There is good news for downtown Tamaqua.

Two more vacant store fronts will soon be the homes of two new health care related businesses.

The zoning hearing board heard two requests from the property owners and one of the tenants for variances that will allow the businesses to be operated.

The property at 137 North Railroad Street, more commonly remembered as the former Rite-Aid store which is owned by Tamstan Realty, Inc, will be the new home of an outpatient health service provider. It is being leased by St. Luke's.

The second variance was approved for the property at 41 West Broad Street. Dr. Ronald Sherry, D.D.S, presented a proposal to turn the property into a dentist's office.

Attorney Gary Marchalk represented the owner of Tamstan, Edward Genetti. According to Marchalk, the property could offer a variety of services, including physical and occupational therapy, diagnostics, and physicians' services.

Zoning hearing board member Karl Smulligan asked if the services offered could include something like drug rehabilitation. Genetti said that the lease between him and St. Luke's precluded that sort of activity.

Resident Dan Poncavage asked if the property could ever be used as an outpatient surgery center. Genetti said that the current lease does not allow that, however Marchalk said, "as a practical matter, when you're dealing with healthcare services, it's difficult to predict what might be offered in the future."

The board unanimously approved the request for a variance for the property.

Sherry said that he currently has a practice in Lehighton and the office in Tamaqua would be an almost carbon copy of his office there.

He added that his son will be graduating from dental school in the spring, and he will be joining his practice.

"We do a lot of emergency work. We see people quickly and we solve pain problems," said Sherry.

Zoning board members raised a few concerns about parking in the area, specifically about the amount of parking available and the ability of the office to provide handicap parking.

Sherry said that there is room behind the building for approximately six spaces, including a handicap space. However, handicap patients would still need to come to the front of the building to have access.

Sherry said he hopes to have the office open by April 1.

"That building has been sitting empty for too long. We really appreciate it," said hearing board chairman Richard Clemson, after the unanimous vote to approve the request for variance.