This blog’s big themes on zoning are that the zoning codes themselves should be less prescriptive, and that the zoning process should be rule-based, not seriatim, with minimal opportunities for political discretion. I actually like most of the Allentown code, but this section has to go. Politicians shouldn’t be able to use personal discretion to exempt developers from the code. Especially not to relax billboard regulations of all things:
Is Allentown’s entire zoning law being undermined by one short phrase within that law?
On Monday night, representatives of local businessman/developer Abe Atiyeh argued that it is, during nearly three hours of testimony before the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board.
The controversial phrase is within Section 1311.17 of the city’s zoning ordinance. It states the ordinance does not apply “for a use authorized by the mayor or city council by virtue of a lease or other contract.”
Officials from several of Atiyeh’s 50 “or so” companies want the zoning hearing board to rule that 1311.17 is invalid. They said it violates state law.
They also argued it is a discriminatory and unconstitutional “get out of jail free” card. They said anyone entering into such contracts with the mayor or council is exempted from following any of the other provisions in the city’s zoning ordinance.
“If we wanted to do something outside the purview of the zoning ordinance, I’d have to go to the mayor of Allentown or city council and have them sign a contract with me outside any public notice proceeding,” said Atty. Mickey Thompson, who works for Atiyeh. “I find that to be patently unlawful.”