Leiser’s Rental is planning to relocate a significant portion of its business from Bethlehem Township two miles south along Linden Street to the former Moose & Bug flower shop in Bethlehem city.
The Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday night unanimously voted to grant the property’s owner, developer Abe Atiyeh, a special exception to allow a change in use to the property that had most recently been home to a greenhouse and garden supply business
Leiser’s President Rob Uliana told the board that he plans to use the location at 2349 Linden St. to run a display showroom for the company’s selection of party rental supplies and an outlet from which small home improvement tools such as floor sanders, drills, nail guns and jackhammers can be leased.
Larger rental construction equipment such as backhoes, skid loaders, trailers, hoists and trucks will not be relocated to the city location, said Uliana, who added that Leiser’s is working toward eliminating that part of its business.
Similarly, Leiser’s will not be storing any of its party supplies — such as tents, inflatable play devices, chairs and tables — at the new location, Uliana said. Those items will be delivered or picked up from a separate warehouse, which may remain at the company’s existing location at 3608 Linden St., he added.
However, Leiser’s is also contemplating moving away from the current location and selling the property, said Uliana, the grandson of Don Leiser, who founded the company 70 years ago. He said he hopes to establish the new shop late this year.
Residents of a nearby condominium development objected to the development, saying it would be a more intense and disruptive to their homes than what Atiyeh had most recently pitched and obtained zoning board approvals for or what had previously been at the location.
Randy Rahiman, who said he moved into his condominium eight months ago, told the board he would not have bought the unit had he known this kind of use was planned for the space that abuts his back yard.
Joe Slabikoski, who identified himself as the vice president of the Linden Townhome Condominium Association representing its 14 owners, asked the board to reject the special exception application.
Slabikoski said he was concerned about traffic, noise and light pollution from the business. He and other condo owners were also displeased that Leiser’s will be open on Saturdays whereas the office that the zoning board approved in May 2016 would only have been open during weekday business hours.
Uliana said he plans to open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and the board made that a condition of the approval. Leiser’s currently also opens on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Uliana said he no longer wants to keep the business open seven days a week.
Since buying the 2.1-acre property soon after Moose & Bug closed in 2012, Atiyeh has pitched numerous development Iideas, including a 47-bed drug treatment center, an eight-unit townhouse development and, most recently, the home office of his commercial real estate development firm, Pennsylvania Venture Capital.
The drug treatment center plan was disparaged by neighbors and city officials and ultimately rejected by the zoning board. Then in 2014, Atiyeh leased the space to Cressman’s Lawn & Tree Care, a use more in line with Moose & Bug, but that business did not last long at the location.
In 2015, Atiyeh sought and won approval from the zoning board to build townhouses, but later retreated from that plan in favor of offices, which the board approved last year.
Mickey Thompson, a lawyer and chief operating officer of Pennsylvania Venture Capital, told the board that the office project would have proceeded had Uliana not approached him about leasing the property. Thompson said he believes Leiser’s is a better use and one that is more in keeping with what has been at the site before.
The change in plans to Leiser’s does little to alter renovation at the site, which has been going on for the past two months, Thompson said. Plans to build interior walls will be scrapped to give Leiser’s the open floor plan it needs for its showroom.
Daryl Nerl is a freelance writer.
- Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board granted special exception approval to Leiser’s Rental to move into 2349 Linden St..
- The property is owned by developer Abe Atiyeh and formerly housed Moose & Bug flower shop.
- Leiser’s has been located two miles north at 3608 Linden St., Bethlehem Township.
- The company plans to use the new site as a showroom and to rent small home improvement tools. Its larger rental supplies would be stored elsewhere.