The non-profit Coalition for Appropriate Transportation plans to expand its services by opening a West Bethlehem satellite office at 1935 W. Broad St. for information, safety training and classes on bicycle repair and maintenance.
The Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board, after listening to an hour and 45 minutes of testimony and opposition by neighbors, gave unanimous approval Tuesday night to change the site from a non-conforming use as a ceramic shop to a CAT office, another non-conforming use.
CAT is an educational charity that encourages car-free activities such as biking, walking, trail use and public transportation, and serves as an advocate on bicycle, pedestrian and public transit issues. It is headquartered downtown at 14 W. Raspberry St.
Building owner Barrett Ladd, who sought the change, said it is financially prohibitive to renovate the building’s first floor to an apartment, as neighbors opposed to the change suggested. A ceramic shop, that closed earlier this year, had operated at the site since the 1980s, and commercial use of the first floor has existed for decades, he noted.
Neighbors, who said the CAT operation is “not a good fit” for the residential area, pointed out the CAT operation would bring increased car and bike traffic and further limit on-street parking. They also testified about “more intense use” of the site as a drop-in for people not invested in the neighborhood, safety issues, and the placement of a bicycle rack outside the building.
CAT Executive Director Steve Schmitt, who said the organization teaches traffic skills to families, city police and students in the city school district, explained the site was chosen to have a facility closer to neighborhoods. He said the office would have limited hours, similar to those of former commercial businesses located there. CAT’s current hours of operation on Raspberry Street are 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 a.m., to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
In response to complaints about parking issues, Atty. Sarah Andrew, counsel for Ladd, said, “There can be no better tenant than a tenant advocating that you not drive there.”