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Prince of planning stepping down

Morelli was Bethlehem’s point man on major developments for past eight years

Bethlehem Economic Development and Planning Director Mike Morelli is set to retire on Friday, June 28, after eight years with the town. Bethlehem officials are now seeking applicants to fill his position.

Bethlehem Economic Development and Planning Director Mike Morelli is set to retire on Friday, June 28, after eight years with the town. Bethlehem officials are now seeking applicants to fill his position. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— “I almost wish we called it something different, instead of Vista Technology Campus, because I think it confuses people,” he said.

Other initiatives undertaken on Morelli’s watch have been changes to the town’s Comprehensive Plan and updates to the town’s land uses code that have helped bring businesses to the town.

“The Town of Bethlehem, not unlike other suburban communities, developed the reputation that it’s a hard place to do business,” he said. “We work with developers, show them our issues, make sure it meets town, state and federal guidelines. We never have really been challenged.”

Morelli said some of his favorite projects while he’s worked with the town have been those involving redemptive reuse of old businesses. He cited the old Saratoga Shoe Depot that is now the new Berkshire Bank on Delaware Avenue and the former CVS site across the street, which is now Community Care Physicians. He also said Glenmont Plaza had over 100,000 square feet of vacant space, but has been completely redone.

“Adaptive reuse and in-field development is a goal of the Comprehensive Plan and we wanted to achieve that goal,” he said.

The Planning Department also has been working to diversify the types of housing in town to allow its aging population to find a more comfortable living situation but stay within Bethlehem. Morelli said a recent review of the Comprehensive Plan shows their plan is working and the town should stay on track.

The town is seeking applications for a new Director of Economic Development and Planning until the end of the month.

Morelli is in charge of two departments with a total of 11 employees. He said whoever fills his position next should be able to work well with people and know it’s a demanding job. His departments have lost 24 percent of their staffing through attrition in recent years and everyone is doing more with less.

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