The City of Bethlehem uses an independent third party tool to provide automated language translation. As with any machine translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not fully translate text into its intended meaning. Therefore, the City of Bethlehem does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text and it should not be relied upon for anything other than informational purposes. We recommend that if you experience difficulty, or doubt the accuracy of the translation, you contact the proper City of Bethlehem department for the information you seek. Please note that some applications and or services may not work as expected when translated.
APRIL 15, 2003 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, April 15, 2003 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Gregory called the meeting to order. Mr. Donchez offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, John B. Callahan, Robert J. Donchez, J. Michael Schweder, Magdalena F. Szabo, and James S. Gregory, 7.
Public Hearing - Amending Zoning Ordinance Articles 1301, 1316, 1317A, 1320 and 1326
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, President Gregory called to order a Public Hearing to consider the following: Text Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, as follows: Article 1301-Titles, Purpose and Interpretation, 1316 – LI Light Industrial District, 1317A – IR Industrial Redevelopment District, 1320 – Signs, and 1326 – Amendments.
7 A. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Various Zoning Text Amendments
The Clerk read a letter (Communication 7 A) dated March
28, 2003 from Frederic Brock,
Assistant Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, as follows:
"The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission considered the above referenced matter at the March 27, 2003 meeting pursuant to the requirements of the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). The Commission voted to return the following comments for your use. The proposed amendments included the following: Allowing private utility installations in two industrial districts; Exempting City projects from zoning requirements; Allowing residential uses in existing office buildings in the Industrial Redevelopment (IR) District; Procedural amendments pertaining to amendments; and, Review of certain signs. We are concerned that the allowance of residential uses in existing office buildings in the IR district may result in conflicts with other land uses. The IR district allows an extensive variety of uses, some of which are not well suited next to residential uses. The manufacturing and warehousing uses are examples of such uses. We recommend that the allowance of residential uses in the district be reconsidered. At a minimum, the regulations should provide for separation from certain other kinds of uses and effective buffering. The other proposed amendments are matters of local concern only. We offer no comments about them."
Planning Director Comments
Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, reviewed the proposed changes, as follows.
Section 1301 - Titles, Purpose and Interpretation is proposed to be amended to provide an exemption for those proposals of the municipality that are proposed for a governmental purpose. She affirmed that a new Section 1301.07, Application to City and Municipal Authorities, would be added to the Zoning Ordinance to provide this exemption that the Zoning Ordinance shall not apply to any existing or proposed building, use or any expansion to be used by the City of Bethlehem or any Municipal Authority created by the City when the building or use is for a governmental purpose.
Section 1316 - L-I Light Industrial District, is proposed
to be amended in Section 1316.02 (a) (19) by the addition
of the words "or private" to read as follows: Public
or private utility installation. Ms. Heller, noting that the
City currently allows public utility installations in the
Light Industrial and Heavy Industrial zoning districts, expressed
the belief that, at the time the Section was included in the
Zoning Ordinance, it was not anticipated that there would
be private utility installations. As a result, it is suggested
that the Section be revised at this time to read public or
private utility installations. Since any use that is permitted
in Light Industrial is also permitted in Heavy Industrial
the revision is reflected only in Section 1316.02 (a) (19).
Section 1317A - I-R Industrial Redevelopment District is proposed to be amended by adding new Section 1317A.03 (a) (47) to read as follows: Residential uses are permitted within existing office buildings. Ms. Heller, affirming it is proposed that a section be added to permit residential uses within existing office buildings, noted there are two areas where the proposed change would be practical. Focusing on the comments of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC), Ms. Heller informed the Members that the proposal has been discussed with LVPC. The uses that are proposed within that surrounding area are retail in nature, it is felt they are compatible, and it is not foreseen there would be any conflict or buffering that would be necessary there. Ms. Heller communicated that if the Members of Council are interested, the matter could be revisited.
Section 1320 - Signs, is proposed to be amended in Section 1320.04 (i) by deleting the following phrase: but shall be subject to site plan approval by the Planning Commission and review by the Traffic Bureau. Ms. Heller, confirming that flashing, moving signs, and message boards are allowed, noted the present provision provides for site plan review by the Planning Commission. Ms. Heller advised it is suggested that the phrase be deleted so those types of signs are reviewed before the Zoning Hearing Board as are all other signs addressed in the Zoning Ordinance.
Section 1326 - Amendments, is proposed to be amended in the first paragraph of Section 1326.02 in addition to paragraph (c), and in Section 1326.03 (b). Ms. Heller explained that the current language of Section 1326.02 requires that a City resident make an application for a zoning text or rezoning request. It is suggested that the language be revised so that the applicant need not be a resident of the City but rather that any citizen could request a zoning change. Filing fees for rezoning and zoning text amendments, currently $100, are recommended to be changed since that amount does not nearly cover the administrative costs for zoning amendment reviews. It is suggested that the filing fee be increased to $200, and the applicant would also be required to cover the full cost of any required legal advertisements. Legal advertising costs must be paid to the City in full by the applicant before First Reading of an Ordinance. The revision in Section 1326.03 (b) is being recommended to bring the City's Zoning Ordinance in compliance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Code, and requires 30 days advance notice of the public hearing to owners of property located within the area proposed to be rezoned.
Mr. Callahan, turning to the recommendation of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, read that the LVPC is "concerned that the allowance of residential uses in existing office buildings in the IR district may result in conflicts with other land uses. The IR district allows an extensive variety of uses, some of which are not well suited next to residential uses." Mr. Callahan asked if Ms. Heller agrees with that statement.
Ms. Heller responded she would agree that it is not a good idea to place residential uses next to a manufacturing use. Ms. Heller continued on to explain "we don't foresee that that's really what's going to be developed around these buildings." Reiterating that the issue can be revisited if Council would like to, Ms. Heller said retail uses are anticipated in that area of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property located in the vicinity of East Third Street.
Mr. Callahan restated that the provision reads that the IR District allows for an extensive variety of uses some of which are not well suited next to residential uses.
Ms. Heller verified that the intent is to allow residential uses specifically for office buildings that already exist within the IR zoning district and would basically be two buildings: the prior Bethlehem Steel Corporation office headquarters and the Discovery Center. Noting that is the area being addressed, Ms. Heller said there really would be no other buildings where the proposed revision would be applicable.
Mrs. Belinski, focusing on the proposal to amend Section 1301.07, Application to City and Municipal Authorities, inquired why is it proposed that the City of Bethlehem be exempt from the Zoning codes.
Ms. Heller replied that the proposal pertains to uses that provide a governmental purpose and serve the public in general. Noting it is not a unique requirement in a Zoning Ordinance, Ms. Heller explained the idea behind it is that such projects go through quite a bit of public review, including Council review of budgetary considerations, and Planning Commission review of design so that there are several levels of public review. She added that the projects are intended to serve the public at large.
Joseph Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, advised that the proposal originated out of the Law Bureau, and arises out of the experience with construction of the new North Street Parking Garage. Attorney Leeson, providing the background, explained as the project was negotiated to leverage the office building and public investment in the parking garage, it became apparent that where the parking garage needed to be located was not in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance. Pointing out it became apparent to Council and the Administration that the parking garage was something that was needed, and adding there was near unanimous community support, Attorney Leeson said unfortunately the parking garage did not comply with the Zoning Ordinance. Attorney Leeson recounted that a number of citizens who were not in favor of the parking garage initially took an appeal based on the failure of the City to comply with the Zoning Ordinance. Consequently, the City was at risk to construction being held up for several years and not being able to build the garage even though all branches of government had concluded it was in the public interest. Affirming it is limited to a governmental purpose, Attorney Leeson added that, although it has been very rare that the City has exercised its power of eminent domain, if the City ever concludes there is a legitimate government purpose to be served by construction of some type of utility facility it is theoretically possible it could be not in compliance with the Zoning Ordinance and the power of eminent domain indirectly thwarted by that problem. Stating he understands that, generally, such a provision is something that is seen in various zoning ordinances throughout the Commonwealth, Attorney Leeson acknowledged he has not done a survey. Attorney Leeson said when the problem with the parking garage came up it was suggested to the City that in order to head off such problems in the future, the provision was something the City should have. Attorney Leeson added this does not prevent voluntary compliance by the City.
Mark Harris, 1204 Lorain Avenue, a member of the City Planning Commission for five years, said he is at the meeting to address issues related to two of the proposed Zoning Text Amendments. Mr. Harris affirmed that he voted against the one and had meant to vote against the other. Turning to Article 1320.04 (i), concerning flashing and moving signs, Mr. Harris said an example is the new marquis at Liberty High School at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue and Linden Street. Mr. Harris stated the Zoning Ordinance has long charged the Planning Commission and the Traffic Bureau with review of these signs. Mr. Harris remarked that "the planning office now wants to take that responsibility away from the [Planning] Commission and the Traffic Bureau because it says we have no clear standards by which to judge the appropriateness of the signs. As a consequence, our review becomes in the planning office's words quite subjective…First, I might agree that our review at the Planning Commission level becomes subjective at times. It has to be. I don't think you'll ever find a set of totally objective criteria by which to judge whether placing a flashing sign in a particular location poses in this case a traffic hazard. The review of a flashing sign is necessarily a subjective act. I don't care who reviews it. But does that mean that one shouldn't be allowed to debate it, that a Planning Commissioner shouldn't use his or her own best judgment based on all the variables at play to come to some sort of conclusion about the safety or potential danger posed by some signs. I contend that that's just what a Planning Commissioner should be doing. Second, the planning office contends that review by the Zoning Hearing Board is sufficient. Is it? Take the sign at Liberty High School. It was approved last year when it came before us…At that time, the message that is shown on the screen was allowed to change every ten minutes, and then last year Liberty High School petitioned to have the message change every nine seconds…So when it came before us at that time we had quite a lengthy debate and discussion that included Planning Commission members, Planning Officers, John Lezoche participated from the Zoning Office, and even Mr. Bill Burkhardt, a principle at Liberty High School. Between us we came to an agreement with Mr. Burkhardt that he could lower the intensity of the signs that light, play with the signs automatic controls a bit, and we settled on a former trial period in which we'd all surveyed the signs changes over that time, and come back for a final vote which we did. That agreement and the discussion leading up to it was not conducted by the Zoning Hearing Board. It was held at a Planning Commission meeting. That discussion was useful, it was important, and was worth having…". Mr. Harris thought such discussions should be allowed to happen at the Planning Commission level. "Third, the Planning Commission's review of flashing signs provides yet another public forum…to learn about changes happening in their City and to comment on them. I wouldn't want to give that up. And, finally, I'm here also to preserve the limited power of the Planning Commission…to serve as an advisory panel of regular citizens to consider our City's growth. We are not professionals. Indeed, we're here precisely because we're not professionals. We're here because it was thought that we would bring a different view to Planning, that we may see something at professional plan reviews, that we might have a vision of the City or an idea that's worthy and needs to be considered in planning, that the intersection a Planner might think is safe perhaps isn't. Yes, our analysis sometimes slides into subjectivity…But that's no reason to eliminate a forum for it all together when complete objectivity is also impossible."
Mr. Harris next focused on the proposed revision to Section 1301.07 that would exclude municipal entities from Zoning Ordinance requirements. Mr. Harris, denoting he did not know the impetus was the North Street Parking Garage, said it seems the proposal would eliminate other entities from adding what could potentially be valuable input on City projects. Mr. Harris thought those entities could provide benefit to the City on projects, could save the City from a potential mistake, and could make the City think of something it had not thought of. Stating he would be loathe to give that up, Mr. Harris stressed he thinks it is a protection for the City as much as it is advice and additional information, and that the entire provision does not necessarily need to be thrown out.
President Gregory noted that the appropriate Ordinances will be placed on the May 6, 2003 Council Agenda for First Reading
The public hearing was adjourned at 7:56 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
President Gregory stated that the minutes of April 1, 2003 City Council Meeting would be listed for approval on the May 6, 2003 Council Agenda.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Bill No. 15 - 2003 - Rezoning Former Durkee Property - Eighth Avenue - LI to IR and RT
President Gregory affirmed that, as was discussed at the April 8, 2003 Special City Council Meeting, he would recognize Gene Mater to speak first.
Gene Mater, 434 Second Avenue, said he wants his comments tonight to be made part of the official record of the Public Hearing on April 8, 2003 because he was not able to make them then or he chose mercy on the Council to not make them then due to the late hour in the meeting and he had been pushed to the end of the speaking list.
Mr. Mater, noting a lot of people want a Lowe's home improvement store, and remarking there are times when he would like a Lowe's nearby, stressed apparent convenience is not everything. Mr. Mater likened the acceptance of the developer's story without checking out the facts is like buying a car based on the salesman's pitch. Mr. Mater affirmed that he and other members of the No Mall citizen's group have been studying the problem for about three years. Mr. Mater informed the assembly that the headlines he will talk about are based on fact and not opinion.
Mr. Mater stated that, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot), in the last twelve years traffic on Eighth Avenue has increased 25%. If Lowe's is opened, there will be an immediate 40% increase over current Eighth Avenue traffic. The proposed developer's project would generate on a four lane street 91% of the current traffic load at the malls on the six lane MacArthur Road in Whitehall, or 29,200 cars a day compared with 32,000 cars a day on MacArthur Road. The traffic from the developer's proposal would generate more traffic than the shopping center proposal rejected last April by City Council, and there would be 8,200 cars a day versus a 7,500 figure of last April. It would generate within 20% of what the last proposal would have generated in 2010. Within a year, the developer's proposal would bring in almost as much traffic as the current traffic study claims will not happen until 2014. The Lowe's store currently proposed is 7% larger than the one rejected last year, or 142,000 square feet versus 130,000 square feet. The developer claims that the garden center is not part of the store, or that some or all of it is not covered by a roof. Mr. Mater noted the size of the store tells how much traffic to expect. The plan shows a 26,000 square foot garden center that the developer confirmed to Mr. Mater in an e-mail and which the traffic engineer also confirmed to Mr. Mater. The garden center is attached to a 116,000 square foot Lowe's store. The drawing done by Mr. Petrucci's engineering company shows it to be 142,000 square feet. The traffic study, done by the same firm that did the traffic study for last year's shopping center proposal, uses a computer program called Syncro instead of the high capacity manual method that is the industry and PennDot standard for traffic studies. At least four intersections will fail PennDot's safety standards if the traffic improvements that the developer promises are built. Another two intersections have been called into question by the City's traffic coordinator. The northbound ramp off Route 378 will often have over 30 cars backed up on the ramp over a distance of 823 feet which is almost three football fields. Even after the developer builds a new traffic light there that is what is going to happen, and the City's traffic coordinator is worried that cars will be stacking up onto Route 378. The developer says this will not happen until 2014. However, the adjusted number shows that it will be that bad almost as soon as the Lowe's store opens. The intersection of most concern at Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard where Nitschmann Middle School is located will, after the traffic improvements the developer promises to install, be no better than it is now in terms of traffic congestion, breaking times, frustration, or safety, and "he admits this in the traffic study". Mr. Mater confirmed he is not an engineer or a traffic engineer so he relies on the expertise of experts, including reliance on the following: Traffic Planning and Design (TPD) for coming up with the traffic studies of 2000 and 2003, Frank Barron, City of Bethlehem Traffic Coordinator, and the help Mr. Barron received from Benchmark Engineering Company, a consultant for the City, PennDot engineers who provided historical and up-to-date traffic figures for Eighth Avenue and MacArthur Road, two traffic engineers who independently reviewed and validated the findings Mr. Mater is presenting this evening, Pany and Lentz Engineering Company of Allentown that prepared the preliminary record plan for the developer that was submitted in February. Mr. Mater advised he has some expertise working with blueprints because he worked as a draftsman on government projects. Focusing on what would happen in the traffic corridor in Eighth Avenue, Mr. Mater referred to specimen A, the Traffic Planning and Design traffic study from 2000, and the current study that is about three times as thick. Mr. Mater also referred to a blowup of what was on the back of the Yes Mall petition. Turning to Captured Trips, Mr. Mater advised the City's traffic consultant said this does not apply in this case. Traffic Planning and Design had said that 30% of the trips into this development would be captured trips, in other words, duplicate trips. The City says no this is not a true shopping center and "to provide a more conservative estimate of the site's likely trip generation, Benchmark recommends that an interaction of 5% be utilized." Mr. Mater communicated this would increase the trips the project generates by 25%. Traffic Planning and Design utilizes Synchro software, "not the methodologies of the 2000 Highway Capacity Manual (HCM)". Mr. Mater stated that the City's traffic office recommended the analysis be performed utilizing the methodologies of HCM. Mr. Mater turned to the poster titled, 2000/2004 Base Conditions. Three plus years ago, Traffic Planning and Design did their first study of Eighth Avenue using the HCM method that the City wants them to use in this study. In this method, 48 failing grades are found on the intersections of the corridors; i.e., a left turn, a through lane, or a right turn. There are seven failing intersections on the corridor. For this year's study, the same base data was used from three years ago, making minor adjustments for additional background traffic. Traffic Planning and Design came up with a completely different picture using the Synchro method, and there are only 19 failing aspects and only one failing intersection in the whole corridor. Reiterating that HCM is the accepted method for doing traffic studies, Mr. Mater explained that Syncro is useful to synchronize up and down the corridor but grossly underestimates problems of intersections. Mr. Mater said that TPD has made current conditions seem more than twice as good as they actually are. Additionally, reading from the City's report, Mr. Mater read "the Synchro analysis was performed utilizing a total lost time of 3.0 seconds for each car movement" which, he said, is what is also used in suburban Philadelphia. He continued on to read "this represents very aggressive driving and should be justified or the calculations should be performed with a lost time representing the average local driver." Mr. Mater further read "the study also predicts that the queue on the northbound exit ramp will reach 823 feet. The design should be reviewed to see if the queue can be reduced to reduce the likelihood that traffic would back up onto Route 378." Mr. Mater emphasized this is a concern expressed by the City's traffic coordinator. Mr. Mater asserted this is an important question, because this condition will be reached shortly after the store would open, not in 2014, and "this admission presupposes that we will all drive like they do in Suburban Philadelphia." Mr. Mater commented there is something that may have been overlooked by the office of Frank Baron, City Traffic Coordinator, in the Preliminary Record Plan submitted by Petrucci Company's engineers that is the actual size of the building being proposed. Mr. Mater pointed out this matters because the number of trips generated going in and out of Lowe's is based on the size of the retail space. As presented in the blueprints submitted to the City, it shows 116,000 square feet for the Lowe's store and 26,000 square feet for Lowe's Garden Center for a total of 142,000 square feet. Mr. Mater said this is 9,000 square feet larger than they admit the Lowe's to be. Mr. Mater said this also means the store is 7% larger than stated in the traffic study, and, by accepted traffic engineering standards and methods, another 7% should be added to the stated traffic figures. Mr. Mater calculated it has gone up 25% plus 7% meaning 32% more traffic than has been admitted to. Mr. Mater referred to the schematic TPD offered with figures for Saturday noontime 2004, when the Lowe's, restaurant, and bank have opened, and the 200 apartments are filled. Mr. Mater pointed out that only one intersection, Illick's Mill Road, is failing. Focusing on the intersection at Nitschmann Middle School, Mr. Mater noted that, in the traffic report prepared by TPD, page ten, for Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard, it is stated "these projected degradations in the levels of service can be mitigated to pre-construction levels with the installation of the new signal system and the addition of a southbound exclusive right turn lane onto Eighth Avenue." Mr. Mater remarked this study promises that what is being experienced now is what will be experienced after the $1,000,000 are put into traffic improvements. Mr. Mater expressed "they are promising to give you the same thing you experience today." Mr. Mater, stating these promises are based on under-reporting of how bad the numbers will really be, asserted that the Nitschmann School corner will actually be worse than it is today, even with the added right turn lane.
Mr. Mater said two problems were raised by the City. There are far too many trips listed as multiple destination trips, and the drivers are represented by TPD as being more aggressive than are drivers in the Lehigh Valley. Additionally, the developer admitted that the Lowe's as presented in the official engineering documents to the City is larger than the traffic study or the developer has admitted that it is. Turning to adjusted traffic numbers for 2004, Mr. Mater noted this schematic shows the numbers adjusted according to the City's revisions as to the captured trips reduced from 30% to 5%, and per the actual square footage of Lowe's on the engineers' drawings. The traffic numbers for 2004, when adjusted for a "reality check", show Eighth Avenue immediately suffering with traffic levels that almost equal what TPD's study says will not happen until 2014. The adjusted numbers demonstrate that most of the traffic figures when the store would open are within 87% to 93% of the amount TPD predicts for 2014. In addition, the corrected numbers for traffic going in and out of the Lowe's parking lot in 2004 would be 122% to 125% larger than what TPD says there will be ten years from now.
Mr. Mater next reviewed daily intersections. He said these are the grades admitted to by the developer in the year 2014. Advising there are four failing intersections and two in question, Mr. Mater enumerated that Westgate Mall and Catasauqua Road intersection fails, Illick's Mill Road fails, the proposed driveway into the Lowe's fails, and Union Boulevard and Eighth Avenue intersection fails. Mr. Mater said the City has called into question both of the intersections where the developer proposes to put in a new traffic light. Because these adjusted figures are within 10% of the target year 2014, Mr. Mater indicated one can extrapolate and find that one year after the Lowe's opens there will be four failed intersections and two strongly in question.
Mr. Mater advised that he looked at the TPD study but could not find what the increase in traffic is likely to be on Eighth Avenue and the related cross streets. Mr. Mater communicated this information needs to be considered as part of the whole picture. Mr. Mater informed the assembly these numbers come from the ITE manual which, he said is the bible of traffic engineering, and the revised size of Lowe's as it appears in the plan. On Saturday afternoon, there are 750 cars per hour, 125 people going to the restaurant, 211 going to the bank, 104 trips from the apartments, for total trips of 1,250 of which 5% are captured according to the City's traffic controller, which is 63, for a final figure of 1,187 cars at that peak time which, he said, is a little more than the developer would have you believe. On a typical weekday, the total number of cars per day is 8,266. On a weekend, it rises to 9,389 cars a day. In 1990, according to PennDOT, there were 15,000 cars a day on Eighth Avenue. In May of last year, the number had risen to 20,000. This is an increase of 25% in twelve years. If one were to add to this current figure the 8,000 plus vehicles a day mentioned above, plus about 1,000 vehicles between the new Martin Tower parking spaces and the new office buildings on Eighth Avenue in the vicinity of the new Wawa, there would be 29,000 vehicles a day on Eighth Avenue, a four-lane street. Mr. Mater stressed this is an increase of an additional 45% to the existing traffic as soon as the developer's project is finished. By comparison, Mr. Mater said MacArthur Road that is 6 lanes wide carries, according to PennDOT, 32,000 vehicles a day. He remarked this is only 10% more traffic on MacArthur Road than can be expected on Eighth Avenue with the Lowe's. Mr. Mater queried "is this what we want for West Bethlehem". Mr. Mater said there would be more traffic with this year's proposal than with last year's. This year, it is 8,200 vehicles a day versus last year's figure of 7,500 vehicles a day. Mr. Mater asserted there are obvious questions about pedestrian travel and safety in the affected areas, plus what happens on the side streets. Focusing on the traffic study from Traffic Planning and Design, Mr. Mater advised that he found comments on the pedestrian safety issue that covered approximately half a page. Mr. Mater noted it is stated "If so desired, a pedestrian circulation plan could be designed to inventory existing and projected conditions." Mr. Mater expressed the hope that those in favor of the Lowe's will join No Mall in requesting the City to do an independent study of the impact on pedestrian safety this project would have, for the safety of all the children.
Mr. Mater expressed the opinion that the developer will make the most money if he can build the Lowe's and the project as he has set up and will still make money if he has to build light industrial. Mr. Mater, recounting that the developer said he would build light industrial if the rezoning request is turned down, pointed out that building light industrial is what the developer is mainly doing everywhere else in the Lehigh Valley and he "could do it here". Mr. Mater added his opinion that the developer does a very good job with light industrial. Mr. Mater said, "in conclusion and in light of what this review of the developer's traffic study shows, and in light of the additional problem cited by the City's consultant about the 3 second lost time claims that I have not addressed because I am not qualified to do so, and in light of the truly complicated process of rendering a true and accurate picture of how severely intersections will be degraded, should this project, or any project similar in nature, be allowed by Council to proceed, and in light of the City's recent actions to remove a skate park expressly because of the potential for liable suits, and with the understanding that dismissal without consideration of this testimony just presented would put the City in jeopardy, should future suits arise over accidents, be they vehicular or pedestrian and vehicular in nature, in the Eighth Ave Corridor, I do hereby respectfully request that City Council hereby consider the tabling of this motion to rezone the former Durkee site, pending a full and detailed analysis of the affects on traffic on the Eighth Avenue corridor that the proposed project would have. I would also request that Council consider asking the City Controller to request this work be done by Benchmark Civil Engineering, or other similarly qualified company not under contract with or otherwise associated with the developer."
Ms. Szabo inquired how one arrives at 29,000 cars for one business and 32,000 or only 4,000 more on all of MacArthur Road where there are many malls, and questioned what is the comparison.
Mr. Mater replied it is cars to cars; vehicles to vehicles. Mr. Mater informed Ms. Szabo that the 32,000 vehicles a day figure was given to him by PennDot engineers, and represents traffic passing by MacArthur Road, north and south, at Route 22 on a business day. The 29,000 figure can be broken down as follows: 20,000 of the cars exist already. The 9,000 can be broken down to 1,000 vehicles approximately that includes Martin Tower with an expanded parking lot, and the office building in the vicinity of the Wawa that is being finished. The remaining 8,000 cars are the true figure 8,266 derived from the developer's engineering plans, the ITE handbook, through which these studies are generated.
Ms. Szabo observed that the traffic is not being increased by 29,000 vehicles but by 8,000 vehicles.
Mr. Mater responded 8,266 on a weekday and 9,389 on a Saturday. In further response to Ms. Szabo, Mr. Mater said Wawa is not seen as a traffic generator but rather as a stop-by; e.g., someone would stop there on their way to or from somewhere else.
Mr. Callahan asked if Mr. Richardson has any comments to make in light of Mr. Mater's testimony.
Greg Richardson, stated he is employed by Traffic Planning and Design (TPD), with offices in the Center Valley area. Mr. Richardson noted he has met Mr. Mater on previous occasions. Focusing on Mr. Mater's statements that City officials are relying strictly on information from Traffic Planning and Design, Mr. Richardson advised that is not true. Mr. Richardson informed the assembly that the City has a qualified traffic engineer who has reviewed TPD's traffic study and has made comments on it. Mr. Richardson advised that Mr. Mater was not at a meeting held with the City's traffic consultant where each of the items was reviewed. Explaining there were a lot of recommendations, Mr. Richardson noted a lot of comments in the letter were discussed and concessions were made. Certain things were agreed on such as the aggressive driver number, and improvements to try to limit the queue on the ramp. Mr. Richardson continued on to say "what we did not agree on was the fact that our numbers and our calculations were incorrect. We were going to provide the City traffic engineer with further information to prove that the numbers that we have are accurate." Focusing on Mr. Mater's statements about 8,000 vehicles, Mr. Richardson advised according to Mr. Mater's numbers that would be 4,000 vehicles entering the site and 4,000 vehicles exiting the site. Mr. Richardson said "those numbers are grossly overestimated. I've had 15 years in the business. I've work for Lowe's. I've reviewed applications for Lowe's. I think my record stands for itself as far as the information that we provide in the study", and added that he is a professional engineer. Mr. Richardson questioned where are the two traffic engineers who looked at the information. Turning to the PennDot criteria pertaining to Synchro versus ACS, Mr. Richardson stated "Synchro is the accepted and preferred software package that PennDot requires. They will require us to perform our study. We have submitted the study to them. All the improvements that we have will be based on Synchro, not ACS." Mr. Richardson affirmed that the name of the manual is Highway Capacity Manual. Focusing on captured trips, Mr. Richardson communicated there will be some resolution. Mr. Richardson further advised "we’ve agreed to look at the software and for intersections where we deem that ACS should be used we will use it, and we will design for worst case conditions." With reference to Mr. Mater's comments about cueing on the ramp and the figure of 823, Mr. Richardson advised "if this site's not built, ten years down the road…it will be over 1,100 feet without signal, and who would put in the signal. The City would have to put in that signal." Mr. Richardson, stressing that present conditions are acceptable levels of service, acknowledged that as traffic grows over the years the levels of service will get worse, and people will cut through neighborhoods. However, Mr. Richardson stated that "the situation will get worse without any improvements on the corridor. My client will be mitigating his impact as well as mitigating existing deficiencies." Mr. Richardson informed the Members of Council that he could provide tonight some exhibits to show what the impact would be, especially in front of Nitschmann Middle School, by adding the right turn lane. Mr. Richard explained the purpose is to show that improvement by itself will take queues at the existing signal about which it has already admitted creates a lot of noise and air pollution. Mr. Richardson continued on to explain a right turn lane will be put in that is going to cut the queue at that intersection by at least two-thirds of what it is today. Mr. Richardson highlighted the fact that today it backs up past the ramp. Mr. Richardson communicated that the improvement will cut down congestion at the intersection, and green time will be able to be reallocated. Turning to comments at the last meeting about motorists cutting through neighborhoods, Mr. Richardson said "that is another thing that's going to improve. By reducing the wait at that intersection, people won't want to cut through the neighborhoods." Mr. Richardson remarked that the number cited by Mr. Mater of 8,000 is "grossly overestimated". Mr. Richardson, focusing on Wawa not being a traffic generator, said it is true in that the majority of traffic that goes by the site is pass-by traffic. Mr. Richardson asserted that Mr. Mater "wants you to believe that this retail facility [; i.e., the proposed development at the former Durkee site] doesn't have any pass-bys. Your traffic engineer agreed with our methodology." Focusing on the pedestrian study, Mr. Richardson advised "we were asked to do a pedestrian study by the School District. We've completed a pedestrian study where we looked at the number of pedestrians that crossed the Nitschmann area, and Union and Eighth Avenue. We have provided that letter to the City and to the School District, and we anxiously await comments and feedback on that." Mr. Richardson, stating that the "traffic study has been reviewed by a qualified traffic engineer", pointed out that he has been accepted by over 75 municipalities as an expert witness in this area. Mr. Richardson noted that he has fifteen years of experience and stands by his work. Turning to failing levels of service reviewed by Mr. Mater, Mr. Richardson said he does not know what study Mr. Mater was reviewed and commented it might have been the study from last time. Mr. Richardson advised that, if the traffic study were reviewed, it would be seen there are no failing intersections in the year 2014 under any conditions. Mr. Richardson, noting that the City's traffic engineer has asked that certain aspects be revised, communicated that is a normal type review process that takes place. Mr. Richardson affirmed that "the traffic study will be revised to meet his request, and the study will produce conclusions that will not create a situation that is congestion, unsafe conditions, for the motoring public."
Mr. Callahan, focusing on Mr. Mater’s comments about
the overall traffic and the actual amount of cars, asked if
Mr. Richardson agrees with the numbers.
Replying no, Mr. Richardson advised that during a PM peak hour the number is about 3,800 trips that is 1,900 vehicles in and 1,900 vehicles out versus the numbers cited by Mr. Mater’s of 7,500 during PM peak that is 3,750. Mr. Richardson continued on to say that is because Mr. Mater did not “account for all the methodologies and all the parameters…Pass-by trips should be accounted for.”
Mr. Callahan inquired whether Mr. Richardson agrees with the assessment that this plan during peak hours will have more traffic than the previous plan.
Mr. Richardson, responding no, stated there is 75,000 less square feet; i.e., 75,000 square feet of retail that has been reduced. Mr. Richardson, affirming to Mr. Callahan that it will be less traffic, informed him that is on the record of the Planning Commission meeting at which he stated it is going to be 27% to 37% less traffic than the previous plan.
Mr. Mater said he stands by his request as noted “that Council consider asking Benchmark Engineering to do a full and thorough evaluation to come up with numbers that I venture will be very close to these that I presented this evening.”
Doug Roysdon, 421 Second Avenue, said he wants to clarify one very important issue on which he began working with No Mall and continues to work on. Mr. Roysdon communicated this controversy began with parents concerned about the safety of their children should the Nitschmann Middle School area become even more congested, and a group was formed. Mr. Roysdon stated from that, a lot of very important issues came out, including planning, democratic, shopping in Bethlehem, old versus the new, and issues brought up by others. Informing the assembly he has spent his life working with kids and has done a lot of things in this town for free for kids, Mr. Roysdon said the bottom line never changed for him. Mr. Roysdon remarked that, if there were to be a Lowe’s, then he wanted to be shown where is the protection for the kids. Mr. Roysdon continued on to say he wants to be shown the study that tells him that “we have looked into the safety of our kids the best we can”. Mr. Roysdon asserted “you do not even need a traffic study to tell you that a lot [of traffic] is going to come down Eighth Avenue, and a lot already comes down Eighth Avenue. So where is the professional, independent…traffic study that tells us…what happens, gives us lots of good numbers…but tells us what happens when it rains, situational things, what happens if it snows, what happens if half the moms decide that they’ve got to pick up their kids on a certain day. What happens to the kid that has to go home late and there is no crossing guards. What happens to the kid that has to go [to school] early…The least we can do is provide that kind of study to base this whole conversation on.” Mr. Roysdon denoted he thought right from the beginning that must have been done, but he found out this was not done. As a result, Mr. Roysdon pointed out that two years have been spent doing things like writing letters to the School Board, going to meetings, and trying to get Nitschmann PIE to ask for a pedestrian study. Mr. Roysdon remarked he is not talking about the big white book with a half a page that talks a little bit about pedestrian safety that is the developer’s traffic study which he asserted is not a pedestrian study. Reiterating it is “the least we can do for our kids”, Mr. Roysdon stressed there is technology and the ability to produce an objective idea of what the kids will face. Mr. Roysdon expressed his belief that the “rezoning request has come this far and has had so much support because people assumed and believed that someone has looked out for our kids, and for our school.” Mr. Roysdon continued on to note he thinks there is an assumption that if the School District is not complaining, the Planning Commission seems satisfied, and the City planners seem to support this development, “then they must have done their job…They must have seen to the first and most important aspect of this project: the safety of our kids and thousands more children who will attend Nitschmann in the future. I believed that once, and I wanted a Lowe’s once, but now I don’t and I will not believe that if a proper study had been done, a thorough[ly done], well documented, independent pedestrian study there would be this kind of support for this mall. And, if…an account of that study wound up in the papers one morning predicting that the Nitschmann situation was going to go from bad to worse, I believe this room would be nearly empty. I believe there would be no vote on this issue. But I’m telling you it doesn’t exist. You have assumed that your kids and your grandkid’s kids have been looked after. But because we have not done our homework we’re here about to vote on something with no more information, no more predictive research than is in the book that was showed to me last week at this time. A study that was provided by the people who have the most to gain form this project. I’m telling you after two years of being involved in this thing what I really, actually don’t know. I don’t know what the situation at Nitschmann is going to be because I can’t know anything. I…want the study that tells me something. And if you can take what went on here with Mr. Mater and the
other discussion of what’s coming down that road…it isn’t simple, and it isn’t known. What the District and the City don’t know, and Mr. Petrucci and everyone, they don’t know either. What are we asking our kids to face on the way home from school.” Mr. Roysdon pointed out that the hardest thing that happened to No Mall and this issue was the sense “that people thought we were spoilers….when, in fact, we want this City to prosper just like everyone else, and we want it to prosper correctly.”
President Gregory stated that if extra police officers are needed at the intersection, that will be done.
(Mr. Donchez took the Chair momentarily during President Gregory's absence from the meeting.)
Mr. Schweder respectfully requested that the tradition be honored of individuals who have already spoken not speaking a second time.
Al Wurth, 525 Sixth Avenue, said he would like to have his remarks be made part of the public record of the April 8 hearing as he was not permitted to speak until well into the next morning. Mr. Wurth, stressing that the rezoning would enable all sorts of possibilities on the site, pointed out that only six uses were prohibited in the IR zone that were explicitly added by amendment at the time the IR zoning district was created for Bethlehem Steel in 1996. Mr. Wurth, remarking that the range of other possible uses allowed in an IR zone “is basically the sky’s the limit”, said it was described by various Council Members and others as carte blanche zoning, or anything goes zoning. Mr. Wurth insisted there is simply no reason if the developer’s proposal is what it is that is two stores and two small pad retail operations that “you would give all of the range of IR zoning”. Mr. Wurth asserted that, unlike the very complex the Bethlehem Steel Corporation site, the developer of the Eighth Avenue site in question “has reversed that entirely. Instead of having a complex, multi-use site, he has a sub-part of an existing site that he wants to [have re]zone[d] to IR, not even the whole site, and he wants to zone two parts of it IR. And that…arrangement is entirely the opposite of what the IR zoning was created for. So why we’re going that way is a very difficult question for us to understand.” Mr. Wurth, reiterating that Lowe’s is not the issue, asserted there will be plenty of Lowe’s stores in the area including one planned on Airport Road and one planned on William Penn Highway. Mr. Wurth stressed “the issue is the site. It’s the worst place in the City to put it. It’s going to make this the busiest street in the City…It’s too close to the school. It’s too close to the Rose Garden. It’s too close to neighborhoods…And, there are many other available, already legal sites…that are nearby, that are empty grayfield shopping centers like Lehigh Shopping Center, like the one on Stefko [Boulevard], like the former Triangle site, and other similar sites, all of which could and easily would accommodate a Lowe’s, and would be legal, and a zoning that they could use by right. Now, why we need to put it on the busiest street in the City next to the school is just crazy.” With reference to newspaper reports, Mr. Wurth pointed out that the developer indicating he is dividing the property into three parts so he can sell one to Lowe’s, sell one to Woodmont, and keep the third one. There will be a very quick turnaround, and will be a multi-million dollar deal for him. But, that doesn’t benefit the City in any way. What benefits the City is the best development of that site, and the one that creates the fewest costs for the surrounding neighbors and everything else.” Mr. Wurth, asserting that shortcutting is not taken into account in the traffic study, said if it were then all the traffic that they are carrying now would be added to the Eighth Avenue site. Regarding the pedestrian issues, Mr. Wurth said he would like to submit some materials to the City and distributed copies to the Members of Council. Mr. Wurth continued on to say he has one copy of the City of Bethlehem’s citizen’s traffic advisory committee minutes of its March 4, 2003 meeting at which the Lowe’s proposal and its impact on Nitshmann Middle School was discussed. Mr. Wurth remarked that one of the things that is not heard is the complex interactions and difficulty between pedestrians and traffic on any intersection. Mr. Wurth, explaining he wanted to find out what would be the very best design for true pedestrian safety at a site, turned to page 114 of the document he just distributed to the Members of Council that contained some basic principles of intersection design are suggested to accommodate pedestrians. Advising it is a traffic study from the State of Washington and follows guidebooks designed by ITE, Mr. Wurth informed the assembly he took some selected pages to give an indication. Mr. Wurth, reading from the document, highlighted the fact that on page 123 it states that minimizing the crossing distance at intersections is one of the recommendations to make intersections safer for pedestrians, and improving timing of signalization. Mr. Wurth questioned why the intersection at Nitschmann Middle School would be widened in order to make it safer in light of the good practice discussed in the document. Turning to page 124, Mr. Wurth pointed out it discusses reducing crossing distance with a reduced curb radius versus the proposal for a wider curb radius that not only would make the intersection wider for students to cross but also adds a larger curbing that cuts into the Nitschmann property and makes for an even longer exposure to pedestrians on Eighth Avenue. Mr. Wurth asserted that the recommendation to make curb radius smaller for pedestrians is directly at odds with the proposed curb radius. Focusing on turning movements addressed on page 134, Mr. Wurth highlighted the fact that it states “the addition of a right turn lane increases crossing distances for pedestrians and allows vehicles to travel more freely…this may cause inattentive drivers not to notice pedestrians on the right.” On page 128, Mr. Wurth pointed out what it recommends for pedestrians is precisely the opposite of widening and adding lanes. Rather, curb extensions and bollards are installed in pedestrian oriented areas where parking lanes are cut into the sidewalk and then the sidewalk is wider at the intersection. Stressing this is what is recommended to make pedestrian areas safer, Mr. Wurth highlighted the fact that instead the proposal is to cut a lane into the new traffic plan and is directly at odds with making pedestrian activity safer. Mr. Wurth stated that adding the kinds of trips that the development will add and widening the roads are directly at odds with what are typical pedestrian safety recommendations. Mr. Wurth, noting he has a lot more information about the matter, said he also has one copy of a larger report in which there is a chapter on intersections that he wants to give to Council. Mr. Wurth read from the minutes of the citizen’s traffic advisory committee that “widening of Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard is very unsafe and it should not be done”. He further read it was felt that “the pedestrian count is so high, with the added capacity, it should not be done.” Pointing out that widening is proposed to be done due to the added capacity created by the shopping center and so that trucks can turn easier, Mr. Wurth stated “this is a dangerous innovation at that corner and one that will…improve the…rating of the intersection, it will not make it safer for pedestrians”. Mr. Wurth, stressing the concern is very serious and very significant, said “we can’t have it both ways. The traffic and the pedestrians are in conflict. They need different times.” Adding that a major obstacle is being created and there is no way around it, Mr. Wurth said the intersection can either be designed to take care of children or to take care of all cars from the shopping center on the busiest street in the City. Mr. Wurth expressed his concern that a great number of the remarks made at the last meeting were not heard by anyone because of the late hour of the meeting, but he knows that Council did hear it, and he encouraged Council to reject the rezoning. Mr. Wurth stated it is not appropriate, and if it is rejected a better alternative will emerge that will be compatible with the site. Turning to newspaper reports today in which it was suggested that No Mall does not have another plan for the site, Mr. Wurth explained he thinks that No Mall’s plan is to hold the course. Mr. Wurth said the reason why the former Durkee spice plant site has not been developed is because there was only an eight weeks time span during which the property was on the market between April 2, 2002 when the previous rezoning request was denied by City Council and May 30, 2002 when there was an agreement on the property. Mr. Wurth asserted that “this is about our community, our homes, our neighborhoods, and our school. And we’d like you to take care of that. We elect you, not developers, and we expect you to represent us, and we hope you’ll do that.”
Jeanine Krempa, 517 Eighth Avenue, noted she did help out somewhat with No Mall. Ms. Krempa said she wanted to remind everyone that developers, attorneys, and traffic engineers are listened to when they give their professional, well-said presentations. Then, there are people from No Mall, and it is obvious a lot of time was spent by members of the group in that they make presentations that are well thought out. Ms. Krempa highlighted the fact that developers are paid to do what they do and that is their job while the other people such as those from No Mall are not paid to do it, it is something they do on their free time, and their only motivation is to do good for the City. Ms. Krempa, noting there are a lot of arguments and concerns about Lowe’s, stated the biggest argument for it seems to be convenience. However, Ms. Krempa said if one looks at the traffic study it might be convenient to go to Lowe’s but it will not be convenient to go anywhere else.
Kathy Martucci, 1402 Elliott Avenue, stated she is a west side resident and she does have a child who attends Nitschmann Middle School. Noting that traffic has always been a problem there, Ms. Martucci said “but we think that with this new proposal…it will work.” Ms. Martucci questioned who is going to pay for the traffic improvements if this proposal does not go through. Ms. Martucci said she has obtained 103 more names for the Vote Yes petition.
Jim Carolan, 507 W. Union Boulevard, said he would like his comments to be part of the official record for the public hearing that began April 8, 2003. Mr. Carolan, referring to Mr. Richardson’s comments, asked if a pedestrian report was done and is currently being reviewed.
Mr. Richardson responded the study was performed by Traffic Planning and Design at the request of the School District, and it was presented to the City and the School District. Mr. Richardson continued on to say it addressed a lot of the concerns that City, staff, as well as the School District has. Mr. Richardson, advising “we have been told all along that the pedestrian issue, especially at Nitschmann, was one of the top issues that we should address” said whether the study addressed that issue before to their satisfaction that is…for your professionals to review. We have done that study. We’ve done traffic counts…We’ve counted pedestrians. We have been told that we should look into certain things such as railings at the corner, at the intersection. We’re willing to work with the School District as well as the City. We’ve met with Mr. Frank Barron on a number of times, and we are willing. It’s not something that is being completely ignored by the developer.”
Mr. Carolan asked if Council has seen the pedestrian study.
Mr. Richardson commented that, to his knowledge, the pedestrian study was distributed to the Members of Council.
Mr. Carolan queried whether this is the final pedestrian study. Focusing on recommendations for changes, Mr. Carolan inquired whether the requested changes would be added into the traffic proposal as it goes along.
Mr. Richardson replied there are recommendations in the pedestrian study that specifically reference railings at the corner of the intersection. The study also talks about improved timing changes at the intersection. There are equipment upgrades throughout the Eighth Avenue corridor that are specifically pointed out. It will be required as part of the review from the City, as well as the review by PennDot. Mr. Richardson added that his client is willing to pay for those improvements at his cost.
Mr. Carolan noted that if this project is approved under
IR zoning then the next developer will want IR zoning simply
as a backup to any plan that just does not work. Mr. Carolan
remarked that a developer could get anything he wants to put
at a site under IR zoning, and nothing can be done about it.
Mr. Carolan asserted that is the danger down the road that
will be faced under IR zoning. Mr. Carolan continued on to
query what happens if he wants to change his apartment into
something else and asks for IR zoning since he is in a mixed
use area. Mr. Carolan said “we are going to be back
here debating absurd things like me wanting to put a freon
extraction place in my garage. And if you don’t approve
it, then I might be able to sue everybody for it because you
approved Mr. Petrucci’s IR zone.” Mr. Carolon
stated that if Council has not reviewed the traffic and new
pedestrian study then he did not think it is advisable for
Council to vote tonight on those things. Mr. Carolan suggested
that Council at least table the Bill until Council knows all
the facts, the traffic study, the pedestrian study, and even
possible legal matters. Mr. Carolan remarked that the matter
may be debated again in several months because a step back
was not taken now.
Wayne Maura, 826 W. Union Boulevard, requested that his comments be made part of the April 8, 2003 official record. Mr. Maura queried “can we know as the vote is taken what the future holds for the Martin Tower property across the street. As we are here tonight there are new questions arising concerning the future of that property.” Mr. Maura pointed out it is unknown what impact the future of the Martin Tower property will have on the City, the west side in particular, and this site in question specifically. Mr. Maura noted he has not heard addressed the issue raised last year about eliminating parking on Eighth Avenue from Union Boulevard to Broad Street. Mr. Maura wondered whether residents will have to build garages or carports behind their homes in order to make accommodations for the proposed development. Mr. Maura, wondering about the use of the Rose Garden on Eighth Avenue, said the Comprehensive Plan calls for the inclusion of such things and the availability of its usage by citizens. Mr. Maura stated that, increasingly, light or heavy industrial land in the City is being erased. He suggested that fact helps to make the site in question on Eighth Avenue very valuable. Noting that at some point in time, the site in question was deemed to be an appropriate light industrial site and succeeded well for many years under that zoning designation, Mr. Maura stressed that zoning should not easily be forgotten or given up on. Mr. Maura asserted it bears repeating that the site was vacant for many years because the former owners had it overpriced. Mr. Maura said he is convinced that, with the creative and interactive approach of the Community and Economic Development Department, the site could and would be developed with a use that would be much more of a benefit and far less a liability to the City at large and in particular the west side. Mr. Maura questioned what effort has been taken to interactively market the site and what responses have been received. If the City sees development that needs to take place to replace a dwindling tax base, Mr. Maura queried “do we just sit back and wait and hope somebody like this developer is going to come along, or do we take any action proactively, creatively, think outside the box, and try to do what many other places have done. I’d like to know. I have yet to hear an answer.” Mr. Maura said he does not believe an informed vote can be taken without that response. Mr. Maura informed the assembly that his efforts to convene a meeting with representatives from the advocates of this rezoning and the opponents was not responded to by the advocates group. Mr. Maura continued on to express his belief that as neighbors and those who ultimately live with the outcome of issues like these residents should be able to communicate informally, and try to come to some consensus that could be presented before Council. Mr. Maura said he believes increasingly that the vote now is premature, and there is much to be gained by gathering more information regarding the issue surrounding it. Mr. Maura felt that wisdom is needed now, not to do something just because it can be done. Mr. Maura said it is his belief that “an impartial and fair vote on this issue is absolutely in question. The actions last week by the President make it impossible for me to believe that anything could influence his vote which is the whole purpose of a public hearing. Among the potential violations of the Robert’s Rules and Council’s own rules are mention of a Council Member’s and by that Member’s name friends as a particular group before Council, the actual attaching of a pin indicating the advocacy of one of the group’s participating in that meeting prior to the conclusion of the public hearing, and announcing the outcome of the vote on that very issue, asking the Mayor of his position on the issue to be voted on prior to the conclusion of the public hearing. These types of actions, I believe, call into question the President’s ability to be viewed as fair and impartial, and therefore, any vote he makes is suspect.”
Donna Hartman, 1503 Budd Avenue, said she has been opposed to the rezoning of the former Durkee site for a number of reasons including the concern that the type of jobs proposed for the rezoning would not be the sort that could support a family, and about traffic patterns and congestion in a school zone. Ms. Hartman advised she adds two new concerns: that the proposed IR zoning is too unstructured even for immediate plans let alone future possibilities; and that the issue is now a divisive force on the west side. Ms. Hartman, expressing her confidence that whatever the vote tonight the neighbors will continue to have amicable relations, stated that is not true for everyone in that last week she heard some people malign their neighbors. Ms. Hartman pointed out that those involved in the No Mall group get no personal gain from what they are doing. Ms. Hartman said she cares because she is pretty much a lifelong resident of Bethlehem, expects to continue to live here, and expressed the hope that her children and her children’s children choose to live here. Ms. Hartman stated that she has a stake in what kind of city Bethlehem is. Ms. Hartman, relating the history of Bethlehem, said “that goofiness is the heart of Bethlehem”, and pointed out that the Moravians also had good business sense. Ms. Hartman, remarking that is the point, felt it is possible to have both good business and kindness. At this point, Ms. Hartman expressed that a Lowe’s would be a monument to division discontent. Stating that another proposal has been suggested for mixed use zoning with the possibility of small retail, office space, diverse housing, and/or some light industrial, Ms. Hartman said if Mr. Petrucci were to consider this scenario she believes he would end up with much more than a Lowe’s, a bank, and a restaurant. Ms. Hartman continued on to say she believes “he would be known for being both a thoughtful and cutting edge planner, as well as a person, who has a stake in what kind of City Bethlehem will be.”
Ted Morgan, 925 Prospect Avenue, stressing that Lowe’s wants into the market, said Lowe’s began saturating the Lehigh Valley with advertising two years before they had a store in the Lehigh Valley. Now, Mr. Morgan, pointed out, there are Lowe’s stores in Phillipsburg, Quakertown, one coming to Bethlehem Township, they want to have a store the Durkee’s site, and there is a proposal for a mall that would include a large Lowe’s at Airport Road in Hanover Township. Mr. Morgan, questioning “how many do we need. How close to a Lowe’s do we have to live.” Mr. Morgan explained his point is about shopping center and Lowe’s sprawl. Mr. Morgan, querying which of the Lowe’s stores in the Lehigh Valley will eventually close, stressed that is the pattern with big box stores. Mr. Morgan, wondering whether the smaller Lowe’s proposed for the Eighth Avenue site would close, highlighted the fact that Lowe’s has closed smaller stores where they were constructing larger stores. Mr. Morgan asserted that raises considerations that are part of the long term picture which he hoped Council would think about. Mr. Morgan said people who would like to have a Lowe’s became real passionate after City Council turned down the prior rezoning request last year. Mr. Morgan, while expressing that he appreciates citizens showing passion, thought that the passion has led to over-hyping the qualities of Lowe’s when it is really just a store, and has problems and drawbacks as a store, as well as advantages. Mr. Morgan also felt that the passion leads people to dismiss short or long term drawbacks that are clearly part of turning the former Durkee site into a retail traffic magnet. Mr. Morgan, turning to remarks made at the April 8, 2003 public hearing, communicated it had been insinuated that comments he made about the density of Lehigh Street and Marvine-Pembroke residential areas were about the people who lived there. Mr. Morgan stressed nothing can be further from the truth. Mr. Morgan advised that a member of the No Mall group who had done research found that those two areas were the most densely packed garden style apartment buildings in the City. He continued on to say the point was when one looks at units per acre of the residential site proposed behind the Lowe’s is three to four times as densely packed as those. Stating the significance of that is that density and location are going to help determine the price, Mr. Morgan asserted the developers will want to ask high prices for the proposed quality apartments. Mr. Morgan said that is why he was suggesting that the proposed residential section behind the Lowe’s was maybe a fantasy and might not happen. Mr. Morgan expressed his appreciation that Council has continued to give the issue the degree of diligent attention that they have. Mr. Morgan asked that Council keep its eye on five questions. Should the City endorse a rezoning plan that will greatly increase traffic on Eighth Avenue without ever getting an independent professional assessment of the impact on pedestrians, especially school children’s safety. Mr. Morgan stressed that the traffic study is not a pedestrian safety study. Mr. Morgan said if a letter was submitted by the developer’s traffic engineer the group has not seen it, it is not part of the public debate, and he does not trust it in that it is the developer’s traffic engineer’s study and he thinks the City needs to get an independent study. Mr. Morgan urged Council to postpone the vote or table the vote until an independent professional assessment can be obtained about pedestrian safety not only on Eighth Avenue, and not only at the Nitschmann corner, but at the Broad Street and Eighth Avenue corner where there is no four way red, or to the west of Nitschmann School on Union Boulevard where students walk a few blocks “and then shoot across a busy street”. Mr. Morgan highlighted the fact that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission last year and this time has said “the City should make sure that pedestrian issues have been adequately addressed”. Mr. Morgan, informing the assembly that in 2001 the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation in conjunction with an engineer and pedestrian consultant reviewed some parts of Eighth Avenue, pointed out that in their comments they said “this corridor is a nightmare for pedestrians. Despite its urban location, [it is many] pedestrian trip generators especially for children. These problems should be fixed.” Mr. Morgan asserted that to move ahead without a full, independent, professional assessment is not only risky but irresponsible. Second, Mr. Morgan said should Council rezone what is really a CS zone into to a completely inappropriate IR zone meant for Bethlehem Steel, meant explicitly for heavy industry, it gives the developer, the owner, and future owners wide latitude for more intense development. Mr. Morgan suggested that Council amend this part of the proposal back to CS which he said is honest and somewhat limits the possible options in the future. It also would ensure that the development plan that comes before the Planning Commission adequately addresses parking needs. Mr. Morgan, noting that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said there are some IR uses that are inappropriate to be next to a residential zone, said if the property is rezoned to IR that cannot be controlled. Third, Mr. Morgan communicated that should Council buy into a residential zone that will not work economically it may have to revisit this at some point in the future. Referring to Ms. Heller’s comments at this evening’s public hearing that residential property probably should not be next to manufacturing property, Mr. Morgan pointed out that this residential zone is next to manufacturing property; i.e., Synthetic Thread. Four, questioning whether Council should ignore the past and worry about an unmarketable Durkee property, Mr. Morgan advised that the No Mall group explained how the property was kept off the market and overpriced and urged Council to say no and the price would drop. Mr. Morgan said “you did, and it did”. Mr. Morgan stated that inquiries about the property were made by two residential developers that No Mall group knows of who were told that the property was not available. Mr. Morgan continued on to say that at some point between April 2 and May 30, 2002 Mr. Petrucci made his bid and bought the former Durkee spice plant property for $2 million less. Fifth, Mr. Morgan inquired what is the effect if Council again asserts that this is not a site for a traffic magnet category store. Mr. Morgan noted that Mr. Petrucci could develop the site as a light industrial property. Mr. Morgan asserted that “almost all LI uses are, in fact, better in terms of both traffic and economics than retail. The problematic uses, I would suggest, are really unlikely because the site is either too small or it’s not conducive to trucking traffic coming from two directions because of 378. But I would also suggest…there might, in fact, be a win-win option…if City Council closes off the retail option and persuades Mr. Petrucci to take up with a visionary developer to develop this as a mixed use site.” Mr. Morgan communicated this would put Bethlehem and the developer on the map and give national recognition for innovative approaches to gray fields, and others would learn from the City. Mr. Morgan queried whether the City could team up with other area municipalities and steer Lowe’s to an appropriate site such as the Unclaimed Freight site. Mr. Morgan felt to get to this option requires what is called a profile in courage, a vote to say no to the retail option, and to do what is right for the long term interests of the City.
Kathleen Alesick, 821 Seventh Avenue, recounted that in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s an attorney bought the neighboring property across the alley from her house. Ms. Alesick related that the issue led to a suit between her husband and the City’s Zoning Hearing Board; i.e., Wayde Leonard versus the Zoning Hearing Board and the City of Bethlehem. Ms. Alesick, referring to Zoning Ordinance Article 1301 that includes title, purpose, and interpretation, read the purpose as contained in Section 1301.03. Ms. Alesick advised that the suit ended up in Commonwealth Court and she spent $7,000-$8,000 defending the matter. Ms. Alesick, saying that Mr. Petrucci started his business with $7,000-$8,000, felt “that’s a big injustice and that’s why I’m here”. Noting that the Commonwealth Judge said zoning laws are what they are, not what you think they are, Ms. Alesick wondered if there is something in the City’s Comprehensive Plan that she is not seeing. Pointing out the various designations in the Comprehensive Plan and the action strategy, Ms. Alesick said she does not see any proposed development in the area with the entrances and exits on the west side of Eighth Avenue south of Eaton Avenue. Ms. Alesick noted that her husband said this is all about dollars and cents. Ms. Alesick did not feel people would be coming to the City to work at Lowe’s. She stressed that balance is the key. Focusing on Mr. Petrucci’s web site, Ms. Alesick pointed out there is a smart growth policy in Huntington County, New Jersey. Ms. Alesick, asserting that Mr. Petrucci has a lot of connections and industrial development is his specialty, questioned why he cannot find someone to develop the site under its current Light Industrial zoning. Ms. Alesick advised that in the area of Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard she saw children riding their bicycles. Ms. Alesick wondered why Mayor Delgrosso flip-flopped between values and promoting the idea of the rezoning. Ms. Alesick communicated that values and respect are what she thought she bought into when she moved to Bethlehem. Ms. Alesick queried “can’t we put our heads together and find somebody who’s got some bucks…” to develop the site. Ms. Alesick, referring to comments of her husband, remarked that the developer is “exploiting this whole scenario”. Ms. Alesick inquired if the zoning is changed does that set legal precedent for the other businesses in the swath to follow suit. Ms. Alesick, making reference to a magazine article in which it was noted that many Governor Rendell supporters and campaign donors reside in the Lehigh Valley, said it seems that the City is in a position to fill the building and the property with an industrial use, and added that the salaries will definitely be higher than those at Lowe’s. Expressing she does not see that those are great jobs for the area, Ms. Alesick thought the City needs something better and can get something better. Ms. Alesick, turning to the planning board website of Huntington County, New Jersey where Mr. Petrucci lives, pointed out it states that if communities spent more time with visioning and the master plan process there will be less time necessary for public hearings. Ms. Alesick informed the assembly that right now her neighbor is using the property next to hers as it was previously zoned and there is no problem. Recounting that all along the way she was being swayed to believe that the property was going downhill, Ms. Alesick said it has been brought back. Consequently, Ms. Alesick hoped “that we can have the same patience for the industrial site and what has happened in my immediate neighborhood where you can walk down the street and call the person who lives there a true neighbor and not just somebody who’s looking to build his portfolio.”
Vince Paden, 521 Ninth Avenue, communicating that the Vote Yes group does not have a leader, noted that he is a neighbor of people on both sides of the fence, and has no vested interest other than what is best for the City. Mr. Paden, stating that his neighbors want to see the City move forward, stressed his neighbors realize that if the City does not evolve it dies. He added that if the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property is not taken care of "we're dead". Mr. Paden, while acknowledging there may be consequences down the road, thought there is the wherewithal to remedy consequences that may arise from building the project. Mr. Paden did not feel there are divisions in the neighborhood.
Jeanne Brugger, 638 Franklin Alley, queried where was everybody all the years when the Durkee spice plant and Bethlehem Steel Corporation offices were in operation and there was traffic on Eighth Avenue and no crossing guard at Nitschmann School. Ms. Brugger, expressing it worries her that these same voices will not be speaking out for the South Side, wondered if everyone will be just as concerned for the safety of the children there. Ms. Brugger, stressing this is not about a Lowe's versus a Home Depot, highlighted the fact that there is no Home Depot in Bethlehem. She added there will be no tax revenue to the City of Bethlehem from a Lowe's that would be built on Airport Road. Ms. Brugger questioned how can a comparison be made between traffic on MacArthur Road where there are two malls and numerous stores and Eighth Avenue and the proposed project. Ms. Brugger pointed out that many small businesses closed because of people who moved from the City after Bethlehem Steel ended its operations. Ms. Brugger continued on to say "so we’ve got to take it in our hands to move ahead, look ahead, make some progress". Ms. Brugger stated there are a lot of people who are retired, or not retired, between the ages of 50 and 65 in the City who now have lost all their benefits from Bethlehem Steel Corporation and are looking for a job. Adding that a lot of people need jobs with benefits, Ms. Brugger said it does not matter to them even if it is a minimum wage job.
Steve Thode, 730 Barclay Drive, said he wants to speak about his relationship with Jim Petrucci. Mr. Thode informed the assembly he is the director of Murray H. Goodman Center for real estate studies at Lehigh University, teaches courses in finance and real estate, and discusses the principal topic of the creation of value. Mr. Thode stated that because of Mr. Petrucci's track record in creating value Mr. Thode has actively engaged Mr. Petrucci in working with a number of his students on projects that Mr. Petrucci has developed so that the students can learn how it is done. Mr. Thode explained one of the projects his students are currently studying is in Mountainside, New Jersey that was an abandoned manufacturing facility. Mr. Thode continued on to advise that Mr. Petrucci bought the property, and looked at alternative uses. After having come in contact with the Association of Retarded Citizens of Union County that wanted to build a school for retarded children and discovered the cost was prohibitive, Mr. Petrucci found a way to turn the abandoned facility into the school for retarded children. Mr. Thode stressed that everybody won including the taxpayers since the improvements to the property raised the taxes paid on the building. Mr. Thode said Mr. Petrucci does not "just create value for himself. He creates value for other people as well. Just as he will create value should you approve this change in zoning. He will create jobs, first for the Unions as they construct the facility, then for the people who will work at Lowe's, and at the bank, and at the restaurant. He will create value for us taxpayers". Mr. Thode remarked that people will be better off because of Mr. Petrucci's development. Mr. Petrucci related that his definition of a successful businessperson is someone who makes money and makes a better community at the same time. Mr. Thode, advising he has known Mr. Petrucci for seventeen years, said he has "never known him to do anything but what was best both for himself and the communities that he develops."
Brian Wiles Young, 730 13th Avenue, noted that two of his sons have walked to Nitschmann Middle School. Focusing on the issues of acceptable level of service at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard and pedestrian safety, Mr. Young stressed "these are kids…and kids tend to assume if they can see a driver's eyes that that driver is going to do the right thing." Mr. Young stated that if the facts of the two traffic opinions happen to be somewhere in the middle "this is going to be a mess." Remarking that the land is worth more rezoned, Mr. Young, noting he is a member of No Mall, said "what we have put together over all these years I would like to call a neighborhood impact statement…We didn't make this stuff up…". Pointing out that he knows what he sees when he stands at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard, Mr. Young said "it is a mess and widening it is not going to fix it". Referring to the skate park that was closed down by the City a few weeks ago, Mr. Young noted the reason cited by the City's lawyers was that the City could be held responsible if kids hurt themselves. Mr. Young questioned "what do these same lawyers feel if this really is true about this increase in traffic. Would they not be somehow responsible…I would argue that if you rezone this land without doing an independent pedestrian study that you will be knowingly and willingly putting these kids in greater danger. And we're not talking about a park where they choose to go. This is a school where they have to go…I urge you again to say no to this rezoning…". Mr. Young asserted that the proposal does not fit the site. Mr. Young said he is an advocate for all children and would gladly go to bat for the kids on the South Side.
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, remarked he "saw [a route] 22 on Union Boulevard before there was a Nitschmann there, and nobody cared about traffic then. Then they put the school there, and nobody cared about it then. So, put an overhead walkway for them, and they won't use it. These aren't children. They're young people that know enough to look at a sign, watch an automobile and pay attention…Give them some credit for their sense, and give the people of Bethlehem some credit for their sense."
Dave Sanders, 69 E. Goepp Street, commenting that Mr. Petrucci is responsible for the Perkins restaurant on the South Side and many of the developments in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, expressed the hope that Mr. Petrucci continues to be part of Bethlehem. Asserting that development is very important for Bethlehem, Mr. Sanders remarked "if all those cars come to Bethlehem that they say this development is going to be…great for the City of Bethlehem. It’s going to bring tax dollars." Stating "think of what we can do with those tax dollars", Mr. Sanders exemplified that another snow plow or leaf cleaner could be purchased. Stressing that people have been laid off from their jobs in Bethlehem, Mr. Sanders said "it's time for development. We need these dollars." Mr. Sanders, expressing that Council should vote yes on the project, reiterated that the tax dollars are needed and citizens need relief from the tax burden. Mr. Sanders communicated that thousands of people are losing their jobs, and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation is gone. While commenting it would be wonderful if Mr. Petrucci could bring back Durkee's, Mr. Sanders said "that's not going to happen".
Peter Axiotis, 1835 Richmond Avenue, asked if the vote on Bill No. 15 - 2003 - Rezoning Former Durkee Property - LI to IR and RT, can be moved ahead of the other Agenda items.
President Gregory, while noting he would welcome any motion in that regard, stated that Courtesy of the Floor would continue at this time.
Sophia Martin, 1446 Courtland Street, commented she is a yes voter mostly because of economics. Advising she went to Nitschmann School, Ms. Martin said "we had to learn how to cross the street". Ms. Martin, pointing out that students at the Penn School on Main Street are younger than those who attend Nitschmann, stated "and yet that traffic goes up that hill everyday and they…get across the street." Ms. Martin, remarking that the "big bucks" salary days are gone, communicated that companies are leaving the area and "somebody's got to come in, and if it has to be retail it's a good thing because in the center of City it is retail and it's booming right now…".
Guy Gray, 801 Vernon Street, advising he lives off Wyandotte Street, advised he does not need an alarm clock because the traffic wakes him up every morning. Highlighting the fact that there is a lot of traffic on Wyandotte Street next to a lot of houses, Mr. Gray asserted "this is going to increase traffic on Wyandotte Street because it's such an obvious approach to Lowe's." Enumerating the names of other home improvement type stores in the City and surrounding areas, Mr. Gray said "let's think of something that we could really use…", and expressed he thinks "we could be a little more creative in this site". Mr. Gray informed the assembly that the reason he moved to Bethlehem was so that he would not have to drive so much. Mr. Gray pointed out that the more traffic on the streets the harder it is to use choices other than cars.
John Ladics, 1527 Kaywin Avenue, recounting the presentation made by Nitschmann Middle School students at the April 8, 2003 Public Hearing, noted their second choice was a mall. Mr. Ladics, referring to the $1 million in road improvements that would be made by the developer, remarked that the roadway would be better than it is now. Mr. Ladics stated that for years the roadway has been in that condition and has been deteriorating every year. Mr. Ladics communicated that the No Mall group is telling Council that it is a bad roadway. Mr. Ladics continued on to say that if the land is not developed as proposed by Mr. Petrucci for the benefit of the City of Bethlehem, then Mr. Ladics said he proposes "that City Council come up with a million dollars and make that roadway better for everybody…, so no one has to come into this room and complain about kids crossing a bad intersection at Eighth and Union. It's been that way for years."
Jim Petrucci, developer, recounted that, in last year's discussion's about a former proposal to rezone the Durkee site, one of the highest priorities that City Council had and one of the "hottest" topics among those who objected to the plan was the impact of the Durkee redevelopment on Martin Tower, and pointed out this issue came up in the transcripts many times. Mr. Petrucci said it seems when that major concern was addressed by his team as evidenced by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation letter dated March 18, 2003 submitted to City Council, and when the agreement was finalized with Bethlehem Steel, that whole issue went away. Mr. Petrucci commented he never saw anyone on the other side of the issue "blink and eye. They just went on to the next. And I hope the point is not lost on Council that we made tremendous strides in that area." Mr. Petrucci communicated that the Vote Yes phenomenon "has been unlike anything I've ever seen and…none of the people in my business…has ever heard of such a thing." Focusing on the Vote Yes petitions containing 3,656 signatures, Mr. Petrucci advised that was not done by his office but by the citizens who are sitting at this evening's meeting. Turning to questions about the residences of the signers, Mr. Petrucci advised that his office broke down where the signers were from. Mr. Petrucci, noting there are now 180 signatures in addition to the 3,656, stated about 2,500 were from West Bethlehem including 8 people from Stanford Drive behind the property in question, 32 from Dalehurst Road that is one block away, 14 and 10, respectively from Shelbourne Road and Primrose Lane, and so on. Mr. Petrucci, confirming that Council and the public received the handout with the breakdown, pointed out that the signers are neighbors to the project. Mr. Petrucci stated that "Lowe's is not, has not, and will not participate in any project on Airport Road", and informed the assembly that a representative of Lowe's is present at the meeting this evening. Mr. Petrucci expressed that the IR Industrial Redevelopment zoning "is nothing more than the Light Industrial zoning which is already on the property, plus some commercial uses." Focusing on the pedestrian study, Mr. Petrucci advised that he had two different people from his office go through the transcripts from last year's meetings. Mr. Petrucci continued on to say perhaps the pedestrian study was discussed elsewhere and perhaps at the School District level but there was no record of it in the transcripts from the previous application for rezoning. Mr. Petrucci stated that the pedestrian study came up and is now an issue "because we actually did one. We hired a qualified traffic expert and he responded to the School District staff direction to do the study. I do want to be on record that we've met with the School District staff on two different occasions, and they take no objection to the level of improvements that we are proposing at that intersection of Nitschmann School." Mr. Petrucci communicated that "when you look at the improvements we are doing including a six foot…masonry wall filled solid with concrete running the length of that area where we're taking the fourteen feet from the road width is going to create a situation which is much safer." Mr. Petrucci, highlighting the fact that there is now a chain link fence at the area, reiterated "when we finish with that intersection it will be safer than it is today." Turning to the tax revenue projections, Mr. Petrucci said he was pleased to find out from Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, that "our tax projections were less than the City's tax projections", and added his work was done with the Lehigh County Tax Assessor who is an authority on the process. Remarking "we have taken our best shot", Mr. Petrucci explained "we bought the site in July, we've worked on a variety of different proposals. And what you have in front of you is the best that we can do." Mr. Petrucci expressed the hope that his record has created some credibility in the City. Mr. Petrucci related that he received a very nice letter from Jeff Horning, 532 Third Avenue, and quoted from the letter, as follows: "A lot of yellow shirts have invested in you in the form of faith and trust. They believe in you…A lot of people went to bat for you as much as for what you are proposing to give them…Honesty, faith, trust…are a circle and there is power in the circle." Mr. Petrucci, communicating that the process is a circle, said the Lowe's development will not be a divisive issue in the City. While expressing he does not think it is a perfect plan, Mr. Petrucci explained that a conscious decision was made to address what he felt were the on-record objections to the last plan and come up with a mixed use plan. Stating that the residential portion is not fantasy, Mr. Petrucci said "we have a credible developer here…and to suggest it's fantasy I think is unfortunate". Acknowledging that any plan can be criticized, Mr. Petrucci remarked "what we're proposing is a thousand times better than what is there today, what could be there tomorrow. And I do ask you to take somewhat of a leap of faith, not just in me, but in the…3,800 people that have told you what it is that they want, and use this plan as a launching pad. The soul of the City will be intact. This is not the start of a wave of industrial redevelopment applications and retailers coming in all over the City. This is a logical use on a distressed piece of real estate that we will make work for you and for everyone."
Ms. Szabo asked if Council is being told that if they vote for the changes tonight Lowe's is a sure thing going in.
Mr. Petrucci, saying "that's a loaded question", pointed out that the land development application is yet to come, but added "I stand by all the representations we've made today."
Ms. Szabo inquired about Mr. Petrucci's comments concerning the apartments.
Mr. Petrucci explained his point was in response to the comment made tonight that in someone's opinion the apartments are fantasy. Mr. Petrucci stressed "we're certainly not here blowing smoke about an apartment project with a developer who's here making presentations to fool anybody."
Karen Schadl, 529 Ninth Avenue, noted she moved to Bethlehem in 1990 with the intent of living here four years while her husband was in graduate school. However, they felt it was a great place, stayed here, and her husband commutes 70 miles a day to work. Stating that her husband's home town "is dead" and saying there's nothing there, Ms. Schadl continued on to communicate there is not a lot in center city Allentown. Ms. Schadl stressed that everyone is moving to the townships and suburbs. Ms. Schadl related that her son announced he is leaving Bethlehem when he will attend college and will not return to Bethlehem because "there's nothing here". Ms. Schadl advised that her husband who is in favor of the proposal did attend the first meeting. Ms. Schadl, informing the assembly that she is a teacher and works with developmentally delayed children, noted they are working at places that do not pay high wages, and are not just "collecting".
Mike Laudenslager, 1423 Budd Avenue, asserted that Bethlehem is great and there is a lot of pride in Bethlehem. Focusing on the jobs situation, Mr. Laudenslager advised that he was working in Buffalo for three years, and continued on to point out that people were moving out of several of the surrounding towns because there were no jobs. Mr. Laudenslager queried what is going to happen to Bethlehem when there are no jobs. Stressing that he wants to see safety for children, Mr. Laudenslager expressed that the issue can be addressed. Mr. Laudenslager added he thinks a Lowe's can go in the site, jobs created, and there will be a tax break. Communicating that people need jobs and benefits, Mr. Laudenslager said "let's see if we can get it here in Bethlehem."
Motion - Moving Consideration of Bill No. 15 - 2003 To This Point in the Agenda
President Gregory made a motion to consider Bill No. 15 - 2003 at this time. Mr. Arcelay seconded the motion.
Mr. Schweder, stating this is a very dangerous precedent to set, highlighted the fact that there is an established Agenda. Mr. Schweder pointed out that, taken to its illogical end, the Bill could have been voted on before the public hearing took place. Mr. Schweder noted there is nothing on Council's Agenda that cannot be disposed of rather quickly. Mr. Schweder suggested that Council continue with its precedent and not change it for this one evening because it becomes a question of where it will stop and when will it be done the next time.
President Gregory observed it would stop just as with any Council vote, issue by issue, and he would not want to ignore the rules of common sense. President Gregory, while stating that he would like to see consideration of the Bill moved up, said he would listen to Council on this issue but he thought it should be addressed because it was a good idea.
Mr. Donchez, expressing his concurrence with Mr. Schweder, pointed out that Council has a policy and operates by its rules. Noting there are only a few communications, and several administrative orders that would probably have no debate, Mr. Donchez advised then Council will move to the Ordinances. Highlighting the fact that Council has dealt with many controversial issues in the past, Mr. Donchez restated that Council would get to the vote in 10 or 15 minutes. Mr. Donchez said he is not supportive of changing Council's rules simply because there is a very controversial issue.
Mr. Callahan, stating it is important to keep Council's rules, communicated there should be a vote on the motion so that Council can move forward.
Mrs. Belinski, referencing Council's rules, read the order of business. Pointing out the Resolution was passed that sets the order of Council's Agenda, Mrs. Belinski did not think at this time that Council should deviate from it.
Ms. Szabo stated if Council did not argue about the matter Council could have gotten through the Agenda.
Mr. Arcelay withdrew his second to the motion. President Gregory affirmed that the motion dies.
6. OLD BUSINESS
B. Resolution – Reimbursement Costs for 2003 President’s Day Snow Storm
The Clerk read a memorandum dated March 31, 2003 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a proposed resolution required for obtaining financial assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act for the 2003 President’s Day snow storm. The resolution authorizes the Director of Public Works to act on behalf of the City in pursuing eligible reimbursement.
President Gregory stated that authorizing Resolution 11 F is listed on the Agenda.
C. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement – 2003 RiverFusion Concert
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 7, 2003 from Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a Use Permit Agreement for Public Property between the Illick’s Mill Partnership for Environmental Education and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Monocacy Park Complex Area for the RiverFusion 2003 Concert during the period May 3, 2003 to May 5, 2003.
President Gregory stated that authorizing Resolution 11 D is listed on the Agenda.
D. Assistant City Solicitor – PMRS Ordinance Amendment – Retirement Age and Percentage
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 7, 2003 from Christine M. Alvarez, Assistant City Solicitor, to which was attached a draft ordinance and an amended Pension Plan Agreement to improve the benefits that are provided by the City’s PMRS pension plan. The documents will reduce the normal retirement age from sixty (60) to age fifty-five (55) and increase the benefit accrual rate from one and six hundred sixty-seven thousandths percent (1.667%) to two percent (2%) with a maximum benefit of eighty percent (80%) of final average salary.
President Gregory stated that Bill No. 16 - 2003 is listed on the Agenda for First Reading.
E. Deputy Director of Community Development – Amending Article 149 – Vacant Property Review Committee
The Clerk read a letter dated March 31, 2003 to which was attached an amendment to Article 149 – Vacant Property Review Committee, that will bring the City’s Article into conformance with Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Act 113 of 2002, which updated the State Urban Redevelopment Law regarding the taking of blighted property. The changes are basically in the routine terms, definitions, and appeal process in conformance with the new State act. The name of the Vacant Property Review Committee will become the Blighted Property Review Committee. The definitions of abandoned property, blighted property, residential and related use, and vacant property have been revised and updated.
President Gregory referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
F. City Solicitor – Revision to Use Permit Agreement – 2003 Celtic Classic
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 8, 2003 from Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a revised Use Permit Agreement between Celtic Fest, Inc. and the City for use of various public properties and streets for the 2003 Celtic Classic during the time period September 13 through 29, 2003. A sentence has been added to Paragraph A.4. stating the $7,000 contribution to the City for the organization's 2004 festival.
President Gregory stated that authorizing Resolution 11 C is listed on the Agenda.
G. Request for Intermunicipal Transfer of Retail Restaurant
Liquor License – 40 West Broad Street
The Clerk read a letter dated April 9, 2003 from Ralph Caiazzo requesting an intermunicipal transfer of a liquor license to the City of Bethlehem at 40 West, Inc., 40 West Broad Street, Bethlehem from Edgemont Park Tavern, 4324 West Mountain Drive, Walnutport, Pennsylvania.
Motion – Scheduling Public Hearing - Intermunicipal Transfer of Retail Restaurant Liquor License – 40 West Broad Street
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Tuesday, May 6, 2003 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. The motion passed.
H. Director of Parks and Public Property – Golf Fee Recommendations
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 11, 2003 from Charles A. Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, containing proposed recommendations for new golf fees to go into effect this season.
President Gregory referred the request to the Parks and Public Property Committee.
I. Director of Planning and Zoning – IR-F Text Zoning Revisions
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 11, 2003 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, which stated that with reference to the Public Hearing held on April 1, 2003, concerning the IR-F text and map amendments to the zoning district, the developer of the IR-F District has requested a minor revision to Section 1317B.05(f) regarding driveways. The revision requests that permitted driveway widths be increased.
President Gregory stated that, if Council is in agreement with the proposed zoning text revisions, an amendment will be prepared for Council's consideration on Final Reading of Bill No. 14 - 2003 at the May 6, 2003 City Council Meeting.
J. Director of Planning and Zoning – South Side Vision 2012
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 11, 2003 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that the South Side Vision 2012 plan was presented to the Planning Commission at its April 10, 2003 meeting. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that City Council adopt the plan as part of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
President Gregory stated that the appropriate Resolution will be listed on the May 6 Agenda.
K. Director of Planning and Zoning – Revision to Zoning Map Amendment for Bethlehem Commerce Center
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 11, 2003 from Darlene L. Heller, regarding a recommendation from the Planning Commission previously forwarded for the rezoning within Bethlehem Commerce Center that included Shopping Center (CS) zoning. The Planning Commission is now recommending a revision to propose that the Shopping Center (CS) designation be revised to Industrial Redevelopment (IR). This is in response to comments from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission that included concerns about traffic generation that could occur from the CS zoning district.
President Gregory referred the revision to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
President Gregory asked the Clerk to read additional Communication 7 L into the record.
L. Mayor - Automatic Extension for the Filing of 2002 City
of Bethlehem Earned Income Tax Return - Active Military Duty
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 14, 2003 from Mayor Delgrosso in which it was advised that the Administration would like to give an extension for the filing of 2002 City of Bethlehem Earned Income Tax Return to service men and women who are currently on activity military duty in the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
President Gregory stated that he will accept a motion later in the Agenda to add Resolution 11 I.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Diane L. LaBelle – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor James Delgrosso reappointed Diane L. LaBelle to the Fine Arts Commission, effective until March 2006. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,044 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Sharon Yoshida – Sister City Commission
Mayor James Delgrosso reappointed Sharon Yoshida to the Sister City Commission, effective until March 2006. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,045 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. The Resolution passed.
3. Administrative Order – John R. Lezoche – South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission
Mayor James Delgrosso reappointed John R. Lezoche to the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission, effective until April 2006. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,046 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. The Resolution passed.
4. Administrative Order – Beth Starbuck – South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission
Mayor James Delgrosso reappointed Beth Starbuck to the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission, effective until April 2006. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,047 to confirm the appointment.
5. Administrative Order – Salvatore B. Verrastro – South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission
Mayor James Delgrosso reappointed Salvatore B. Verrastro to the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Commission, effective until April 2006. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,048 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr.
Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. The
C. Community Development Committee
Mr. Schweder, Chairman of the Community Development Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held April 15, 2003 prior to the City Council Meeting on the following subject: Presentation by Architectural Lighting Committee – Architectural Lighting on the South Side.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 12 – 2003 – Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs – Year End Figures
The Clerk read Bill No. 12 – 2003, Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs – Year End Figures, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. Bill No. 12 – 2003, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4185, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 13 – 2003 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Year End Figures, Veterans’ Memorial Park, and Fire Department Equipment
The Clerk read Bill No. 13 – 2003, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Year End Figures, Veterans’ Memorial Park, and Fire Department Equipment, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. Bill No. 13 – 2003, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4186, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 14 – 2003 – Zoning Text Amendment – Create Industrial Redevelopment-Flexible (IR-F) Zoning District
The Clerk read Bill No. 14 – 2003, sponsored by Mr. Schweder and Ms. Szabo, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE ESTABLISHING ARTICLE 1317B
OF THE ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF
BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA, AS AMENDED,
ENTITLED IR-F INDUSTRIAL REDEVELOPMENT
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 7. Bill No. 14 – 2003 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 15 – 2003 – Rezoning Former Durkee Property – LI to IR and RT
The Clerk read Bill No. 15 – 2003, sponsored by Mr. Arcelay and Mr. Callahan, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE AMENDING PART 13 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA,
AS AMENDED, KNOWN AS THE ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE
CITY OF BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA, BY AMENDING THE
CITY ZONING MAP.
Mrs. Belinski, referring to questions that she submitted to the Administration, stated that she received partial answers to some of the questions and has now submitted a request to obtain answers in more full detail but has not yet received them. Mrs. Belinski, advising that she carefully studied the traffic analysis completed by the City's traffic engineer, commented that she has complete faith in Mr. Barron who has many years of experience on the job. Mrs. Belinski, noting she underlined comments made by Mr. Mater, expressed her agreement with Mr. Mater, and remarked that traffic will be backed up 823 feet on the exit ramp. Mrs. Belinski, expressing that she believes the Synchro analysis is faulty, said it should be redone. Mrs. Belinski, reading from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's (LVPC) letter dated March 26, 2003, pointed out that the LVPC had several concerns relative to the proposed improvements. The LVPC stated the study is unclear as to whether the operation of the Schoenersville Road/Jacksonville Road intersection was considered in the analysis of the Schoenersville Road/Catasauqua Road intersection. Given its close proximity to one another, the operation of the Schoenersville Road/Jacksonville Road intersection may be important in determining the traffic impact in that general area. The traffic study should be revised to identify the parties responsible for all recommended improvements. According to the study, the level of service among certain traffic movements from the existing conditions to 2014 based conditions increases. The study is unclear as to why this occurs. It should be revised to explain this anomaly, given that no improvements are proposed in these categories. In review of this proposal, the City should make sure all relevant pedestrian issues are addressed. With the proximity of Nitschmann Middle School to the site, creating and ensuring safe pedestrian movements is an important objective. The City should ensure that the proposed buffer area is adequate in protecting residences located north and west of the site from negative impacts created by the proposed development. Mrs. Belinski, highlighting the fact that a Committee meeting at 6:30 PM preceded the City Council Meeting, stressed after that the Members of Council found that the traffic study had been placed on Council's desks and they had no time to read the pedestrian study. Mrs. Belinski pointed out that Mr. Richardson, who admittedly works for Lowe's, did the pedestrian study. Mrs. Belinski, remarking that as far as she is concerned this is a conflict of interest and she would not trust the study results, said she would like to see the City employ Benchmark to do a real pedestrian study. Mrs. Belinski, stating that she thinks Mr. Barron did an excellent job of analyzing the traffic study, expressed her disagreement with Mr. Richardson's comments. Mrs. Belinski, stating that rezoning the tract to IR "leaves us open to too many perils", communicated that the IR zoning is unacceptable. Mrs. Belinski remarked that why the School Board would approve of taking fourteen feet from Nitschmann School from the Eighth Avenue side is beyond her comprehension. Mrs. Belinski stressed that Nitschmann School would not be allowed to be built where it is by today's standards because it is too close to the road and there is not enough setback. Mrs. Belinski asserted that if the proposal goes through "it's going to create the most impossible situation. I feel the School District wants to build a new Nitschmann School and we'll be giving them a reason why." Reiterating that she wants the answers to all her questions and stating that the pedestrian study is tainted, Mrs. Belinski said she feels the issue should not even be discussed tonight.
Motion to Table Bill No. 15 - 2003 - Motion Fails
Mrs. Belinski moved to Table Bill No. 15 - 2003, since she did not feel there is enough information to make an informed vote. There was no second to the Motion. President Gregory announced that the motion dies.
Mr. Arcelay, thanking everyone for their presentations, stated they were excellent presentations. Mr. Arcelay, communicating that last week he listened to the discussions at the Public Hearing on the rezoning of the former Durkee spice plant property, said they were very effective in helping him shape a conclusion as it relates to the overall project. Mr. Arcelay advised that he had follow-up discussions with the Director of Community and Economic Development about issues that will affect the students, visited the principal of Nitschmann Middle School, and visited about ten homeowners. Mr. Arcelay said after taking everything into account and looking at the many merits that this project will bring, to name a few, additional housing, additional revenue, and additional jobs, and weighing those merits against increased traffic around the school, in order to make a decision he is comfortable with he utilized three considerations. Mr. Arcelay felt that Council has had enough information presented and with more information "we will still be at odds". Mr. Arcelay continued on to say he "must weigh and value the input of the City officials that have had decisions on such matters. I feel they are more than capable and have followed up with valuable studies. Concerning the developer, I feel that he is an astute businessman…The third and last consideration, I took into account the long term vision that we all have for the City. In applying that vision, the one thing that comes to my mind is the word change. Change is hard. However, change is a part of our daily lives as we move forward as a society…That change comes in many forms and tonight that change comes in the form of the rezoning issue. And, in this case, I think that change is worth all its merits. I see no reason to table this decision. In conclusion, considering all the comments and concerns and information presented before me, my vote is an aye in favor of rezoning from LI to IR."
Mr. Callahan noted that last year when Mr. Delgrosso was a Member of Council he voted against the rezoning of the property and had expressed concern about the northbound Route 378 - Eighth Avenue exit. Mayor Delgrosso said that is correct. Mr. Callahan said, after Mr. Mater's presentation this evening and in light of the City's traffic engineer's memo regarding that same exit, he wants to ask Mayor Delgrosso if he changed his mind on this rezoning.
Mayor Delgrosso replied that he changed his mind on the rezoning for many reasons, not just the traffic pattern. Mayor Delgrosso stated he changed his mind because of the difference in this rezoning against that of the prior year which was just a commercial zone and housing is included in this request, as well as the other things that Mr. Petrucci has promised to do with this rezoning. Mayor Delgrosso continued on to say he thinks it has been shown on the traffic study that there will be a light at the intersection, it will be controlled, and the timing will allow safer travel.
Mr. Callahan highlighted the fact that he has been the most vocal and consistent supporter of commercial development of the Durkee site and the rezoning of the site to make way for the Lowe's home improvement store. Mr. Callahan affirmed that he supported the rezoning the first time and will certainly support it the second time. Mr. Callahan expressed his opinion that a mistake was made the first time and he thinks it's time this Council corrects that mistake. Mr. Callahan communicated "we're lucky that Mr. Petrucci came forward to present a second plan as quickly as he has. We're lucky to get a second chance at this. I think we missed an opportunity last April to bring hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to the City to bring a million dollars of much needed road improvements to Eighth Avenue, and an opportunity to bring 500 jobs to Bethlehem…And, the fact is you can't buy a piece of two by four or a piece of plywood in the City of Bethlehem, and all those tax dollars are going out to the townships. What's become clear tonight is if we don't pass this this evening, they're going to set up a ring of home improvement stores around Bethlehem and continue to drain tax dollars out of the City of Bethlehem. And, I think that should stop. I may have been sending some mixed messages along the way about this current plan. Do I think this plan is better than the first plan. Quite honestly I don't. Am I going to support this plan. Yes, I'm going to support it. Unfortunately, this is the plan that this Council is going to support, I hope. And, I hope this Council joins me tonight in supporting the rezoning of this site. We had an opportunity last April to do the right thing for the greater good of the City, and not to bow to the vocal minority, but to speak for the silent majority. I feel that's why I got elected. I spoke for the silent majority last April, but the silent majority is no more. It seems to be since then awoken. I am happy that the majority came out tonight and throughout this entire process to speak for themselves. Hopefully, the other Members of Council have heard you and will do the right thing this evening. I did want to speak a little about missed opportunities and, in my opinion, the wrong message that we've sent throughout the course of this last year. …[W]e get one hundred percent of the tax dollars from this project from day one, unlike the Bethlehem Steel property, or Bethlehem Commerce [Center], and Bethlehem Works site which is all in a tax abatement zone. Even if something were to happen there tonight, and you woke up tomorrow morning and there was a project built on the Beth Works site, we're going to get ten cents on the dollar in the first year, and twenty cents on the dollar in the second year, and so on and so forth. In certain parts of that site, we won't see real tax dollars for fifteen or twenty years. That's not the case with this site. We are getting the one million dollars of road improvements to make this site happen unlike the Bethlehem Works site which not only is it tax abated we have to spend seven million dollars of taxpayer money to improve the roads…So, I'm happy that we're moving forward with this site because we need to be careful as a community that has 25% of its taxable land mass in transition. We should be very careful about the messages we send to the outside community that wants to develop and spend money and invest in our community. And, I think this is going to be an opportunity to send the right message to that community. I'm not voting for this project because of all the yellow shirts that are in this room, although I am glad that you're here in the room. I voted for this project the first time when most of you weren't here. I'm voting for this project tonight because I think it is a reasonable reuse for that site and I think it makes sense. I feel that we made a mistake last year. I felt that way last year that we should rezone this site and I feel that way tonight."
Mr. Donchez noted that "tonight City Council will vote to either approve or reject this rezoning request. It is my opinion that this project is more balanced than the one City Council rejected one year ago. It is a smaller project that incorporates a mixed use development which includes commercial and residential. In my opinion, this project will result in less traffic. Substantial traffic improvements along the Eighth Avenue corridor will be made at no cost to the City of Bethlehem. Bethlehem Steel, in a sense, has endorsed this proposal and the question of the City using eminent domain to purchase Steel property is no longer a viable issue. This project will provide approximately 170 new jobs, an additional $800,000 in tax revenue. The IR rezoning for 19 acres, in my opinion, is much different than the IR rezoning City Council approved in 1996 which I voted against [for] Bethlehem Works because it dealt with 160 acres. Mr. President, I believe this project is good for Bethlehem, will be an asset to our City, I intend to vote yes and support it."
Mr. Schweder stated that he is going to vote in favor of this proposal this evening. Mr. Schweder recounted that, under the previous proposal, one of the first things Council looked at over a year ago was whether it was realistic to continue this site as an industrial use. Mr. Schweder thought it became apparent that was not going to happen in that there were too many things wrong with the land with respect to that. Mr. Schweder noted that some held out in the belief that residential was going to be the best use. Mr. Schweder continued on to say "what came before us was a proposal which I think is significantly different than the one that is before us here tonight. The reason it concerned me with the proposal last time…I stated in the debate that night…was the veracity of the developer. That every time we came back to a meeting, the proposal had, in fact, changed whether we had learned that in open meetings or had stumbled upon that information. It was simply inconsistent as it went through the entire process. The residential use is something that I was very interested in. I had hoped to get all of it that way but I am convinced that Mr. Petrucci made an honest attempt to reach a compromise on that. The person that he selected as the developer is someone who I have known for several years, and someone who I respect. And, I believe that that in fact will be done. It is regrettable that some people have tried to portray this as something that is somehow downscaled, and even more regrettable that we use specific neighborhoods and streets such as Lehigh Street which some of my colleagues referred to hoping that this would not turn out to be what we have on Lehigh Street. I find nothing wrong with what is on Lehigh Street, and I think that what is here will be acceptable to the neighbors and to those of us on Council. The Lowe's is not necessarily greatly reduced in size, and I understand that. But I think the appearance of it has been greatly improved from what we were talking about before, and the location of it on the pad as well is something I think is a condition that has improved significantly under this proposal…Mr. Petrucci was able to take away those concerns. The third major concern I had was traffic, and I considered that the central question. It is interesting that he spoke briefly about what I had written down earlier this evening. They were the concerns of Bethlehem Steel, and the concerns about the inability to get new additional parking spaces on that location, and whether we would have to be involved in condemnation in order to bring about the changes. Those two things have changed. I would say that it is fair to suggest that many people in this City will be surprised, many perhaps not positively, will be surprised by the new appearance of Eighth Avenue. But the reality is what I talked about a year ago is that is the only northbound street through West Bethlehem. It has been that way since it was the Borough of West Bethlehem. I don't understand perhaps why 60-70 years ago planners didn't look at that differently. But it has become a main artery, and there needs to be improvements there. Lastly,…with respect to traffic, that really… made my mind up for me is that over the past two and a half weeks through both travel and other communications I have been dealing with who I thought was the prospective buyer of Bethlehem Steel in trying to salvage what this City has committed to in both Bethlehem Works and the Commerce Center, and obviously at Martin Tower. So, it was therefore rather shocking to me this afternoon when we found out that there is a new bidder on the eve of when it was to close before the judge, and that there was another bid, and that this whole process may be delayed. But it has become apparent to me in the discussions with the people who at least at this point still are considered to be the most likely buyers is that there are serious liabilities with Martin Tower...And, that the only way to salvage that is several things must be done in that neighborhood….What has become apparent to me over the last two weeks is that with the needs of preserving that as a viable property for rent, and to keep that as a business entity, we would be faced with making this very decision on traffic on Eighth Avenue even if we did not approve this proposal tonight for rezoning, because it is simply something that is needed to preserve the equity in that proposal. I do not look upon that lightly because over the last six months, and many of you have joined me in this, is when we formed 412 Ahead…we understand with transportation money that we’re going an additional $50 million to complete [Route] 412 from I 78 into the City of Bethlehem. It is inconceivable for me to believe that in addition to that we would be able to gain any money from either the State or Federal government to do the other upgrades that we need on Eighth Avenue. So as I look at all of this through this process it has been give and take on both parts. It has not ended up exactly as I wished it had a year ago. I don't think it ended up exactly as Mr. Petrucci wished it would be. He and I met several times…But at this point as I look through this there is a greater need, and that is the investments that we have made in other major properties in this City. And that if we are going to remain viable with whatever the remnants are of Bethlehem Steel after the commitments that we made, we need to do something in that corridor. And, so, that enters into this equation, and it is for all those reasons why I will vote in support of this proposal this evening."
Ms. Szabo noted that many students have to cross Wyandotte Street through heavy traffic to get to Broughal School. At the present time, the site being considered for the new Broughal School is the old Washington School site at Route 412 where the traffic is many times heavier than Eighth Avenue. Ms. Szabo observed that no matter how Council votes this evening someone is going to be disappointed. Ms. Szabo, stated she has reviewed the information on the rezoning request that City Council has received, said "this project is better by far" than the formerly proposed project and added that a large mall has a tendency to have many empty stores. Ms. Szabo advised that, after deep consideration, she feels that her best decision can be to vote for this zoning change and therefore she votes aye.
President Gregory, communicating that tonight the Vote Yes button is worth a thousand words, said "this is your victory. Congratulations. Good job."
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Gregory, 6. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, 1. Bill No. 15 - 2003 was declared passed on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 16 – 2003 – PMRS Ordinance Amendment – Retirement Age and Percentage
The Clerk read Bill No. 16 – 2003, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Schweder, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF BETHLEHEM CITY, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA. ELECTING TO CHANGE THE BENEFITS IT HAS IN THE PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT SYSTEM UNDER ARTICLE IV OF THE PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT LAW: AGREEING TO BE BOUND BY ALL PROVISIONS OF THE PENNSYLVANIA MUNICIPAL RETIREMENT LAW AS AMENDED AND AS APPLICABLE TO MEMBER MUNICIPALITIES CHANGING BENEFITS UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ARTICLE: STATING WHICH OF CERTAIN OPTIONS PERMITTED UNDER THE SAID LAW ARE ACCEPTED BY THE CITY.
Mr. Schweder inquired whether the proposed change is the result of negotiations and represents confirmation of those negotiations.
Mr. Reichard replied yes.
(Ms. Szabo left the meeting for a brief time.)
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Gregory, 6. Bill No. 16 – 2003 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – 2003 Borinquenfest
Mr. Arcelay and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,049 which authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between the Puerto Rican Cultural Coalition, Inc. and the City of Bethlehem for use of the area beneath the Hill-to-Hill Bridge for the 2003 Borinquenfest for the time period June 23, 2003 to July 3, 2003, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – 2003 Boutique at the Rink
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,050 which authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between St. Luke’s Hospital & Health Network and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Municipal Ice Rink for the Boutique at the Rink 2003 for the time period May 5, 2003 through June 17, 2003, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – 2003 Celtic Classic
Mr. Arcelay and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,051 which authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between Celtic Fest, Inc. and the City of Bethlehem for use of various public properties and streets for the 2003 Celtic Classic for time periods from September 13, 2003 to September 29, 2003, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The Resolution passed.
D. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – RiverFusion 2003 Concert
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,052 which authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between Illick’s Mill Partnership for Environmental Education and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Monocacy Park Complex Area for the RiverFusion 2003 Concert for the time period May 3, 2003 to May 5, 2003, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
E. Authorizing Filing of Application – Paint Mill Bridge Replacement
Mr. Callahan and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,053 which authorized the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to file an application with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on behalf of the City of Bethlehem regarding the Paint Mill Bridge replacement project on Schoenersville Road with a highway/railroad at-grade crossing improvement at Schoenersville Road in the vicinity of the Paint Mill Bridge, for reimbursement of 95% of the design and construction costs paid to Norfolk Southern for the Schoenersville Road crossing improvements.
F. Authorizing Execution of Documents - Financial Assistance – Snow Storm Costs
Ms. Szabo and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution 14,054 which authorized Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to execute for and in behalf of the City of Bethlehem all required forms and documents for the purpose of obtaining financial assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act for the 2003 President’s Day snow storm costs.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 446 Main Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution 14,055 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the existing awning at 446 Main Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 53 East Market Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution 14,056 which granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to change the paint colors at 53 East Market Street.
Motion - Adding Resolution 11 I to the Agenda
Mr. Schweder and Mrs. Belinski moved to add Resolution 11 I to the Agenda. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Gregory, 6. The motion passed.
I. Extension for Filing City Earned Income Tax Returns – Operation Iraqi Freedom
Mr. Arcelay and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution 14,057 (11 I) which granted an extension for the filing of 2002 Final Individual Earned Income Tax Returns to residents and their spouses who are currently on active military duty serving in the execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The automatic extension shall be granted no later than August 15, 2003 or 180 days after the taxpayer is relieved of active duty status.
12. NEW BUSINESS
(Ms. Szabo returned to the meeting.)
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
City of Bethlehem Vendors - Contributions
Anthony Rybak, referring to allegations that he said Mr. Callahan made, expressed his opinion that Mr. Callahan should resign if City vendors supporting a mayoral campaign are not named.
Community Development Committee Meeting - South Side Architectural Lighting Project
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, inquired about the meeting held prior to this evening's City Council Meeting as referenced by Mrs. Belinski.
Mrs. Belinski informed Mr. Antalics that, at 6:30 PM, a Community Development Committee meeting was held prior to this evening's City Council Meeting for the purpose of a presentation by the Architectural Lighting Committee on the Architectural Lighting project for various buildings on the South Side.
Bill No. 15 - 2003 - Rezoning Former Durkee Property - Eighth
Avenue - LI to IR and RT
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, thanked the Members of Council "for doing the right thing" and voting for the rezoning of the former Durkee Property on Eighth Avenue.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:01 a.m.