Salisbury Press

Monday, April 6, 2020


Wednesday, September 4, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Local News

Arts Academy Charter School along Emmaus Avenue denied use of garage for use as theater classroom

A proposal to convert a building into a theater rehearsal space at the Arts Academy Charter School along East Emmaus Avenue has been rejected by the Salisbury Township Zoning Hearing Board.

Zoners voted 4-1 to turn down the appeal by the charter school and its landlord, West Bethlehem Ventures, LLC, which owns the building at 1610 E. Emmaus Avenue. The building was originally Washington Elementary School and, after that, a KidsPeace facility.

Voting to deny the variance appeal was Zoning Hearing Board Chairman James A. Kelley, zoning board members Rodney Conn and Ronald Evans and board alternate Joseph Kovach.

Voting to grant the variance was zoner Todd Laudenschlager.

Atty. Mickey Thompson, representing West Bethlehem Ventures, LLC and Arts Academy Charter School, has the option to appeal the zoners' decision.

Bill Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Arts Academy Charter School, attended the Aug. 6 zoners' hearing, as did the school project architect Stewart Gouck.

Two neighbors, Michelle Turbedsky and Carol Snyder Hare, went on record as opposing the appeal.

Proposed was converting a maintenance garage into a classroom. The garage location does not meet the required setback of 50 feet from a residential lot line. The change of use for the garage would have been from an accessory structure to a principal use.

The Arts Academy would use the garage 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on school days and, after school, for workshops or rehearsals 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Arts Academy representatives said because the garage consists of four-inch thick solid brick on four-inch concrete block and is "a great distance from the adjacent residences, as well as the limited hours of proposed use, the theater classroom should not disturb the neighbors, and should not be detrimental to the neighborhood or public welfare."

In presenting the appeal, the Arts Academy representatives made the point "the school building was built in the early 1900s and has no gym or auditorium and relatively small rooms by today's standards, making it difficult to manage the student body.

"By utilizing the unused maintenance garage as a classroom, some of the existing main building space can be freed up and used more efficiently," it was stated.

Approximately 350 students are enrolled in grades five through eight. The school's charter lists a capacity of 400.

The Arts Academy representatives said there is no other needed use for the garage. West Bethlehem Ventures, LLC provides lawn and building maintenance services.

It was also said "building a new structure for classroom purposes would limit available parking and would be too expensive."

West Bethlehem Ventures LLC, which lists its offices at 1177 Sixth St., Whitehall, was seeking a variance and interpretation for a nonresidential principal structure which requires a 50-foot separation from a residential lot line.

The Arts Academy was seeking a dimensional variance of more than 2,500 percent because the existing setback is only 1.8 feet rather than the required 50-foot setback from the residential lot line.

The zoners ruled "that a legal hardship does not exist to justify the granting of variance relief," based on several detailed aspects of the Municipalities Planning Code.

Atty. Jeffrey B. Matzkin was zoning hearing board solicitor, substituting for Atty. Victor F. Cavacini.