We recently reported that the sale of the Bethlehem Central School District’s former offices on Adams Place to day care provider School’s Out, Inc., could be facing some serious hurdles.
This story out of the Town of Bethlehem might deal with a local issue there, but it is one that is fueled by an argument that touches many growing communities in which residents and businesses find themselves sharing space.
Many of the project’s stumbling blocks have to do with zoning. In particular, the district and School’s Out will have to prove to the Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals the change would not alter the character of the neighborhood before a variance can be granted and the $475,000 sale can go through.
That will be tough with many neighbors vocally opposed to the project. They’ve told the town there would be an unsafe spike in traffic and the quality of life for residents would be threatened. It’s undeniable School’s Out’s plans to build a playground and hold before- and after-school programs, as well as summer programming, for kids would be a change. But would it threaten this Old Delmar neighborhood?
The neighbors of the former administration building live in an area that, while entirely residential, sits a block from Delaware Avenue. The former admin building is just 850 feet from the busy Four Corners, as the crow flies. Closer still is the Delmar Reformed Church, which we would warrant draws quite a bit of traffic now and again, and not just on Sundays. Down the street on Adams Place sits St. Thomas, its school and the associated traffic, some of which goes up and down Adams.
Some residents speaking in opposition of the School’s Out project have said they chose to live where they did because they crave peace and quiet. Peace and quiet, after all, are two qualities that have made many parts of Bethlehem a poster child for suburban living.
The streets of Old Delmar are certainly not Manhattan — but they are not the remote Yukon, either. We must wonder what sort of expectation of peaceful repose comes in neighborhoods in which the houses are built nearly on top of one another (in a tasteful, charming way), and within walking distance of a great many businesses, schools, churches and other institutions.
We hear all the time of the benefits of a walkable community — then seemingly in the same breath, complaints about noise or light pollution. We hear calls for support of local business — but noses are turned up at the inevitable changes that come with successful enterprises.
We hate to accuse anyone of a term that has become so distasteful as “NIMBYism,” but when the shoe fits…
If the residents near the former admin building truly cannot stomach the sounds of children playing for a few hours on a summer day, or an extra few cars pulling over momentarily onto the wide street’s shoulders to drop off youngsters, then it is entirely their right to protest this sale and to be heard and taken seriously.
So if the sale doesn’t go through and the building is not turned over to School’s Out, then what will become of it? According to the district, several companies eyeing it for office space took a walk after inspecting the building. It’s unlikely anyone would drop nearly half a million dollars for the property, then spend more money to tear down the building and build a home. We have to wonder, exactly what use would be conducive to this property?
Seemingly without answer, the default future without a School’s Out sale will be for it to sit there, sucking up taxpayer money as it gradually falls into disrepair. It will be up to the residents of Delmar to decide which scenario is more palatable.