For now, a 21-acre former industrial site in Allentown’s Union Terrace neighborhood will remain undeveloped.
City Council on Wednesday night voted down a rezoning request for the two parcels that comprise the site where Abe Atiyeh and Stephen Rohrbach had planned to build up to 200 homes. The developers argued that rezoning the land for medium-density residential development would be more productive than the current parkland zoning.
The site includes a former quarry that has since been filled in, and contamination precludes the city from developing the land into a park. Allentown planning staff had said housing would be a more viable use.
But City Council rejected the zoning change in a vote of 5-2, citing concerns that it would allow too many homes, resulting in too much traffic and issues for the already overcrowded Union Terrace Elementary School.
Several council members considered postponing the vote until completion of the city’s Vision 2030 plan, which calls for updating the city’s zoning. But since that could take more than a year, they proceeded with the vote.
Council President Daryl Hendricks voted “no” along with Candida Affa, Ce-Ce Gerlach, Joshua Siegel and Ed Zucal. Julio Guridy and Cynthia Mota were in favor of the project.
“It’s a hard decision,” said Affa, who was initially in favor of a project that would create affordable housing and generate taxes. But she switched after hearing others’ concerns.
“I don’t see too much of a downside. The houses look lovely. It’s affordable, and the fact that if they do start building shortly they can get these low-interest mortgages,” she said.
Zucal said if the