to which nearby Coca-Cola Park is allowed to use any available spaces on the property for IronPigs games and other events when stadium parking runs out.

The city planning commission apparently voted against the proposal, and is set to recommend that the city council deny the request. The Allentown Zoning Hearing Board will also be holding a hearing on a separate zoning variance that would allow for the hospital.

It isn’t clear why city members, so far, are so resistant to allowing for a variance in the zoning ordinance for completion of the project, particularly since the parking agreement poses a real hardship for many businesses–industrial or not–who may consider setting up there.

Source:, “Allentown geriatric hospital proposal leads to city zoning ordinance challenge,” Colin McEvoy, June 12, 2012