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September 19 and 20, 2005 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Monday, September 19, 2005 - Special Meeting – 5:30 PM – Broughal Middle School –
125 West Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - Continued City Council Meeting - 7:30 PM –
Town Hall, 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.
President Schweder advised that, prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, City Council will conduct three Public Hearings. The subject of the first Public Hearing is the proposal of Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mower as it relates to three zoning areas within the City, IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District, that would prohibit a gambling casino as had been proposed by owners of property referred to as Beth Works located in South Bethlehem in the vicinity of Third Street at a site of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation operations; the subject of the second Public Hearing is a liquor license transfer request from Bath, Pennsylvania to 217 Broadway, Bethlehem; and the subject of the third Public Hearing addresses a request from Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP) to rezone from HI Heavy Industrial District to IR – Industrial Redevelopment District two tracts of land in the vicinity of East Fourth Street and Route 412, and Zoning Text Amendments to allow certain uses permitted by right in the HI Heavy Industrial District and IR Industrial Redevelopment District. President Schweder called the first public hearing to order as follows.
PUBLIC HEARING - Zoning Text Amendments - Prohibiting slot machines and/or gambling casinos, and/or gambling of any kind or nature in the following Zoning Districts: IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District
A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Amendment of the Zoning Ordinance to Prohibit Gambling in IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 12, 2005 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, in which it was advised that at the August 24, 2005 meeting, the Planning Commission considered the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment to prohibit gambling in the IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District. The Planning Commission voted 5 to 0 to recommend that the Amendment not be acted upon favorably by City Council. The Planning Commission members also voted 5 to 0 to forward a recommendation that it is important that the City begin to do a more complete review of where and how gambling should be addressed in the City, along with a review of land use impacts of gambling. The Planning Commission recommended that an independent, expert consultant should be engaged and should commence work on a study of these issues no later than December 31, 2005.
B. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Zoning Ordinance Amendment - Prohibiting Gambling in IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District
The Clerk read a letter dated July 29, 2005 from Frederic H. Brock, Assistant Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC), in which it was advised that the LVPC reviewed the referenced amendment to the Bethlehem City Zoning Ordinance at its meeting on July 28, 2005. The Commission considers the amendment to be a matter of local concern and voted to offer no comment.
Planning and Zoning Director Comments
Ms. Heller, acknowledging that City Council is familiar with the site, explained that the Planning and Zoning office, in reviewing the proposal, looked first at the Comprehensive Plan. Confirming that the current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1991, Ms. Heller highlighted the fact that it does not address gaming, specifically. Ms. Heller affirmed it was not a legal use at the time the Comprehensive Plan was adopted. Ms. Heller, observing there are common themes throughout the Comprehensive Plan document, advised one is the need for redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation land. She enumerated that it calls for diversification of industries, and replacement of heavy industrial uses with other alternative uses. Ms. Heller stated that the executive summary reads that “new industries will have to be attracted from outside the area, sold on the skills of the City’s labor force, its central location, and its overall quality of life. Commercial development, in order to best serve its customers, must concentrate on reinforcing traditional markets with new and original enterprises.” Ms. Heller affirmed that at the time the Comprehensive Plan was created, the entire Bethlehem Steel land was zoned HI – Heavy Industrial. The Comprehensive Plan was very insightful at that time to recognize that the City will need to provide great flexibility in this area of the City to encourage development. Ms. Heller, continuing on to advise that the current Zoning Ordinance was reviewed, stated that specifically the Bureau looked at the IR Industrial Redevelopment District. She further explained that, when the Bureau looks at Zoning Ordinance Amendments, the Bureau looks at the Zoning Ordinance as a whole to see how the proposed amendment fits into the overall goals and objectives of the Ordinance. The Bureau reviews the purpose and the permitted use of all the Zoning Districts in the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Heller read the purpose of the IR Industrial Redevelopment District, as follows: “The purpose of this District is to promote the economic revitalization of underutilized heavy industrial properties. In order to accomplish this purpose a variety of land uses will be permitted within this District and flexible design standards will be applied during the site plan approval process.” Ms. Heller said, “in our estimation, the District was created in response to conceptual plans proposed by Bethlehem Steel at the time…The uses that are permitted there are so flexible that pretty much those uses dance all around the additional uses that are proposed right now for the BethWorks Now site, although they don’t specifically include a casino. Those permitted uses include commercial, recreation facilities, hotels, retail uses, theater, auditorium, museum, civic and cultural facilities, amusement and recreational facilities, and any facility whose purpose is dedicated to historic preservation which tells us…that historic preservation was important to the City of Bethlehem.” Enumerating other permitted uses including a visitors center, bank, conference center, convention center, Ms. Heller said there also is a provision that any additional uses that are compatible with uses that are permitted by right might be permitted as special exception uses. Ms. Heller stated, “it is clear that the intention was to be as flexible as possible. And, the IR zone was created in 1996 when the 160 acres known as BethWorks was proposed. Those uses included an industrial history museum, I-Max theater, retail, commercial, hotel, conference center, multi-purpose outdoor arena…Bethlehem Steel land planners requested that the City create a zoning district that would provide the greatest flexibility in development because of the redevelopment strength and challenge…[of] the site. The City Administration and Council agreed and created the IR Zoning District. The proposed amendment does seem to work at cross purposes with the intent and the purpose of both the IR zone and the Comprehensive Plan as you look at them today.
The other thing we look at…is land use impact of any potential use. We looked at the land use impact that could be associated with gambling, [and] considered what area of the City could best absorb those impacts. Generally, the land use, environmental, and social impacts related to gambling are not particular to gaming industries. They could be found in many sectors of the tourism industry that would draw large crowds. Those might include theme parks, ski resorts, heavily visited museums. The most prominent land issues that we look at for any particular use might be parking, traffic congestion, housing impacts, and emergency services. The Route 412 proposal was created in response to the significant projections for reuse of the Steel land. The $60 million project includes five lanes for traffic leading from the I-78 interchange to the heart of the Bethlehem Steel land. And the City, in conjunction with PennDot, has already begun to look at the traffic and transportation impacts that will occur at the BethWorks site. Parking, of course, is always a concern with new uses. The vast open areas of Bethlehem Steel land provide areas where parking can be provided without impacting other areas that are already constrained by minimum parking such as downtown or nearby residential areas. Again, prohibiting gaming in that IR zone would exclude gambling from the exact zoning district where you would have the least amount of impact to the zoning area.
The amendment before you prohibits gambling but it does not specifically address where gambling might be the most appropriate in the City. There’s been much discussion about whether each municipality must provide for every use somewhere in the City…I want to be clear, I’m not an attorney, and so there are many legal issues associated with exclusionary zoning, but I am a professional planner. I’ve been certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners for 15 years. I’ve been working with local government in the professional planning area for 20 years. Through all of my experience as a professional planner, it’s been understood that each municipality must allow for all uses within their borders. It’s also understood that if a municipality does not provide for each use within its borders the municipality opens itself up to legal challenge and possibly a curative amendment challenge.” Ms. Heller, explaining it has been a basic premise in professional planning in Pennsylvania as she is familiar with it, noted the requirement that every use shall be met in the municipality is one of the reasons why multi-municipal planning has been so well received by many municipalities. If a few or several municipalities partner in a multi-municipal plan, then more dense or intense uses can be clustered, and agricultural uses and open space can be protected in the more rural or suburban communities. The multi-municipal plan removes the requirement that each new use must be permitted in every municipality. Ms. Heller explained if the basic idea that every municipality must provide for every use was not so universally accepted in Pennsylvania planning, then multi-municipal planning would not have been so well received. The requirement that all uses must be allowed for in the City must be addressed, and this begs the question if gambling is not allowed in the IR zone where the Planning Office believes it is the most appropriate then where would it be allowed. Ms. Heller explained that of alternative sites in the City none of them in the Bureau’s estimation are nearly as appropriate. Some of the RR Residential zones contain large, undeveloped parcels of land, and parcels along Schoenersville Road at the interchange were recently rezoned from Planned Industrial to Commercial Shopping Center. There are some sites in the City that are developed but are clearly underutilized such as Westgate Mall. However, the Bureau does not feel these sites are appropriate for a casino or for gambling. There are incompatible abutting, surrounding uses, they would develop or redevelop on their own, they lack the economic development opportunities that are seen in the IR zone, they lack the benefit for historic preservation, they lack the conservation of the City’s industrial history, and they provide no opportunity for further adaptive reuse of vacant or abandoned structures.
The Planning Bureau’s recommendation to the Planning Commission was that a more extensive review should be undertaken of the current Ordinance provisions to determine how this Ordinance and other City Ordinances could be altered to best prepare for the possibility of gaming in the City. Ms. Heller, pointing out that when gaming was first created it did not allow municipalities to address gaming in a Zoning Ordinance, affirmed that provision was recently changed, and that change was immediately followed by the proposed Zoning Amendment. Ms. Heller advised that the Bureau’s recommendation to the Planning Commission was that the proposed Zoning Amendment should not be approved for the following reasons. First, the proposed Amendment does not take into consideration how to address gaming in the City of Bethlehem. Second, it is not proactive and does not look at the City as a whole. Third, the proposed Amendment intentionally opens the City up to claims of exclusionary zoning. Finally, the proposed Amendment disregards the goals and objectives for the Bethlehem Steel land as set forth in both the Comprehensive Plan and the IR Zoning District in the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Heller confirmed that the Planning Commission concurred with the Bureau’s recommendation, and voted unanimously to recommend that the proposed Amendment should not be acted upon favorably. She continued on to affirm the Commission recommended that the City should begin a complete review of how gambling should be addressed within the City including the current Zoning Ordinance and other pertinent Ordinances in the City, along with the review of the land use impacts of gambling.
Comments By Representative of Valley Citizens for Casino Free Development and Citizens For A Better Bethlehem
David Freeman, 525 Spring Street, stated that he represents the Valley Citizens for Casino Free Development and Citizens For A Better Bethlehem, two groups that are opposed to gaming use on the Bethlehem Works site. Mr. Freeman noted that after he graduated from Bethlehem schools, he moved to the Poconos, was a member of Borough Council, served on their Municipal Authority, as well as the comprehensive and regional planning committees. Mr. Freeman, commenting that people have been the recipients of a campaign for the last several weeks which has not cleared up what is really true and what is not true, remarked he finds it ironic that the orange or brown paper going around from the Sands is also completely not correct. Mr. Freeman said there are no laws that guarantee a category one, two, or three license will be awarded to Bethlehem or any other location in the Lehigh Valley. Mr. Freeman stated there are two available category two licenses, and the other three are located in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Mr. Freeman continued on to say although a category two license will not be accepted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board until November 1, 2005, there are already more than two other stated applicants in the Commonwealth, the majority of which of those applicants presently known are not eligible for a category one or category three licenses. Mr. Freeman advised that the BethWorks site is not eligible for a category three license, as there is no well-established resort hotels currently on the site.
Turning to history preservation, Mr. Freeman related that Bethlehem Steel Corporation subdivided the BethWorks site away from the present Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP) VII in order to preserve the buildings for a National Steel Museum. Mr. Freeman, remarking that not only was a major retail destination never envisioned, said he would like to believe if they had to do it all over again they would never have subdivided the property. He recounted that local investors attempted to purchase the site from ISG, intending to build a museum and an arts center, but local officials, including Senator Lisa Boscola, objected to that purchase of the site by the present owners, believing they would favor commercial and retail development over preservation. Although initially stating that they would develop the site as envisioned by Bethlehem Steel, the present owners immediately marketed the site to gambling and retail destination partners upon purchase. Mr. Freeman informed the assembly there are no legal means to require the owners to preserve the buildings, nor has the City of Bethlehem enacted any legislation to do so. He said the owners are under no legal obligation to abide by any written contract or covenant to preserve the buildings. Mr. Freeman noted that case law supports the right to develop the property as seen fit, overriding any contract or covenant, and that also includes the ability to sell the property tomorrow to someone else who could tear all of it down. Turning to the power point presentation, Mr. Freeman explained the picture is of the comprehensive plan in the Lehigh Valley. Noting that on the upper right-hand corner is a picture of something that says "community renewal", Mr. Freeman said that is the rest of the former Bethlehem Steel property. Mr. Freeman observed another fact that people are forgetting is that the BethWorks site is 15% of the entire Bethlehem Steel property. Mr. Freeman remarked that the other 85% very silently has been moving along, as City Council and the Mayor saw during a tour they attended last week, and added there are over 1,000 acres of development of industrial uses very similar to what Bethlehem Steel provided to Bethlehem years ago. Pointing out ”there are many people…throughout the Commonwealth who are watching us to see what we’re going to do,” Mr. Freeman queried “why in the world would we give away this great opportunity to develop an industrial use and build an industrial area, and jeopardize it for one particular person or one particular use which is 15% of their total property. The Mayor was going to talk to you about something that I had not read. There are many newspapers, many TV stations, and many internet sites, and lots and lots of places you can get information. But until Darlene [Heller] mentioned briefly in her discussion, I have yet to hear a plan of drafted concerns.
Again, being a former [municipal] official in Mount Pocono and Monroe County, traffic is an issue for us, as well as the rest, for a very long time, and I’m very concerned that no one is addressing the issue…Late in 1990, the City of Bethlehem met with the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to address East Third Street. They were anticipating development and the flows through Bethlehem's Business District on the South Side, they viewed preliminary design reports for projected land use of LVIP VII, and they viewed those same references for projected use of the BethWorks site which at the time was a National Steel Museum, a performance center possibly, and…industrial use.” Focusing on his slide presentation, Mr. Freeman observed the picture is a “horrible piece of our past back in urban renewal which was when we were going to pave down all of South Bethlehem, and turn it into [a project] called South Side ’76 project. Back in the ‘60’s for those that don’t know our forefathers decided that we needed to have a connection between 378 as an interstate connecting the Hill to Hill Bridge all the way to the proposed I-78. And back in the 90’s your predecessor dusted off those reports, and looked again and said that we need to do this now for what we expect on the property. Luckily, they didn’t do that. What they did do is that, as Darlene [Heller] spoke about, they divided the area into two areas: area 27 if you look at an old screen which is from the Minsi Trail Bridge down to I-78, and area 28 which is the area from the Hill to Hill Bridge to the Minsi Trail Bridge. And this is the plan in place…from I-78 to the Minsi Trail Bridge, and the next slide shows you the PennDot form…But what was determined at the time was the majority of the traffic was going to be traveling from the LVIP VII site. It was not going to be impacted on Third Street, up to the Minsi Trail Bridge, so all the traffic was designed to be pushed from the Minsi Trail Bridge down. In conjunction with that plan, you’re looking at a picture from the Lehigh Valley transportation site done by the Planning Commission in 2002 which identifies area 15 as the area between the Hill to Hill Bridge and the Minsi Trail Bridge as being one of the top 15 congested corridors by 2020. It does not mention that the Route 412 project will be congested because we’ve already addressed that with a five lane highway. The…plan for the other area from the Hill to Hill Bridge to the Minsi Trail Bridge would [be] installing a few traffic signals, lighting a few roads. There is no major change and nor would it be expected that the road can handle any more traffic than it does presently. So, moving on in the future’s adjusted corridor update, in 2003 the plan had just updated an original traffic model, and they identified 13 new areas that would be at a deficient level of service in 2030. They identified Fourth Street as being one of the top 13. Third Street was not. Now, just hold here for a minute, this is the part that I am not able to understand and why is that. And I found coming out of the Planning Commission because the data that is used to determine this is not generated by what a slots parlor or retail destination might be. It’s never been updated since the 90’s. They didn’t think there was going to be a Steel Museum or people going to [I-]78. There is no model for what you are talking about today, and every traffic report that you look at does not include the proper model. They indicated that 75% of trip generation to and from the site would travel south on 412 to I-78, and less than 25% would travel north on Third Street to Route 378, with spikes in usage during Musikfest and other concert-type events. And my favorite, although there is a transportation impact fee allowed in the Municipalities Planning Code, Bethlehem doesn’t have it so we can’t force BethWorks to…improve all these things. We’re going to have to pay for it and find out ourselves. Now, one of the things that really concerns me and got me very interested in this was the Mills Corporation. We’re talking about a serious, serious retail entity in the world. They have 51 million square feet of retail space, 94% occupancy rate, 42 properties in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and most…are located in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Glen Burnie, Maryland, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Dover race track. This is a picture of their new site that they’re proposing in the Meadowlands which is called the Xanadu project, 4.8 million square feet of retail space. You gotta believe they’re expecting a lot of people to go there and they are. And if you look in the far left corner you’ll see that their projected area for Xanadu is Allentown-Bethlehem, [an] area of 35 million within a 4 hour drive. This is going to be one of the biggest things that has ever made it to the East Coast of the United States…I just continue to pray for a little common sense. If we have the biggest retail establishment in the Lehigh Valley…they’re not interested in people from New York and New Jersey because they’ve already got them going to Xanadu. Who is coming to this thing. People from Allentown, people from all of our areas. So we’re getting these people and they take 78, and we might get the Hellertown people and they’ll take 412. Everybody else in the Lehigh Valley is coming out 378, Third Street. So, again, I don’t have any letters by my last name. I just have common sense from what I learned from my education here in Bethlehem. The primary market for a slots parlor is going to be Lehigh Valley consumers…It is possible that a 75% trip generation will proceed through 412 in South Bethlehem, with 25% going the other way. It’s possible that the level of traffic are going to exponentially surpass the plan’s estimates. So here are the conclusions. The current Lehigh Valley traffic model does not account for traffic that a slots parlor or a major [retail] destination would bring to BethWorks. The City of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission did not account for construction traffic in the years since the project on Route 412 was being developed…Recomputing the regional traffic model would not occur until after BethWorks receives their approvals from City and from the [Pennsylvania] Gaming Control Board. This is the piece that disturbs me most. You are not going to know this is a problem until it’s too late. You will not be able to require the applicant to give you money to fix this. You are not going to be able to do anything to regulate it except have to start over from scratch…If the amendments are not adopted today, a traffic study containing possible scenarios must immediately be undertaken by the City of Bethlehem, and it should also include the impact of the Stefko Boulevard corridor because once you put all this construction traffic, and all this retail traffic from north of Bethlehem you’re going to turn that entire area into a parking lot which I don’t think is what the plan for the Stefko Boulevard corridor is. The updated Regional Traffic Model that identified this congested corridor scenario would take 15 years before a plan could be implemented to alleviate the situation. So for 15 years, people that live at Riverport, people that live in South Bethlehem, that work elsewhere, are going to be spending their traffic time hours every day in and out of Bethlehem. I for one do not believe that it is worth sacrificing $10 million a year…to displace all [the local] residents that will be in traffic here, [and] all the other [travelers], telling these people well it used to be 2 hours to New York. If you leave at 3:00 a.m. you probably can still make it in 2 hours. In the interim, South Bethlehem will be paralyzed, unless you have [emergency measures that would be implemented.] I assume that would be making 378 one way in the morning one way and 378 one way the other way at night. I don’t know, but if there is no plan in place, that there is no where to go, and no more room for traffic, I don’t know what we’ll do.”
Turning to his last point, Mr. Freeman said “I really didn’t want to talk about but I think it’s very important to this. The biggest piece of [the] session here is our trust that we have in BethWorks preserving our buildings, preserving our legacy, and I don’t believe that there is anyone in Bethlehem that doesn’t want that to happen. I intended personally that people would think this is an issue about that but it truly isn’t. In fact, I would like to thank the BethWorks people for bringing it to the attention of everybody…However, one of the partners that BethWorks people have identified, again, the Mills Corporation, I have two examples of their friendly attitude toward…preservation and abiding by their covenants. I mentioned this at the Planning Commission meeting, and although this isn’t on Reuters and the New York Daily News and the New York Times, it somehow did make it to our local papers. I don’t know how it happened. But, in February 2003, the Mills Corporation won a right to develop the Meadowlands Sports Complex, the Xanadu, and the main reason that was attributed to this was that the National Football League, the New York Giants… well they stood in for the Mills Corporation and said this is the best plan, and because of their political pressure, they [won] over their competitors. In exchange for their endorsement, the Mills Corporation agreed to written covenants with the Giants. But, guess what, they broke ground and they told the Giants go sue us. We’re not going to keep our word, we don’t care, and you’re welcome to sue us if you wish. In fact, the Giants tried to, and…their injunction was…stopped. They are now currently filing a lawsuit…However, Dave Douglass, a spokesman for the Mills Corporation commented, ‘today's ruling demonstrates the thoroughness of the planning for the sports complex redevelopment for withstanding such challenges.’ He’s complimenting himself on beating up the municipality. That’s what that says. Our second example comes from San Francisco where in April of 2001 the San Francisco Port Commission voted to put out for bid three [historic] piers and convert them into a mixed-use recreational complex. Two groups responded, Chelsea Piers which you may know from New York City,…and the Mills Corporation [that] said they wanted to destroy the 1,000 foot long [pier], maybe [similar to Bethlehem Steel's No. 2 Machine Shop.] Meanwhile, Chelsea wanted to convert all three piers into a recreational complex. Everybody wanted Chelsea’s bid, but at the last minute the swing votes changes his mind, and since then in 2001 the City of San Francisco does not have its piers open because it entered into a contract with the Mills Corporation that they will not honor and they will not build.
But…I ask you, the City…to consider the response, to consider that Bethlehem is not prepared for the traffic and crime, we’re not prepared to become part of this when multi-million dollar people who have a lot more money than we do, have a lot more time to make this happen, and I urge you to consider voting yes for the Leeson-Mowrer amendments.
President Schweder asked the name of Mr. Freeman’s organization.
Mr. Freeman replied it is two groups, Valley Citizens for a Casino Free Development and Citizens for a Better Bethlehem.
President Schweder, observing the first group would be Valley-wide, wondered how long the group has been in existence and queried whether it has been several months. Mr. Freeman indicated yes. President Schweder inquired what other municipalities Mr. Freeman or members of his organization have appeared before. Mr. Freeman replied “we’ve appeared before none so far because the Citizens for a Better Bethlehem are specifically opposed to gaming on that site and that is their primary goal. There are no alternate proposals in the Lehigh Valley that have come to this point yet…”. President Schweder noted that the group has not appeared before City Council in Allentown. Mr. Freeman responded “we have not.” President Schweder, commenting that Allentown is zoned currently to allow gambling almost anywhere in the commercial parts of the City, asked if Mr. Freeman is preparing to go before them and ask for the same prohibitions that he is asking the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Freeman thought it was partly interpretation, and expressed his understanding that in other municipalities throughout the Commonwealth they have viewed this as a conditional use. He added they have not tried to go and legislate it out. Mr. Freeman continued on to communicate that Bethlehem is going to be the beginning in the State. He explained that, depending upon development the group would go before Allentown, as it would in Bethlehem Township, or Hanover Township or anywhere else. President Schweder stated it is known for a fact that there are projects which have been hidden from the public until the Morning Call exposed them within the last ten to twelve days in Allentown and in Bethlehem Township. President Schweder, noting the proposal in Bethlehem has been out in the open, asked if Mr. Freeman has plans within the next several weeks to appear at least in those two municipalities or others to make a formal presentation and seek support for bans. Mr. Freeman responded there is nothing in front of the other municipalities, and there is another one the group is preparing to go to but it is not Allentown. Mr. Freeman explained that the group cannot just show up and say “hey, we think you’re going to do this.” Mr. Freeman, advising has attended the hearings in the Poconos that have dealt with this, commented the group is not sure of what is going on. President Schweder observed the answer is no, Mr. Freeman does not have any intentions to do that at present. Mr. Freeman stated “we will have intentions when the need arises, yes.”
Mrs. Belinski pointed out that last Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. a group of Council Members, the Mayor, members of the Department of Community and Economic Development, and reporters toured the Bethlehem Commerce Center on the South Side and other areas, and affirmed that Mr. Freeman was there sitting next to Mr. Mowrer. Mrs. Belinski, noting she had asked why Mr. Freeman was along on the tour since it was a tour for the Members of Council, advised Mr. Freeman said that Mr. Mowrer had said he could come along. Mrs. Belinski, commenting she did not know what Mr. Freeman’s purpose was in coming along, confirmed that the group did tour the eastern-most Commerce Center Boulevard area. Mrs. Belinski continued on to say, what Mr. Freeman did not know but the Members of Council know, all that tax money is not coming for a long time.
Mr. Freeman interjected he did not say those words and advised what he did say was “that eventually that will be a very big project for us and I was told from people outside the area they are looking to see what we do.”
Mrs. Belinski pointed out there are two companies in the Bethlehem Commerce Center which are Foulk Lumber and U. S. Cold Storage. She highlighted the fact that there are huge piles of slag that must still be leveled to prepare that land. Noting once that is done, then other buildings will be built, Mrs. Belinski stated only then will the businesses go on the City’s tax rolls. But, she observed, it is an Enterprise Zone called LERTA that means Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance and which means the City will not get the full amount of taxes for ten years, since the taxes are in 10% increments over ten years. Mrs. Belinski stressed “so, it’s a long way in the future before we will realize the full tax potential of the Commerce [Center] Boulevard.
Mr. Freeman said he agrees.
Michael Perrucci, an owner of the BethWorks property, explained, in regards to the traffic matter raised by Mr. Freeman, that as all know Route 412 will be dualized and will be a four lane road that comes and stops at the Minsi Trail and Route 78. Mr. Perrucci advised “we’ve been led to believe that the use of Federal money…announced is $60 million for that project, and we further anticipate that has a chance of breaking ground next year. So, we fully intend to respond to the traffic. Secondly, statute and law regarding the casino control regulations…in Pennsylvania requires us by law to have a major impact statement presented to the City Council before our application is submitted. So, therefore, since the application has now been announced about two or three weeks ago that they’ll be taking around November 1, 2005, we will be submitting to you a major impact statement that you will have an opportunity to comment on, and that goes through all the various criteria that you would expect including traffic. The third thing is that Mr. Freeman, I didn’t hear his position on the Pocono casinos but it is suspected there will be one there, but let me just respond in regards to the Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh Valley is the third largest population base in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There are going to be fourteen licenses issued. And the one thing we all know standing here tonight is that in several years there will be fourteen slot parlors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The legislature passed it, the Governor signed it, and the Supreme Court has approved it. With that in mind, all of our information from Harrisburg has indicated that there will be one slot parlor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that is located in the Lehigh Valley. Because of your population base, and because of your proximity on [Interstate] 78 as well as your proximity to northern New Jersey which, when they presented the Bill, Chris Cray who wrote the Bill who has been quoted in the Morning Call over the past year it’s indicated that all of the [models] required one location in the Lehigh Valley. So, I think the facts, although the law doesn’t specifically say whether any of those are at the race tracks, it’s very clear that one of them is coming in the Lehigh Valley, and I’ll address that later but I wanted to present that…
I have spent a lot of time trying to understand City Council’s concerns. I know that some of the Council are just dead set against this and we met with you and we respect your position, and obviously based on that position we haven’t spent a lot of time with you because publicly you’re opposed to it. But, in regard to the Council people that are undecided, I’d like to address this to you more so and that is as I have listened to a number of you, Councilwoman Belinski, Councilman Donchez, Council President Schweder, Councilwoman Maggie Szabo, as I have listened to you at various functions, speaking to the business community, meetings…in the past,…South Side Bethlehem meetings, or historical meetings, I brought my own discussions with you. It appeared to me that one of your concerns was that you liked a lot of the things that we were saying but you were very concerned, perhaps this was from past experience in dealing with other developers, that you wanted to see things in writing, and you want me to lock up with specificity the best we could at this juncture even though we’re still at a very relatively preliminary stage. In that regard, I spent a lot of time listening to your concerns and we are now prepared, and I think we’ve passed around to the audience…a letter that we addressed to the residents of Bethlehem, and I would say that we’ve tried to answer all of your questions. If I may, Council President, we intend to go through that very briefly. Unfortunately, it’s not able to be read [on the screen]. I think all of you have a copy of it, and hopefully it goes through the audience as well. In regard to the licensing itself, the law basically, in regards to this category of licensing, will allow two of them to go to Philadelphia, one to go to Pittsburgh, and the other two are basically up for grabs in the Lehigh Valley and the rest of the Commonwealth. That law says that only one license can be allowed per applicant. So we represent to you in writing here that we would only apply for one license, and only ever, ever seek one license on the BethWorks property. And, I would further point out to you that the law as written on the books in Pennsylvania is that the next license could not be within 20 miles of this particular facility. So, I think the City of Bethlehem can rest assured if you deem this project appropriate you will only have one license. This will not be Las Vegas. This will not be Atlantic City. Secondly, site preservation. One of the things that all of you four Councilmembers have indicated to me is the great history of Bethlehem Steel and how Bethlehem Steel not only built this wonderful City but how it built the nation, and protected the world during World War I and World War II. And taking that into consideration, I spent a lot of time with my partners,…our extremely reputable partners. I would say that the Venetian as Fred Krauss, general counsel, is here, and Barry Gosin, the principal of Newmark Realty is here, we have spent a great deal of time with a lot of our…planners trying to fulfill that wish of yours, trying to preserve the legacy of the Steelworkers of the City of Bethlehem as well as the history of Bethlehem Steel. And, as you can see on the board, it’s been in the paper recently the last day or so, the red is the preservation of buildings. And, again we attached this to the letter…and this is in writing and we are prepared to stand by this that approximately 23 of the 33 buildings will be preserved, and that was no small feat. With the five or six architectural firms that we have designing everything from Yankee Stadium down to…a number of major projects in the Lehigh Valley, our architects and planners worked extremely hard to make sure that we preserve the legacy of Bethlehem Steel. We think that this does that, and we’re prepared, and it is in writing, for you to consider that tonight. The third thing that we found is that a number of you, as well as a number of citizens, particularly Save Our Steel and other groups, were very concerned about design of the gaming piece. And, as you know, this gaming piece will be on the eastern side of the Minsi Trail Bridge underneath the ore yard crane there, the Lehigh-Hellertown side of the Minsi Trail Bridge. That’s the design that we expect and are willing to live by and work with the City on. We think it blends in with the historical nature of the buildings. Newmark is particularly expert in preservation. They’ve done a number of major projects in New York City. Barry [Gosin] made a speech to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation that showed all the wonderful buildings that they’ve preserved including the Flatiron building in New York City which is one that they’re very proud of and that they own and preserve. The Venetian has done the same with a number of sites. The fourth thing is jobs for local residents. In that letter you will find that we’ve tried to identify thousands of jobs that will be created here. One of the [businesses] I spoke to was the owners of Loopers restaurant in South Side Bethlehem. Last month they put an ad in the paper for a dishwashing job for $6.50. They got over 220 people that physically went into their restaurant and filled out a written application for that job. So, there is an immediate need for job creation. We will create thousands of temporary jobs in regard to the construction workers that will build what we hope will be a magnificent site, as well as the thousands of permanent jobs, and we’ve listed some of those. Those jobs will be in compliance with the Venetian high standards of their employees which they call team members in terms of health care, dental, day care, food, what have you. And, they’ve been voted three times in the last three years the best employer in southern Nevada which includes the entire Las Vegas area. Diversity – one of the things that we will do, and it’s required by law, and we’ve already started working on it, is our diversity program. You have a number of many different cultures in your fine City, and in our minds the best thing that we can do is to create a really dynamic diversity program. And, if we can do that, we will spend a lot of time with the Community Development Corporation building that, and working with the local people to make sure that we hire the people from the City of Bethlehem. Training – we are working with Northampton County Community College. We have created a program where these people will be taken right to our site at the Community College, properly trained, [and will have the opportunity of] obtaining these jobs…Project Labor Agreement – we’ve entered into a letter of intent with the construction building trades council and they are here in force tonight because this means a lot of jobs to them, and it’s very important to them. And we are prepared to build that site with this great local labor force…Local purchasing – we will be working with all the local merchants in the City of Bethlehem and in the Lehigh Valley to prepare not only a minority business purchasing plan but a local purchasing plan as well. ArtsQuest – we have provided them with various facilities on the site, and the National Industrial Museum we’ll also work with them. The Steelworkers Archives – we plan to have sites for them. And I’d like to turn it over to Fred to talk about some of the issues that he has. I think they’re also addressed in the letter.”
Fred Krauss, President and General Counsel of the Venetian in Las Vegas, noting a lot has been heard about Atlantic City, said “but I wanted to lay out and talk to you about Atlantic City. Atlantic City is nothing like Bethlehem. It was a blighted and impoverished area. And everybody quotes crimes statistics about Atlantic City…This is a chart that shows the crime on the bottom line graph, but the real crime rate in Atlantic City is a chart published by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and the South Jersey Transportation Authority, a couple of State agencies. And it more accurately describes what is really the reality is that casinos don’t bring in any more crime than any other economic development, whether it’s economic development that brings people and there’s some impact on the property. People say that nothing happened in Atlantic City as a result of casino gaming…[but]…as the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority [will also tell you]…they have through taxes on slots in the City invested $835 million in Atlantic City redevelopment projects…”.
President Schweder, communicating that he and Mr. Perrucci have had discussions ongoing for the last several years, said one of the biggest concerns he has had is that almost all developers within the City for the last eight years have at best been non-Union, and any number of them anti-Union. President Schweder expressed what he would like to have stated again, because it is significant to him, is that there will be a project labor agreement and all the work that is done and the construction that will be done is going to be done by Union companies and Union workers.
Mr. Perrucci said “we guarantee it and we’re prepared to have it in this letter in writing…”, and added that Bill Newhart, head of the labor council, requested that there be an agreement in writing.
President Schweder pointed out another item he has discussed in great detail is that regarding the design of the casino the significance of historic preservation is understood. In addition, President Schweder recounted he has discussed with Mr. Perrucci the significance of the Historic Officer of the City of Bethlehem and the belief that if the project is going to go forward that she must play a role as the project moves forward. President Schweder said he is asking if that is also a commitment.
Mr. Perrucci replied “yes, we’ve reviewed that, and again we are preparing for that.”
Mr. Donchez said he is pleased to see there are some points that have been addressed. Going back five or six weeks ago, Mr. Donchez recalled he stated publicly at town meetings that he believed Mr. Perrucci and his partners from the Sands need to address certain concerns and issues that he, Members of Council, and members of the community presented over the last year. Mr. Donchez confirmed he is fully aware that there cannot be contract zoning, and is fully aware that a developer’s agreement would come hypothetically down the road if this were to be approved and the applicants would get the license and send in official plans to the City, then the City would hold the developers to what is called the developer’s agreement. Mr. Donchez continued on to say “so everything that has been presented in this document, what I try to call a document of good faith, because I felt very strongly that even though we don’t have a developer’s agreement, even though we can’t have contract zoning because it’s unconstitutional, you needed to go past the line as far as I was concerned as a Member of Council to present a comfort zone for myself and calling this a document of good faith which is basically what we have here. But, again, this is a document that’s not binding and I think that’s a very important point.”
Mr. Donchez asked when does Mr. Perrucci foresee the State granting a license.
Mr. Perrucci replied “we’re led to believe that we will be filing the application itself in November so…literally it [will] take weeks to fill that out, [and] the impact statement. And, we’ve been told that thereafter we can expect, if we’re fortunate enough to get it, a May-June tentative approval. So, we’re looking at May or June 2006…”.
Mr. Donchez inquired, if the gaming license were to be issued, is the license issued for one year, three years, subject to review, and subject to renewal.
Mr. Perrucci responded “they have talked about a temporary license, but it is always subject to review and renewal by them. It’s a one year license.”
Mr. Donchez asked has there ever been a casino in New Jersey or Nevada where the license has been revoked.
Mr. Krauss said he believes that the license of the Atlantis in Atlantic City was revoked when they went into Chapter 11 and went out of business, and believes it has happened in Las Vegas, as well. Mr. Krauss added that the Casino Control Commission also denied a license in 1984 to Hilton Hotels because it was determined that Hilton Hotels had an unsavory relationship with an attorney from Chicago.
Mr. Donchez pointed out the license is basically one year, subject to yearly renewal. Mr. Donchez noted the developers have addressed his concern that there would be only one casino built on the property. Mr. Donchez queried is there “any guarantee that the Sands, if this were to be approved and you were to be granted a license, would not sell its interest to another casino company or would not buy you and your partners out so then they would control all the 150 acres.”
Mr. Perrucci responded “we have a pretty significant contract. I can tell you that Mr. Gosin and I are not in any way interested in being bought out. Other than the gaming corner, we are 50% owners, our group, of this property…”.
Mr. Donchez, remarking he has heard so many numbers, asked for clarification on what is the percentage of ownership, as far as what can be put on the record.
Mr. Krauss replied “we’re a public company…I believe there is a provision in the gaming control [aspect] that…if one license would go out of business that would put another license up but the license is not transferable…As part of our application, we have to expose everybody who has an interest in the casino, and everybody has a file…”.
Mr. Perrucci added that will be available November 1.
Mr. Donchez commented he is sure that information will be provided to City Council. Mr. Perrucci said absolutely.
Mr. Donchez, stating that he would like to see balanced economic development with historic preservation, asked how many buildings would be demolished and how many buildings would be renovated. Turning to the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation Main Office building, and pointing out it does not have heat or air conditioning, and there is a mold problem, Mr. Donchez asked how much would it cost in rough figures to renovate it.
Mr. Perrucci responded he thought the renovations would be about $40 million.
Mr. Gosin said he thinks the renovations would be approximately $130-$140 a foot or about $35-$40 million, not taking into consideration any environmental costs.
Mr. Donchez, asking when does it get to the point where it is not financially sound, observed that the developers are in the business to make money and to make a profit.
Mr. Gosin, observing that is a fair statement, noted “we are a real estate company…Our business is primarily focused on preservation. Most of the buildings that we’ve done are old buildings…All of our work is done taking old buildings, trying to make them into economically viable, and [well] located properties…When we walked this property, and looked at this property, we bought it because we fell in love with the bricks and mortar. And, we said that it’s got to have some economic justification to do that. We’ve taken steps…and we think that with gaming…the project that will allow us that incremental extra cost to make it economically viable. And now with respect to some of the buildings, I think it’s just very close and very hard to do unless we can have a traffic generator of some sort.”
Mr. Donchez questioned whether what may happen three years down the road, for example, is being taken into consideration in design of the buildings.
Mr. Gosin replied no.
Mr. Donchez asked what is the average pay scale of the permanent jobs at the casino.
Mr. Krauss explained he does not have those numbers compiled to give to Mr. Donchez. Mr. Krauss added that the Venetian was voted three times as the best place to work in southern Nevada, and pays a competitive wage and benefits.
Mr. Donchez queried as of tonight is there a written agreement with ArtsQuest so that they will have plans to build a performing arts center, and if not what is the time frame.
Mr. Gosin advised “we have an agreement in principle with Jeff Parks…It is not signed or the final dot of the i or crossing the t’s. But we are certainly interested…[in having that further developed].”
Mr. Donchez questioned whether as of tonight there is a written agreement with representatives of the National Industrial Museum.
Mr. Gosin informed Mr. Donchez “we have an agreement, again, in principle…”.
Mr. Donchez, highlighting the fact that much has been heard over the last five or six months about “life style malls” from Lehigh Valley Mall, to Route 33, to Route 378, and BethWorks, asked if there are any verbal or written commitments from retailers that they will definitely come and locate there if a casino license is approved.
Mr. Perrucci responded “we have not announced our retail partner yet. We…are in serious discussions with that and hope that we would be in a position to announce that in the near future. However,…I will say that in our discussions with the retail partners, one, we will control the site… We’re representing to you [that] the Venetian, Newmark, myself, we’re the people that are in control of the site and we will continue to control [it]. Number two, what retail partners told us is that if the Venetian comes they will drive in a sufficient number of people to the site to make the retail economically feasible. If you don’t have the Venetian, you don’t have enough traffic for retail people to compete with Bethlehem Township and Saucon Valley’s Stabler site. So, it’s really a function of almost an unfortunate domino effect. We need the gaming piece to have the retail partner. We think the retail partner helps the gaming piece as well. And, once you look at those two pieces in our plans, you’ve got about 65%-70% because the retail could be as high as 800,000 square feet, a significant build-out at that point. So, even though the slot parlor is on the other side of the Minsi Trail [Bridge], a lot of the main structure buildings that we’re able to preserve are going to be the retail component of this.”
Mr. Krauss said he does not think it is surprising that the sections with the retail partner are obviously affected by what City Council does in Bethlehem. Mr. Krauss continued on to say one thing that has been made clear by the retail partners who have contacted the developers is that they need gaming as a driver. Commenting “we’re here tonight,” and noting City Council will pursue this, Mr. Krauss pointed out that obviously more serious discussions with a retail partner would depend on whether or not the gaming is on the site.
Mr. Gosin communicated that a mall or lifestyle center is not a characterization of what the developers are trying to accomplish at the site. Mr. Gosin, observing this is an unusual opportunity to take the inside of the City, and reintroduce it to the grid, said “it’s not our goal to create a so-called lifestyle center on a gritty field, or to create a fortress like the Lehigh Valley Mall. That’s not what this is about. This is about taking a project, preserving the buildings, fully integrating this into a street system and the street grid so that people will be welcomed and they’ll be able to walk along the streets and have retail shops there. We’re not going to loop the traffic inside of it, they’ll be cars going through so that it doesn’t feel like the mall…We did talk with several retail partners and there were several retail partners who in the event that this went forward were very interested. We had boiled a choice down to two, and the person that we are most interested in is the person that walked through the site, looked at the Machine Shop Two, looked up, looked around, and said this is incredible. We’d like to be part of this, and the preservation aspect. They looked at it as part of the experience.”
Mr. Donchez asked, if the developers are successful in obtaining a license, what would be the time frame for construction of the casino, etc.
Mr. Perrucci explained the developers were always under the belief that almost immediately upon being fortunate enough to obtain the slot license that construction could start on the slot parlor and construction on the site of the Minsi Trail. Mr. Perrucci continued on to say “in our discussions with the potential retail partners, clearly once they’ve recognized the Venetian is coming it’s in their best interests to want to start as quickly as possible…”. Advising he is just guessing at this point because he has not been given a definitive answer, Mr. Perrucci observed “we all don’t know the answer to that question.” Mr. Perrucci suspected that within a short time thereafter the retail component would start. Mr. Perrucci advised that Jeff Parks, of ArtsQuest, indicated to the developers that he thought the organization would put out requests for proposals, and that he would be interested in moving forward with the performing arts center. Mr. Perrucci added it is also proposed to have Channel 39 consider coming to the site and have a live audience studio. In addition, there were discussions with Hank Barnette and Steve Donches about the Industrial Museum regarding the number of buildings they want. Mr. Perrucci noted he would think they would be driven by the fund-raising capabilities to start, and added they believe that once this plan is in place they will have a lot better opportunity to get that. Mr. Perrucci, referring to Newmark, said the sweet spot is residential conversion, and commented they would be very interested in starting at the same time. Mr. Perrucci stated “but once we know the Venetian is coming, we know this project is going to be successful.”
Mr. Donchez queried whether it would be fair to say from 18 months to 5 years.
Mr. Krauss, commenting that is probably fair, pointed out one would have to add a dose of reality onto the schedule that would involve the development of the casino, and the implementation of design, the zoning and planning commission approval process, and going in front of the gaming control board. He also pointed out that people make suggestions, plans change, and only after final design would the developers start bidding it out for construction. Mr. Krauss, while confirming the developers would want to move forward with the process as soon as they can, acknowledged there are realities in the zoning and planning process, and consideration by the gaming control board.
Mr. Donchez observed if the project is approved and a casino license is received the casino will become a corporate citizen of Bethlehem. Mr. Donchez affirmed he has read about what the Venetian has done in the Las Vegas community, and the amount of money given to the schools which he thought was very important. Mr. Donchez pointed out there are many excellent corporate citizens in the community that give money to schools, non-profits, charities, and are below the radar screen such as Just Born, and the Laros Foundation, for example, that do not want any publicity but really believe in serving community non-profit organizations whether it is New Bethany Ministries, South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center, or Community Action Committee. Mr. Donchez stated he would hope that is something that would be very important to the casino since it would be a very important duty in carrying on what it has been doing in Las Vegas. Mr. Donchez asked if the developers would be willing to add to the memorandum of understanding an additional point and provide a revised letter prior to the City Council Meeting tomorrow that this would become an addendum to the application that the developers would submit to the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission so the Gaming Commission could see what their commitment is to the City of Bethlehem. Restating that the memorandum of understanding is not legally binding, there cannot be contract zoning, and there is not a developer’s agreement, Mr. Donchez repeated his question is “would you make that part of this agreement that you would submit this to Harrisburg, the Gaming Commission, as your commitment to this City what you’re willing to do, the memorandum of understanding, in good faith to the citizens of Bethlehem, and have this to us tomorrow.”
Mr. Krauss advised one of the provisions in the Gaming Control application to determine whether or not a license is given is scrutiny of the applicant with respect to commitments made to local agencies, and community-based organizations. Mr. Krauss, stating this was discussed beforehand, said “we would be happy to include a lot of that in our discussion of business plan, and would also be happy to include it in that section of the license application…”.
Mr. Donchez commented he would appreciate that being forwarded to City Council so all the Members have the opportunity to review it, City Council’s Solicitor would have the opportunity to review it, and the Administration would have the opportunity to review it.
Mrs. Belinski, advising that she has personally visited the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, said it is beautiful and elegant. She added it is the number one casino in Las Vegas, and it does have an excellent reputation. Mrs. Belinski informed the assembly she has been in Atlantic City three times in the last month. Mrs. Belinski continued on to note that she went to the Chamber of Commerce in Atlantic City to inquire, and was given a Rutgers University study that was written by the Dean of the School of Business. Mrs. Belinski related that the report tells that gambling in Atlantic City has far exceeded the expectations, created more jobs in Atlantic City, and paid much higher in the pay scale than had been hoped. In addition, Mrs. Belinski enumerated that in Atlantic City there is a new convention hall, new fire station, new medical building, new bus terminal, and a new train station. Mrs. Belinski continued on to say she was amazed at all the new stores, and new paving over many blocks. Mrs. Belinski stressed that she has done her homework, and she does not foresee problems.
Ms. Szabo asked who among the project representatives from Las Vegas is the senior spokesman tonight.
Mr. Krauss responded it is expected that the Chief Operating Officer will be at the meeting tomorrow. Mr. Krauss stated that he is Vice President and General Counsel.
Ms. Szabo requested that Bethlehem City Council be members at the table for discussions through Council President Schweder or his designee and sit down at the same time as the Administration to hear what is going on now and not read it in the newspaper. Ms. Szabo asked if Mr. Krauss would agree.
Mr. Krauss replied “we would happy to do that for you to improve our communication policy, yes.”
Ms. Szabo, turning to Mayor Callahan, said “you heard the answer…about the Council President representing City Council at the table as discussions are going on,” and asked “will you agree to that also.”
Mayor John B. Callahan responded he would anticipate as the planning process would proceed that the Administration would lay out a time line, and the developers would sit down with the Administration and the Planning Bureau, and move forward with developing a grid, similar to other development projects in the City. Mayor Callahan continued on to note that the Third Class City Charter spells out the roles and responsibilities of Council and the Administration, and he would not see the casino development project as being different, and it would proceed as any other development.
Ms. Szabo, querying whether the answer is yes or no, repeated her question whether City Council represented by the City Council President can sit at the table for discussions.
Mayor Callahan explained he is simply saying that this development will proceed in the City of Bethlehem like any other development has before, with working with the Administration, the developers, and the planning staff. Mayor Callahan, restating that is by the Municipalities Planning Code and Third Class City Charter law, emphasized that is the way the process is laid out. Mayor Callahan stressed the Administration has never denied City Council an opportunity for information, and he does not see that changing.
Ms. Szabo asked the Mayor to put all of that in writing before tomorrow night’s meeting.
Mayor Callahan advised he is not exactly sure what it is that Ms. Szabo is requesting be put in writing such as “a seat at the table” and said he does not know exactly what that means.
President Schweder entered the conversation to say he thinks what Ms. Szabo is asking for in writing is what the Mayor just said. President Schweder continued on to say he thinks what Ms. Szabo is asking the Mayor to do is that Attorney Kelly or Attorney Spirk write in a memorandum to Ms. Szabo explaining the basis for what the Mayor just said.
Ms. Szabo explained what she means by sitting at the table is so that Council knows before they read it in the newspaper as to what is going on. Ms. Szabo added she has no political motives.
Mr. Mowrer, noting he thinks Mr. Gosin has done a great job of putting plans together, said even though he is opposed he will do everything he can to support it once it approved. However, Mr. Mowrer asked “if it’s not a slam-dunk and it goes to some other part of the Lehigh Valley, what happens to you folks.”
Mr. Perrucci responded “because if we think that we don’t get it, it goes to the Agere site [with] the Tropicana. It’s only going to be one of us successful. So, assuming it goes to the Agere site [with] the Tropicana, the Venetian would leave because their only business is the gaming piece. So they have been very clear with us up front that if we’re not successful they’ll leave.” Focusing on development of the property, Mr. Perrucci continued on to say “…the numbers keep spiraling out of control because every winter with no roofs on those buildings, the damage gets significantly more and more, and from the time that we first started with these buildings to now it’s clear to us that the retail part would not be there without the gaming so we would simply be left to our own devices. We do not believe, and we tried to not really discuss this one because we don’t think we’re not going to be successful, two we never wanted the community to feel like…we’d put up a WalMart. That was never our intention, so we’ve never had that discussion. But, I will say this, since we own the property, obviously we’re here, and I live in the community. I’m not going anywhere. The problem is there’s just no other source of revenue to preserve that legacy without the gaming piece and then the retail comes with it. So we would really start at ground zero. We would probably come back to the City at some point in the future and tell you that the buildings have got to be knocked down. But I would suspect that pretty much the site would have to be cleared for a…life center, something along those lines, like you see on the interchange of [Route] 33 and Freemansburg. In fact, we could even drive enough people to a…mall situation. I have to be honest with you, I don’t think we thought through any further than that because we’ve kind of kept our eye on the ball to get this accomplished.”
The following citizens spoke in favor of Bills 41, 42, and 43, the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments to prohibit gambling in the IR, IR-F, and HI Zoning Districts:
Kelley Dando, 422 Fifth Avenue
Marilyn Hartman, 931 High Street
Allee Magee, 809 Blair Road
Larry Burd, 3659 Michigan Court
Dixie White, 529 Ontario Street
Gary Toth, 427 East Union Boulevard
Cleveland McCray, 219 Tenth Avenue
Anne Reese, 2005 Hopewell Road
Eddie Rodriguez, 436 Pawnee Street
James North, 4352 Primrose Court
Mrs. William Hemmerly, 329 Spring Street
Bruce Fralick, 2263 Rodgers Street
Eamon Cunningham, 416 East Market Street
Jane Gaughran, 517 Carlton Avenue
Joris Rosse, 1366 Creek Road
Ted Morgan, 925 Prospect Avenue
Bruce Sinclair, 404 High Street
Charlie Tommor, 505 Sixteenth Avenue
Al Siess, 6460 Blue Church Road, Coopersburg
Gary Corbett, 1100 Third Street, Catasauqua
Jama Abdulhakim, 1322 Hottle Avenue
Corinne Hertzog, 1322 Hottle Avenue
Nancy Wescoe, 4105 Juniper Lane
Ronald Schantz, 2034 Country Place
Joseph Trovato, 2641 Madison Avenue
Stephanie Trovato, 2641 Madison Avenue
Tina Moyer, 2415 Linden Street
Ed Lamb, 1534 Chelsea Avenue
Roy Gruver, 415 North New Street
Ziona Brotleit, 408 Second Avenue
Diane Keller, 1626 East Sixth Street
Joseph Yukich, 520 Barclay Drive
Kurtis Freimuth, 1240 East Fourth Street
Mihael Prughimer, 714 High Street
Karen Trionfo, 124 Independence Court
Ken Trionfo, 124 Independence Court
David Emery, 190 Kiefer Street, Easton
Nick Hess, 1504 Butztown Road
Santiago Rivera, 1349 Lynn Avenue
Bill George, 925 Penn Dixie Road, Nazareth
Scott Frey, 916 Williams Street
Bob Rentler, 1721 Elm Street
Dan Sobrinski, 622 Bishopthorpe Street
Billy Givens, 200 Parker Avenue, Easton
Kristin Carson, 3920 Peacock Drive
Al Wurth, 525 Sixth Avenue
Resident of 575 Shady Lane, Bath
Jeffrey Schantz, 1550 Bonnie Drive
Abe Barrows, 620 Fifth Avenue
Bridget George, 925 Penn Dixie Road, Nazareth
Margarita Rivera, 1349 Lynn Avenue
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue
The following citizens spoke in opposition to Bills 41, 42, and 43, the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments to prohibit gambling in the IR, IR-F, and HI Zoning Districts:
Roger Hudak, 1256 East Fifth Street
Bill Newhart, 140 Chestnut Hill Road, Emmaus
Robert Burkey, 1136 West Fourth Street
Joe Colucci, 1733 Falcon Drive
Wilbur Freitas, 3628 Searfoss Street
Ken Kraft, 2337 East Boulevard
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street
Carmelo Huertas, 1307 East Fourth Street
Elias Beauchamp, 423 Wyandotte Street
Kathy Zavala, 1352 East Fifth Street
Alan Gordon, 2014 Thirteenth Street
Bob Palik, 2335 Apple Street
Tom Petro, 7560 Freefranks Drive, Bath
John Saraceno, 2113 Henderson Street
Terry Meixell, 56 East Goepp Street
Bernie Barkowski, 1903 Hilltop Terrace
Loretta Cerchiaro-Valentin, 2621 East Boulevard
The following individuals also spoke about various matters surrounding the issue:
Rudy Savelli, 1446 Englewood Street
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street
Mike Kramer, 1288 Roundhouse Road, Quakertown
Bob Riggs, 1113 Prospect Avenue
The meeting on September 19, 2005 was recessed at 11:55 p.m.
President J. Michael Schweder called the continued meeting on September 20, 2005 to order.
Reverend Richard Collins of First Church of the Nazarene offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag.
PUBLIC HEARINGS – CONTINUED
President Schweder called the next public hearing to order as follows.
Zoning Map and Text Amendments – Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP)
a. Zoning Map Amendments – LVIP: Rezone from HI – Heavy Industrial District to
IR – Industrial Redevelopment District two tracts of land in the vicinity of East
Fourth Street and Route 412 in the City of Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania in the 17th Ward, situated in the Subdivision known as LVIP VII – Saucon Tract
b. Zoning Text Amendment – LVIP: Add the following
uses permitted by right in the
HI – Heavy Industrial District: railroads, railyards and intermodal rail/truck facilities; and lumber yard/ outdoor storage; and to add the following uses permitted by right in the IR – Industrial Redevelopment District: service station.
7 C. Director of Planning and Zoning:
Zoning Text Amendment - HI Heavy Industrial District and
IR Industrial Redevelopment District
Zoning Map Amendment – East 4th Street/Route 412 Vicinity - HI Heavy
Industrial District and IR Industrial Redevelopment District
A memorandum dated August 29, 2005 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, was read into the record as follows: “The…referenced zoning amendments were considered at the August 18 Planning Commission meeting. At the meeting, LVIP, the applicant for the amendments, requested that Area 2 B be withdrawn from their proposal at this time. Therefore, the Planning Commission only acted on Area 1 and Area 2 A of the proposal. The Planning Commission voted unanimously, 4 to 0, to recommend approval of the rezoning of Area 1 and Area 2 A from HI to IR.
The Planning Commission voted 3 to 1 to recommend approval of the text amendments as proposed.”
7 D. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission:
Zoning Text Amendment - HI Heavy Industrial District and
Zoning Map Amendment – East 4th Street/Route 412 Vicinity
- HI Heavy
Industrial District and IR Industrial Redevelopment District
A letter dated August 26, 2005 from Frederic Brock, Assistant
Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, was read
into the record as follows: “The Lehigh Valley Planning
Commission reviewed the…referenced amendments to the
Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map at its meeting on
August 25, 2005. The Commission considered the text amendments
to the ordinance to be a matter of local concern. The selection
of zoning districts is considered to be a matter of local
Planning Director Comments
Ms. Heller, focusing on maps of the area, explained that the first map given to the Members of Council is the area known as LVIP VII that is Area 1 in the proposal to be rezoned. Turning to the second map in the area known as Commerce Center, Ms. Heller advised what is highlighted is the area that is referred to as Area 2 A. Looking at the board, Ms. Heller noted it gives an overview of where those areas are on the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation land. Ms. Heller affirmed the recommendation from the Planning Commission is that each of the aspects of the petition forwarded by LVIP should be approved. Ms. Heller explained that all of the land requested to be rezoned is now zoned HI – Heavy Industrial and all of the LVIP land is now zoned HI – Heavy Industrial. Ms. Heller pointed out that the proposed Route 412 improvements and the nearly completed Commerce Center Boulevard greatly improve access to the site. Ms. Heller notified the Members that the City does want to retain some Heavy Industrial land. Referencing the tour taken by several Members of Council last week, Ms. Heller observed it is clear that there are still some industrial uses of the site. However, Ms. Heller noted that the improvements to Route 412 significantly increase the market value of the properties that front on Route 412. The Bethlehem Steel lands are essentially the only remaining HI zoned land in the City and the area continues to improve the City’s greatest concentration of industrial uses. Affirming the City does want to retain that there, Ms. Heller continued on to explain the purpose of the IR – Industrial Redevelopment zone is to promote the economic revitalization of underutilized heavy industrial properties. In order to accomplish this, a variety of land uses are permitted in that zone. Ms. Heller commented it is believed that along the frontage parcels the rezoning to IR and the increased flexibility are very important. Ms. Heller denoted that several subdivisions and land developments have already been submitted and/or approved for the LVIP owned land. These developments are interior to the site and continue to include the Heavy Industrial use. Ms. Heller continued on to say it will be important to retain portions in HI; however, much of the land fronting on the major transportation corridors are really more appropriate for flex office and retail uses. Ms. Heller, highlighting the fact that Route 412 is a significant gateway to South Bethlehem, stated that the proposed Route 412 improvements create an attractive entrance to the City from the South, and the map revisions show those areas proposed to be rezoned. Ms. Heller confirmed there are representatives from LVIP at this evening’s meeting to answer any questions. Ms. Heller notified the Members that the areas are proposed to be retail, flex office, and some light industrial uses. Ms. Heller informed the Members that Area 2 A extends from Shimersville Road down to the newly constructed Commerce Center Boulevard on the east side of Route 412. Area 1 is basically the lands that front on Route 412 along the LVIP area and go back to the Lehigh Heavy Forge property.
Turning to the proposed Text Amendments, Ms. Heller advised in the HI zone it is proposed to add uses for railroads, rail yards, and intermodal rail-truck facilities, along with lumber yard and outdoor storage. Ms. Heller noted those uses exist there now, and the addition of those uses as permitted uses clears up the fact that they do exist there now, they would no longer be non-conforming uses, and there would no longer be any question about whether or not they should be permitted there. In the IR zone, the proposed Text Amendment request is to include service station as a permitted use. Ms. Heller pointed out that a service station use does not include any auto repair or anything along those lines. Rather, it is strictly retail and a retail use is already permitted in IR. Accordingly, Ms. Heller stated it is felt that is clearly an appropriate change as well.
Cecilio Gonzalez, 1181 East Fourth Street, referring to
Ms. Heller’s comments that property values of land on
the South Side might be increasing because of the proposal,
asked “why can’t they grandfather the land to
the people that live there or as long as they live there they
never have to worry about their taxes going up. Once they
sell their property, then the taxes could go up. Because yesterday
I was hearing a lot of people talking about that if gambling
comes through the value of the property is going to go up,
and a lot of people are not going to be able to afford to
pay for their taxes. They give a lot of tax breaks to companies
that come in there, and they don’t have to pay taxes
for five or ten years so they can bring the business in. [For]
a homeowner that lives on the South Side all their life why
can’t we get grandfathered so we don’t have to
worry about our taxes going up…Couldn’t that be
President Schweder explained that a specific area cannot be singled out to do so since under the State constitution there is a uniformity clause that requires that all municipalities have to uniformly administer all taxes. President Schweder, in further response to Mr. Gonzalez, commented it is something that could be looked into.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Ordinances will be placed on the October 4, 2005 Agenda for First Reading.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.
Public Hearing: Intermunicipal Liquor License Transfer - Bath, Pennsylvania to 217 Broadway
President Schweder advised that the Public Hearing on the Intermunicipal Transfer of Restaurant Liquor License Number R-18827 from K & R Burns, Inc., 658 Point Phillips Road, Bath PA 18014 to Lehigh No. 1 LLC, Firehouse Bar and Grill, 217 Broadway, Northampton County, Bethlehem PA 18015 has been postponed to the October 4, 2005 City Council Meeting.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
President Schweder advised that the minutes of September 6, 2005 will be listed for approval on the October 4, 2005 Agenda.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances
and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
President Schweder notified the assembly this Courtesy of the Floor will be made available to any individual who would like to comment on any Ordinances or Resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening that were not covered by last night or this evening’s Public Hearings.
There was no Public comment under the first Courtesy of the Floor.
6. OLD BUSINESS
E. Lutheran Manor and Gateway Professional Associates – Street Vacation – Service Road #2
The Clerk read a Petition dated July 19, 2005 from Paul A. Florenz, Attorney for Lutheran Manor of the Lehigh Valley and Gateway Professional Associates, to vacate Service Road #2, a street that has not been opened to traffic for a period of over twenty-one years. Also attached was a letter dated April 25, 2005 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot), the only property owner abutting the subject portion of the road other than Petitioners, stating that PennDot has no interest in acquiring any portion of Service Road #2.
President Schweder referred the matter to the Planning Commission.
F. LVIP – Street Vacation – Deschler Street
The Clerk read a letter dated September 8, 2005 from Justin C. Ryan, Business Development Manager of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, Inc. (LVIP), to which was attached a petition for the vacation of Deschler Street, located within the LVIP VII Saucon Tract, noting it has not been open for many years. LVIP is the sole owner of the property bounding Deschler Street.
President Schweder referred the request to the Planning Commission.
G. Business Administrator – 2006 Preliminary Budget Estimate – Pension Plans
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 9, 2005 from Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, listing estimates of the financial requirements of the Police, Fire, Officers and Employees, and PMRS pension plans, and minimum municipal contribution to the plans for 2006 budget purposes, as required under Act 205.
President Schweder stated the item is for information only at this time and no Council action is required.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Councilmanic Appointment – John DeStasio, Recreation Commission
President Schweder appointed John DeStasio, Jr. to membership on the Recreation Commission effective until August 2010. Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,689 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.
Proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments - Prohibiting Gambling
in IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment
Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District
Mayor John B. Callahan presented his comments on the Proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment to Prohibit Gambling in IR Industrial Redevelopment District, IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, and HI Heavy Industrial District. Mayor Callahan said while “I certainly speak to all of you as the proud Mayor of a great City, I also want to speak as a citizen and as a resident, one who like many of you here in the City, and in this room, and like City Council have very deep roots in this community. We had an opportunity to hear many stories from many individuals about their unique Bethlehem story, and we all have that story. I grew up in Bethlehem. I went to Buchanan Elementary School, and Nitschmann Middle School, and Liberty High School, and Moravian College. My wife, who by the way is my high school sweetheart that I met in Liberty, went to Thomas Jefferson, and Northeast Middle School, Liberty High School, and Lehigh University. So we are both, [and] I am a very proud product of the City of Bethlehem. I am a better person for having grown up in this great City. It’s been said we are all products of our environment and I am greatful that I grew up in Bethlehem…I have three children who attend Spring Garden, a 10 year old, an 8 year old, and a 6 year old, and I want my children to have the very same experiences that I did when I grew up. I could never do anything that I thought would jeopardize this great City and the quality of life here, and the sense of community that we have all come to appreciate in Bethlehem.”
Referring to last evening’s Public Hearing, Mayor Callahan recalled that a young man whose last name was Hess said last night that he has traveled all over the country and there is no place that he would rather live than Bethlehem, and expressed his agreement. Mayor Callahan further recalled that Mr. Hess said that 15 years from now he would want his kids to feel the same way. Mayor Callahan said “I want my kids and my grandkids to feel the same way.”
Mayor Callahan stated “tonight, all the Members of Council, you have an important decision on the future of one of the country’s largest brownfields. The choice you make tonight will affect not only the 124 acres of the BethWorks site, but it will affect the whole South Side of Bethlehem, and in some ways the economic fortunes of our entire City. Our community has had a vigorous and open debate over the last three months, a public discourse that is fitting of our community’s deep tradition of dialogue and discussion on important issues. We should all be proud that instead of deeply dividing our community, this issue has brought out the best in our City. People have seen that both sides can passionately debate the issue of gaming, expressing their views with respect and civility. It makes me proud as a resident of the City and the Mayor of our City to watch our democratic process work. The long-standing tradition of civil discourse is alive and well in Bethlehem. I want to commend Council President Mike Schweder for the fine job that he did last night in conducting the Public Hearing. While I do not agree with the authors of the Ordinances before you, I respect greatly Councilmen Leeson and Mowrer. They have done a service to the community bringing an uplifting debate to the civil confines of Bethlehem City Council.
I have had the fortune and the wonderful opportunity to serve on City Council and I know that every one of you considers this issue very seriously, weighing the pros and the cons before you came to your final decision on your vote tonight. After all, you all have the very same deep roots in this community that I have.
I speak before you tonight to urge each of you to support the City of Bethlehem’s Planning Commission recommendation to defeat the Ordinances that are before you for First Reading. It is my strong belief that gaming is the demand generator that can bring to life the comprehensive vision for redeveloping the old Bethlehem Steel Plant. This is a bipartisan redevelopment plan that has been shared by at least three Administrations. My Administration, the Smith Administration, and the Cunningham Administration before me strongly supports redevelopment and reuse plans for this land. These plans include multi-use, commercial, office, entertainment, residential, and retail uses that preserve and strengthen the historical nature of the site, while making it a regional destination. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has labeled this site one of the 11 most endangered historical sites in the country and we, too, are concerned about the physical structures on that site and the threat to their continued existence. The City of Bethlehem, over three Administrations, has spent almost nine years working hard with noted developers to try to redevelop and market the land as an historical, multi-use development. The City has put in place significant incentives, both financial and zoning, to lure development. A Tax Incremental Financing district was put in place that generated $15 million that was spent to build new roads and improve the site's infrastructure, making it ready for construction, and still nothing happened. The City changed the Zoning on the site and created the IR Zone, the most flexible and least restrictive zoning in the City that would allow almost any lawful permitted commercial use to be developed there, and still nothing happened. Redevelopment efforts were the subject of numerous local and regional media stories, and in spite of these efforts and the attention, there have been no significant developments on the bulk of that site.
I believe that the best way, and probably the only way, to achieve our goals and to turn the BethWorks site into a successful multi-use development that preserves and celebrates our history is to use the economic power of legalized gaming as the catalyst for a new development. Gaming has the ability to generate the economic activity that will provide capital and resources to save the blast furnaces, restore the historic buildings, and secure the integrity of a community vision that was launched almost 10 years ago. Preserving these important historic treasures costs money, and there is no other realistic development plan that could generate the investment that would pay to restore and maintain this important part of America’s history. We need to face the facts that historic preservation is costly and it needs a unique development to fund it. People cannot fathom the enormity of the task in rebuilding and restoring the buildings on the site. The resources and the financial support just do not exist in this community, and will not be subsidized by the State or Federal governments or foundations. Without that massive support, Bethlehem Steel has tried it and failed, it will be impossible. The BethWorks site is the best location in the City, and the Lehigh Valley, to accommodate gaming. It is part of the largest brownfields redevelopment project in the country, and not in the middle of a suburban greenfield. It is very close to [Route] I-78, along a major state highway, Route 412, that will soon receive a $60 million upgrade, and it is a comfortable distance from any residential housing developments. In addition, the great degree of flexibility afforded under the IR zone makes it the only zoning in Bethlehem that could reasonably support this use.
I am deeply passionate about making the old Bethlehem Steel Plant a productive part of our community again. It once was home to thousands of workers and the lifeblood of our community, but now it lies blighted and vacant.
Much of the opposition’s argument has centered around the potential negative social consequences resulting from gaming. We all need to come to grips with the fact that gaming is the law of the land in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and no action that we take tonight is going to change that. As the law exists now, even without a slot license being awarded to the Lehigh Valley, which is likely to be the case, there will be no fewer than six slot locations within an hour and a half’s drive of where I am standing right now. They will literally ring the Lehigh Valley -- North, South, East and West – two in Philadelphia, one in Chester, one in Bensalem, one outside Harrisburg, and one in the Poconos. And, again, the very high likelihood that the Lehigh Valley, being the third most populous region in the State, and given our close proximity to New Jersey, will be granted a license. So our discussion should center on not whether we have gaming in the Lehigh Valley but rather where best to have gaming in the Lehigh Valley. Where can we put gaming so that it will have the most positive impact. Zoning is a tool to plan for the future; it should not be used to deny the future. I maintain to all of you that that location, the former Bethlehem Steel site, is the best location. It will drive close to a billion dollars of capital investment in the urban core of the City, not on a greenfield. It will provide for the adaptive reuse of the existing buildings, preserving the blast furnaces and this community’s sense of place, and commemorating 125 years of steel-making history in our City, bringing thousands of construction jobs, and 5,000 direct jobs to the South Side where they are needed most. Imagine a resident of South Bethlehem walking to the Community College, receiving job training from the Community College, and then walking to work at BethWorks, or [walking] to work at LVIP. It just doesn’t get better than that in terms of urban renewal. This project will provide 5,000 full-time jobs for this region, giving people a reason to get up in the morning, go to work, have pride in themselves, and an opportunity to collect a check at the end of the week to provide for themselves and their family. And, with the resulting guaranteed $10 million host fee, nearly 20% of the General Fund of the City, we will likely be able to reduce property taxes and deliver better basic City services to the City.
Some have characterized this project as a quick fix or an act of desperation, and I can assure you that nobody is looking for either one. The BethWorks Now plan is part of an overall comprehensive plan to bring the [former] Bethlehem Steel lands, nearly 20% of the taxable land mass of the City, back to productive use and back on the tax rolls. Let us all remember that the entire site is 1,800 acres. 1,600 acres, the Bethlehem Commerce Center, is dedicated to rebuilding this City’s industrial tax base, and bringing thousands of blue-collar family-sustaining jobs back to the City. The entire BethWorks Now plan makes up only 10% of the [former] Bethlehem Steel property, and only 10% of the Bethlehem Works Now plan has any connection to gaming. Ladies and gentleman, that is 1% of the entire Bethlehem Steel property, hardly a quick fix or an act of desperation.
The City has weathered a tremendous blow with the loss of Bethlehem Steel. I don’t think anyone in this room could have imagined 20 years ago that we would lose Bethlehem Steel and this City would look the way it does. It’s truly a testament to the resiliency of this community. We have faced adversity time and time again and come away stronger. The City is on track and moving forward. I, like all of you, love the City of Bethlehem. I have faith in the City of Bethlehem, and its institutions, and the people who live here. There is a spirit in the City of Bethlehem that is very real and very rare. Bethlehem’s most valuable assets are not the historic buildings or the blast furnaces. Bethlehem’s most valuable assets are its people and the strength of our community, and gaming is not going to change that. I want my children to have the same experiences growing up as I did. I want my grandchildren to visit that site, gaze up at the iconic blast furnaces, and understand the history of this proud City.
Working together we can make sure we maximize the positive impacts of the BethWorks Now plan. We can embrace our future, and we can remember our past. That is why I urge you to vote against the zoning amendments that are before you this evening.”
C. Public Works Committee
Mr. Mowrer, Chairman of the Public Works Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held September 6, 2005 on the following subject: Amending Article 921 – Instituting Sewer Tapping Fee.
D. Human Resources and Environment Committee
Mr. Arcelay, Chairman of the Human Resources and Environment Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held September 8, 2005 on the following subjects: Adding a Police Sergeant, and Upgrading a Maintenance Worker II.
E. Community Development Committee
Ms. Szabo, Chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held September 14, 2005 on the following subject: 2006 Community Development Block Grant Program and HOME Program. The Committee recommended an amendment to the 2006 CDBG Proposal to add $30,000 for ArtsQuest and to Reduce Contingencies.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 26 – 2005 – Street Vacation – Silk Mill Street
The Clerk read Bill No. 26 – 2005, Street Vacation – Silk Mill Street, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 26 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4339, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 39 – 2005 – Amending Article 1733 – Adoption of 2003 International Property Maintenance Code
The Clerk read Bill No. 39 – 2005, Amending Article 1733 – Adoption of 2003 International Property Maintenance Code, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 39 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4340, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 40 – 2005 – Amending Article 1731 - Inspections
The Clerk read Bill No. 40 – 2005, Amending Article 1731 – Inspections, on Final Reading.
Amendment to Bill No. 40 – 2005
The Clerk read the Amendment to Bill No. 40 – 2005, sponsored by Ms. Szabo and Mr. Mowrer, as follows:
That Section 1731.01 (f) which reads as follows:
(f) Transfer of ownership – [If the property is sold “as is”], the owner of any dwelling unit or structure shall first furnish the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee a true copy of any compliance order or notice of violation issued by the code official and shall furnish to the code official a signed statement from the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee acknowledging the receipt of such compliance order or notice of violation and fully accepting the responsibility without condition for making the corrections or repairs required by such compliance order or notice of violation. All violations shall be abated within 90 days of transfer. If said property is occupied as a rental property, violations must be abated within 30 days. The only exception to the time limits would be if special arrangements are agreed upon with the code official.
Shall be amended to read as follows:
(f) Transfer of ownership – Prior to transfer of ownership, the current owner of any dwelling unit or structure shall first furnish the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee a true copy of any compliance order or notice of violation issued by the code official and shall furnish to the code official a signed statement from the grantee, transferee, mortgagee or lessee acknowledging the receipt of such compliance order or notice of violation and fully accepting the responsibility without condition for making the corrections or repairs required by such compliance order or notice of violation. All violations shall be abated within 90 days of transfer. If said property is occupied as a rental property, violations must be abated within 30 days. The only exception to the time limits would be if special arrangements are agreed upon with the code official.
That Section 1731.02 (d) which reads as follows:
(d) For each commercial rental property containing 2,000
sq. ft. or less of floor area,
the fee shall be $125.00. For [each] commercial rental property containing more than 2,000 sq. ft. the fee shall be [$50.00 in addition to the base fee] for every 2,000 sq. ft. [to be inspected]. The owner/operator of a commercial rental property must acquire a certificate of occupancy each time that rental property space is vacant.
Shall be amended to read as follows:
(d) For each commercial rental property containing 2,000
sq. ft. or less of floor area,
the fee shall be $125.00. For commercial rental property containing more than 2,000 sq. ft. the fee shall be $125.00 plus $50.00 for every additional 2,000 sq. ft. The owner/operator of a commercial rental property must acquire a certificate of occupancy each time that rental property space is vacant.
That Section 1731.02 (e) which reads as follows:
(e) [Anyone selling or renting a dwelling without obtaining an inspection for a certificate of occupancy shall be subject to a 100 percent additional fee for the inspection].
Shall be amended to read as follows:
(e) The City may double the inspection fee for anyone selling or renting a dwelling without obtaining an inspection for a certificate of occupancy.
Voting AYE on the Amendment to Bill No. 40 - 2005: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Amendment passed.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 40 – 2005, as Amended: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 40 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4341, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 41 – 2005 – Amending Article 1317A.03
– Prohibiting Gambling in IR Industrial Redevelopment
The Clerk read Bill No. 41 – 2005, Amending Article 1317A.03 – Prohibiting Gambling in IR Industrial Redevelopment District, sponsored by Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, COUNTIES
OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING ARTICLE 1317A.03 (c) OF
THE ZONING ORDINANCE, AS AMENDED, ENTITLED
"I-R INDUSTRIAL REDEVELOPMENT DISTRICT"
Mr. Leeson acknowledged and thanked the Mayor and his fellow
Members of Council for their great dignity and respect shown
to each other and to all the citizens, no matter what their
point of view was on the subject. Mr. Leeson, also thanking
the citizens, stated it has been a civil debate and a good
exchange of views. Mr. Leeson made the following statement:
“It takes years and sometimes longer, to build a reputation.
It takes only a matter of moments to lose it. Tonight the
City of Bethlehem faces a truly monumental decision. And that
decision, in my mind, is whether to break with a winning track
record or to stay the course, a course that to date has made
Bethlehem the shining star of the Lehigh Valley, the envy
of many communities. And some of you might ask what is this
winning formula that has produced in Bethlehem a track record
of success that has been notably absent from many other communities.
It’s been a tradition of hard work, persistence, integrity,
and, most importantly, a focus on the long term, rather than
on the short term. Over the years, Bethlehem City government
has been confronted with numerous challenges focused on how
to guide the community in the right direction to assure that
our City will be a great place to live and work for all of
our citizens. It’s been a time-honored tradition of
leadership in both the executive and legislative branches
of government in Bethlehem to resist the temptation to cash
in on the easy money and to sacrifice the long-term interests
of the City. And indeed, in my mind, that is one of the decisions
we face tonight.
Stated another way, what is the vision that we have for Bethlehem in the future? Do we have a vision of a City with a diverse and strong economic base, a City with a strength in the arts, and in culture, and in education? Or do we envision a City of the future dominated by one major enterprise; namely, gambling? And, make no mistake about it, if gambling comes to town, it will become the dominant business. Let’s not be under any illusions here. It’s a business that is premised on the ‘get rich quick’ concept, a concept that takes advantage of those in our community who can least afford to lose: the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, and other vulnerable citizens who fall under the illusion of the get rich quick allure of gambling. The business model advanced by [Las Vegas] Sands, and indeed the State of Pennsylvania, for that matter, is 5,000 slot machines with the goal of $200 a day in revenue from each machine, or a total of $1 million a day gross. Assuming a 360 day a year operation, time off for holidays and weekends, let’s assume that’s a $300 million a year gross business.
The volume of advertising, the volume of marketing, the volume of promotions in the mail, in the newspapers, on the radio, on the television, unquestionably will change the image of the City forever. This will no longer be the City of steel, or the City of the arts, or the City of music, or the City of culture, or the City of education, or the City with the diverse economic base. Over time, and it will take a long time, this is not going to happen overnight, I’m forecasting it will be a long time, the image of the City will gradually evolve into that of one of a gambling destination. A gambling town. A place where you go for a good time. A place where ‘what happens here, stays here’. We will lose our distinctiveness, and indeed our community pride will be eroded. And what will this new image of the City do for Bethlehem as a community? At present, Bethlehem is regarded as a great place to live and to work, a family friendly town. That will change. At present, Bethlehem is regarded as a great place for business enterprises to set up shop. That will change, in large part because of the perception that the business community will have as far as a negative impact on a skilled labor work force. Out of town parents will be less inclined to send their children to colleges in a gambling town. When the buses bringing the out of town visitors to the casino drive down Third Street and Fourth Street, they’re not going to stop at the local restaurants and the local shops, no. When you go to the casino, there is no day, there is no night. There are no clocks. They don’t want you wandering off the reservation. And if you are going to wander off the reservation, they want you to stay in their shops and their restaurants. Over time, the volume of business that Third Street and Fourth Street enjoy, and indeed that Main Street enjoys, will gradually drop off. It won’t be a precipitous drop, and it will be slow, over time. But, unfortunately, many of these local businesses teeter on the edge of profitability as it is. Even small declines in their business may be enough to put some of them out of business. The fact that the Bethlehem Works Now wants to provide a special pavilion for local businesses to set up their shops on the Bethlehem Works site at a reduced rent is a tacit admission that they will not be able to compete successfully with the casino enterprises. Ladies and gentlemen, when slots come in, local dollars will flow out.
And a question really needs to be asked, why are we even considering gambling for Bethlehem? Is it the $10 million a year [in host fees]? Is that the price at which we are willing to invite them in to set up shop here? An industry that is known for preying on the poor, the disabled and the handicapped, and the most vulnerable in our society, a business that will bring a new form of addictive disease to the area. Assume for the moment that we take the $10 million away. Would we still want this kind of business in Bethlehem? Or, stated another way, is that the price at which Bethlehem’s future can be bought, and its reputation transformed and, in my opinion, not for the better. Or, is it the historic preservation and the development of the Bethlehem Works site the real reason for which we want gambling? In fact, if I could speak for everyone in this room, that all of us are in complete solidarity on one point. We all want to see the development of the Bethlehem Steel property. We all want to see historic preservation. On those issues, there is unanimity. There is no disagreement. So the real question here [is] how do you get the job done? And we need really to ask is gambling the only way? The answer to this question has already been provided by Michael Perrucci and Barry Gosin, and let me quote their own words. In February of 2005, at a meeting at the Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Mike Perrucci, who I hold in high esteem, is a fine person…, he was asked whether the Bethlehem Works project could be built without slots. And, he said yes, it would take 25 years, but only 5 years with slots. In July of 2005, Barry Gosin, who is also a fine businessman who I hold in high esteem, of Newmark Realty company, he was interviewed by Matt Assad of the Morning Call. And, [Mr. Gosin] was asked what would happen if the slot machine license did not come to the Bethlehem Works property. He said ‘even if there is no gaming, we are going to be here long after the Venetian is gone’. And so ladies and gentlemen we already have our answer. Will the property be developed even without slots? And the answer that has already been given is yes. It will take longer, but I for one am willing to wait. I view this decision tonight as a monumental one, because it will impact not only the people living in Bethlehem now, but generations yet to be born. The decision we make tonight will shape the image and the reputation of this community forever.
In government, I believe that true leadership is leadership that envisions the long term, as opposed to the short term. Leadership is about seeing what the future will be like and indeed should be like. Leadership is about looking beyond tomorrow, and looking at the years ahead, envisioning not just what is best for our generation, but for the generations of the future. And, my vision? I envision a continuation and expansion of the diversity in our business and employment climate in Bethlehem. I see gradual, but solid expansion in our economic base. Just last week, City officials were given a tour and were briefed on over $400 million in new construction projects that are currently underway, most of them being in South Bethlehem. In the last ten years, over $1 billion in new construction, mostly in South Bethlehem, has occurred. Ladies and gentlemen, that is evidence of the Bethlehem track record of success. It is evidence of our winning formula. It is evidence that we don’t need to fix what isn’t broken.
One of the citizens who spoke passionately last night said to us: How are you going to fix this, if you make the wrong decision. Well, by asking that question, I think the citizen already knew the answer. There is no going back. If gambling comes to Bethlehem, we will have put all of our eggs in one basket as far as the future is concerned, and there will be no turning back. And to those who say that gambling is coming to the Lehigh Valley anyway, I say you’re right. But as a public official, I will do what I can to prevent it from coming to my community. As far as I am concerned, the farther away it is, the better.”
Mr. Mowrer said, “after [Mr. Leeson] gave his speech, there is no way I can add anything that would be more significant.”
President Schweder said “this evening, I will be voting against the Leeson-Mowrer proposals, all three of them. And there are a number reasons to do that, and I will share those with you this evening. One of those really has to do with the…process and what in fact we are voting on. The proposal before us says that we would not permit slot machines, and/or gambling casinos, and/or gambling of any kind or nature. The proposed amendment and our Zoning Ordinance provides no definition of gambling. I must assume from this that in the three Districts which would encompass 1,800 acres there would be a prohibition on any business that started there from having a lottery machine. It would prohibit anyone working there from perhaps selling 50-50 tickets from their church, and whatever else would fit in there. The other question that I would raise with that is that these three proposals seek to ban slot machines and/or gambling casinos, or gambling in three of the designations that we have in our Zoning law, but is silent to all the rest. And, therefore, I must conclude what would be open to debate then [is] if are we in fact then proposing that they are acceptable in all the [other zoning districts], and none of those questions have been addressed through this entire process.
The second reason, or reasons, that I will give, and I’ll spend a little more time than I usually do in explaining some things, but the decision I reached is one that took me eight years to arrive at. And that is because in 1998, when I ran for the first time, perhaps the sole reason that I ran was to see that land be developed, the heritage to be saved, and the National Museum of Industrial History to exist. And all of us that sat at this table since that time were extremely confident of the things that we could do at that time. We invested, as the Mayor said, $15 million of Federal Community Block Grant money into the infrastructure which you see on some of the streets, but is also buried under those streets. It is a commitment that we made to preserve the heritage that was there. We even had the names of buildings that were presented by Bethlehem Steel at that time. They talked about all of the contracts that were just around the corner. We made those commitments. None of that ever came to fruition. The reality is today that that money that we invested has accomplished nothing. And the Federal government, very shortly, will be back to us and asking what we did, and what we accomplished with that investment in low income neighborhoods in our City. The answer will be nothing which will mean that the Federal government will ask us to return those funds, or deny us the funds going forward, the funds that we use in low income neighborhoods across this City. And, throughout that entire period of time, I was involved with that as I was with Bethlehem Steel. And, then, much to our surprise, [former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property] was sold to ISG, and my personal involvement continued there, and Representative T. J. Rooney and I flew to Cleveland. And what our job was that day was to plead and beg with ISG not to destroy what existed on that property, and plead and beg that they not sell it to someone who would do that. What we learned very shortly after that is that a deal had already been cut to flop the property and flip it to someone else, and we only learned that when he and I became embroiled in lawsuits because we were the ones accused of preventing the sale of this property to someone else. And, it was quite clear that at least both of those developers had no intentions of doing anything with that property. It was of more value to them if it was scrap than it would be to restore. Then came along the Delaware Valley Real Estate Investment Group. Mr. Rooney and I spent an inordinate amount of time working with them over probably a year to bring about what the people at Save Our Steel said they were going to do, what the National Museum of Industrial History wasn’t able to do. They ran all the numbers, and they looked at all of that. I remember the quote on a very cold January day in 2002, standing on that space, and what I was told is the way that this property could be developed is if they turned it into a billiard table. It took me a second to understand that what they meant was that it would look like a billiard table because everything would come down. It was through all that backdrop, through all that period of time, I have walked every one of those structures at least five or six times, I climbed into the blast furnaces, and I’ve done that over the last eight years, and I’ve watched the deterioration that has taken place across all of that property. What we’re looking at here, is that if we talk about just as the [former Bethlehem Steel Corporation] General Office Building, and I don’t know how many people when we talk about this are familiar with this, but when buildings were torn down, the structure that heated and cooled that [General Office] Building was in another structure which was torn down. That building sits there today after a decade. It has no ability to either heat or be cooled. And, ten years of decay in that building has brought it to at least $40 million for that one building just to be remediated with what is wrong with it environmentally, not what it costs for it to be restored. I have gone to countless meetings with the Secretary of Environmental Services, Secretary McGinty in Harrisburg. I know in that facility that there are many foundations that cannot be altered or be touched. Those are additional costs. I met as recently as last week with the president of the National Historical Museum, my great friend, Steve Donches. We talked about the cost of individual buildings. The foundry buildings are the beautiful arched buildings at this end, and one of them is merely a ruin with two buildings still standing. He tells me that the cost of restoration and restoring those two buildings is $125 million for two of the 33 buildings that are on the property.
What I am suggesting to you is that what we are faced with here is a dilemma. All the people who spoke about what they want and the ills of gambling, I agree with all of them. But the reality is that after eight years there is no other way for this property to be restored, and what for a decade the people who live in this City have said that they want, and that is to keep the heritage, to restore people who are working there. And, that’s why I am voting against this. I wish I could turn the clock back, or I wish I could change the cast of characters that were involved in this over that period of time. Perhaps if this was 1998 again today we would sit here with the same enthusiasm or be offering up ideas at public meetings, and say we’d like the restoration, or we’d like Arts Quest, or we like this, but we don’t want the gambling. I think it is time for all of us to be honest enough to understand that you can’t have one without the other. Everyone who has tried to do this has been unsuccessful.
People have talked about the traffic problem that would be created by this. I hope so. I have lived here at least 53 years. I remember when hundreds of buses ran into this City from Lehighton, Tamaqua, Hazleton, and every place else bringing Steelworkers three times a day to work in those facilities. I remember why Center Street and Linden Street became one way, when New Street was the same, [that] was to enable us to bring tens of thousands of cars every day into that [Bethlehem Steel Corporation] facility. We were able to take care of that once. We will be able to do so again.
Let me say that in discussion I had with Mr. Perrucci, who I greatly respect and have known for any number of years,…today is that I think those of us on Council have a responsibility to represent all of you, and I intend to do that through this process. Mr. Perrucci has assured me, and we will be getting this in writing as well, that Council will serve as an equal partner with other branches of government throughout this development. This is a beginning of a process, one that I think will work to the betterment of all of us, and that’s how I have come to this decision.
I think last night [adduced] one other reason why I’m going to vote against these [proposals], and I hadn’t necessarily thought about it, but last night a woman by the name of Mrs. Hemmerly got up to speak on behalf of her husband who was Dr. Hemmerly. More years ago than I care to remember Dr. Hemmerly was the team physician for Liberty High School’s football team. As I looked at him, and not seeing him for years, I thought about the people who were my teammates and my classmates. Before there was a Freedom [High School] there was just a Bethlehem high school. And what I do remember is that those of them who had neither the financial or academic ability to go on to college like a number of us did still had a good life. What they did is they walked down the hills in South Bethlehem from their homes and they lived a good life provided by Bethlehem Steel for their families. Someone said to me who accused me and said it would be shameful what I intend to do tonight. I think the great shame of all of this is that it’s generations who live there now [who] are predominantly Latino are condemned to a life with no jobs, a life of poverty, a life where they are never afforded, the generations who live there and are yet to come, the same opportunities that were given to generations before them. And so it is for all those reasons I believe there is a logical way to go with this. I believe that the individuals who represent BethWorks Now have worked legitimately with us, will continue to do that, and this project obviously will change Bethlehem. It will change Bethlehem forever. And, in the end, I think it will restore most of what we want, and will have changed Bethlehem for the better.”
Mr. Donchez thanked the citizens for their decorum and their interest in this issue. Mr. Donchez communicated that obviously this has been a very difficult issue for him, and for the community. Mr. Donchez said he thinks President Schweder made a very good point that these amendments really address the issue of gaming strictly on the Bethlehem Works site but it does not really address the issue throughout the whole City of Bethlehem. Mr. Donchez explained that last night he tried to address certain issues and concerns that he has had over the last four or five months. Mr. Donchez stated that he, too, was pleased that Mr. Perrucci, for whom he has a great amount of respect and has known for a few years, did address many of his concerns in writing and is willing to make it part of the application to the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission. Mr. Donchez pointed out that he realizes it is not binding but it is still in his opinion a letter of commitment and good faith to the citizens of Bethlehem. Mr. Donchez continued on to say “approximately ten years ago Bethlehem Steel officials presented to me, as Mr. Schweder indicated, and other citizens, their plans for Bethlehem Works. As many of you know, it was a very ambitious plan: movie theaters, I-max theater, restaurants, National History Museum, etc. Mr. Barnette, the CEO of [Bethlehem] Steel [Corporation] at that time made a commitment to try to have a balance between economic development and historical preservation. Unfortunately, ten years later, despite millions of dollars spent by the Steel, and $15 million spent by the City of Bethlehem for new roads and infrastructure, no development has taken place on the 150 acres known as BethWorks. I personally have not seen one serious proposal until Mr. Perrucci purchased the property and made his proposal public, other than what was presented by Mr. Barnette and the Steel company. We’ve heard rumors over the years that there were agreements signed, there was letters of intent, but no agreements of sale, to my knowledge. Mr. Perrucci and his partners have presented a plan for economic development along with historical preservation. There is a chance that this site, a Brownfields site, can be developed and can make us all proud. If the license is granted, I would hope that we would see a true partnership between the City, residents, and the developers. Approximately five or six weeks ago, I made a request to Mr. Perrucci at a neighborhood meeting that I needed to see certain issues in writing to have a good faith commitment. We had many public meetings, but we as City officials never received anything in writing. I was pleased that he presented it to us yesterday at the meeting last evening.
Today, Bethlehem and other cities are competing with the suburbs for jobs and economic development. It is very easy to locate in Bethlehem Township, Upper or Lower Macungie, or industrial parks, where all the infrastructure has been provided: water, streets, sewers, etc. We can all see how Bethlehem Township is thriving because of Route 33. Bethlehem has been fortunate to have excellent leaders, regardless of political parties Democrats and Republicans have served this City well. We’ve had steady growth, but the City takes over $1 million each year to balance its Budget from the Water Fund, the Sewer Fund, the Golf Course Fund, and the Parking Authority. We’re at a point where those funds are nearly depleted in order to balance our books each year. As a City official, I must evaluate the possibility of a proposal that has a possible $1 billion in investment, 5,000 to 10,000 jobs, and a $10 million host fee. Bethlehem Steel properties represent 25% of our City, it’s one-fourth of our land that is vacant, and it’s not generating any tax revenue. As each day goes by, the integrity of the existing Steel properties are being compromised. It will become more difficult as time goes by to have any historical preservation. Cost will not permit it. As Mr. Schweder referred to the old Main Office [building of the former Bethlehem Steel], I asked that question last week, and Mr. Perrucci did indicate it would be $40 million. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars here to renovate that property, demolish the property, develop that property. I don’t see any solid proposal over the last ten years. I believe that if Mr. Perrucci does not receive a license there’s a very strong possibility that most of the buildings could possibly be demolished, or parcels of land will be sold off with no uniformity, no theme, no planning at all. Mr. President, I, too, will oppose the three Amendments.
Mr. Mayor, I am requesting that if and when the time comes, number one, a new line item be added to the City’s Budget that will place at least, after we see what the costs are in a few years if it happens and it comes to fruition, $5 million per year into an escrow account that will be used to offset possible tax increases. Receiving $10 million per year can be tempting for government. As we all know, government loves to spend taxpayers money. But we need to really offer something in good faith to try to provide tax stability. We are talking about the City real estate tax, not the School District real estate tax which is the biggest tax we all have to pay. But I’m asking for that line item and $5 million goes into that escrow account, like we do for the Landfill, and that would be used to offset any tax increases if at all possible. Two, if and when this issue comes before the Planning Commission, when the developers officially present their plans to the Planning Commission, that we have a very strict developer’s agreement in writing to give the City as much control as possible. And I would appreciate that the developer’s agreement, before the Planning Commission would vote on it, when it comes to that time, again, be reviewed by our Solicitor and debated by City Council so that we can gain some control. I’m always amazed sometimes, and I don’t mean to criticize our Planning Commission, but when I look at the Walgreen’s at [Route] 191 and Macada Road, and I look at the Walgreen’s on Jacksonville Road [in Hanover Township], I asked the owner of the soda place [located] there how did you get two different types of buildings. Our City [has] just a cart blanche, cut-out building, the other one blends in. And, he said, if they want to locate [here] they had to meet our demands with the Planning Commission. So, I’m asking that we have a very strict developer’s agreement that would reviewed by our Solicitor, [and] debated by City Council, before the Planning Commission would vote on it.
In closing, let me say I do not take this issue lightly. Many of you know me very well. You know I try to study the issues. I try to do my homework. This is an issue where the City obviously is divided, to a point. I would hope that, even though many of you may disagree [or] agree with my decision, I hope you respect it. But I think it’s very important for this community after this evening to unite and be unified. We all have a stake. We all love this City. I grew up in South Bethlehem. I agree with many of those points Mr. Schweder said. So, I will oppose the three Amendments by Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer who I have, too, a tremendous amount of respect for their reputation and their integrity. I just happen to disagree with them on this issue.”
Mrs. Belinski, noting City Council has received letters,
and as Mr. Donchez said, stated she also respects highly Mr.
Leeson and Mr. Mowrer. However, Mrs. Belinski expressed she
does not happen to agree that “it’s not broken.
I think it’s very broken. Posing the question “why
are we considering gambling,” Mrs. Belinski said “I’ll
tell you why. Because this City has a debt. I’ve been
on the Finance Committee for eight years now. Do you know
we are $374,000,000 in debt…We have debts in the General
Fund, the Water [Fund], the Sewer [Fund], the Parking Authority,
and then if we add on the Bond we were forced to close this
year to bolster our Pension Fund adds up to a grand total
of $374,000,000. We got into trouble…ten years ago…On
November 18th of this year, it will be ten years since Bethlehem
Steel stopped their steelmaking operations. When that happened,
sadly, we lost 25% of our Budget. That was a big hole in the
Budget, and that included money from the General Fund. Do
you know Bethlehem Steel was taking 6.5 million gallons of
water a day, then add on the sewer charges we were getting
from them, totaling it all up, General Fund, Water, and Sewer,
we lost 25% of our Budget. And for the last ten years, we’ve
been robbing Peter to pay Paul. You know how we lost $5 million…?
We were taking the Landfill Tipping Fees, up to $3 million
in one year, before the DEP shut [the Landfill] down for closing
our eyes and letting all the mismanagement go on. We were
consistently in violation of the DEP rule for nine years.
Why? Because instead of putting the tipping fees back into
properly managing the Landfill, we took it to subsidize the
General Fund, up to $3 million a year. Finally, because of
neglect, we were forced to sell out that Landfill. Do you
know we sold it for less than it was worth. We had financed
$38 million, $33 million and then a $5 million line of credit.
We didn’t get nearly that. We were stuck with $13 million
we still owe, and we still have a $10 million stranded Landfill
debt that we’re still paying off. And, it was all because
we were pennywise and pound foolish. That’s what we’ve
been doing for years. Let me bring you up to date [on] what
happened here last October up on the fifth floor [of City
Hall]. I was there early [for the Bethlehem Authority meeting]
one Wednesday morning when our Business Administrator had
to go to the Bethlehem Authority,…it’s the water
authority that controls their finances for the water. Our
Business Administrator asked the [Bethlehem Authority] Board…if
they could give [the City] $2 million, this was October, we
didn’t have money…to pay the bills for the end
of the year. So, the Board says, well, okay, we’re happy
we have $2 million to give the City to pay the bills. But,
the well’s gone dry. What are you going to do next year?
And, he looked at the lawyer, the financial consultant, they
looked at each other and said, well, the City’s going
to have to sell off their assets. And, that’s what we’re
doing. This year…the [Bethlehem] Authority is contemplating
selling off 141 acres we own on South Mountain near St. Luke’s
Hospital. Hopefully, we’ll get about $900,000. And,
we’ve also raised the sewer rates. Now, just maybe,
we’ll have enough money to pay the bills to the end
of the year…Halfway through the year we found out we
are $700,000 in arrears in our medical [costs]. We did not
budget enough money. The medical costs have skyrocketed. So,
we have $1 million in the contingency fund. Do you think it’s
going to be enough. Next year, guess what. The happy news
is by contract, next year, we are obligated to give our employees
raises. The Police, Fire, and City employees will get a total
of a little over a million dollars in their wage increases,
and we don’t know where we are with the medical [costs]
yet. Where are we going to get the money. That’s what
I ask you, you people who are against pursuing this, where
are we going to get the money. What’s the next asset
to sell off. Do you want to sell the Wastewater Treatment
Plant. Do you want to sell our water system. We could sell
our water system. They’d love to have it. They’d
cut down those cherry trees in a second, and they’d
start selling off our land, those people up in the Poconos…So,
I don’t want to sell the water system. I don’t
want to sell the Wastewater Treatment Plant. And, the other
good news is the [water] Filtration Plant. I just found out
last Thursday we need a new roof -- $700,000. We’ve
had problems with that filtration plant, and I’ve been
nagging, and nagging, and nagging for years now that it doesn’t
work. It [causes the] filters [to work] at half capacity.
I think we finally found someone who’s going to solve
the problem, only it’s going to cost $1-1/2 million
to correct the design flaws. Then, we’re going to have
to replace all the media in each of ten filters. Media [means]
gravel, several grades of sand, anthracite which have decreased
to half their size over ten years. That all has to be replaced.
That’s $100,000 per filter, that’s a million dollars
there. So, let’s add it up: a million and a half to
correct the design flaws, a million to replace the media,
and now $700,000 for a new roof. Where is this money going
to come from. We cleaned out the water Authority. We’re
hoping the PUC will help us and raise the water rates for
us. But, that money can’t come to us. It has to go to
fix the problems at the Filtration Plant. We’re saying
we’re going to sell water. We’re going to make
money. We’ll sell water to other communities. How can
you do that when you can’t filter the water, and it’s
working at half capacity? Okay, that’s problem number
one. So whatever money they get, they’ve got to put
it into fixing the problems there. So, let’s look at
our Wastewater Treatment Plant. It needs between $30 and $50
million of upgrades and expansion. Where is the money coming
That’s what I would like to know. That’s why I certainly value our history. I want to see those Bethlehem Steel buildings saved, but it’s going to take millions and millions, and no one has come forward in ten years to help us out. This is the only plan, and it’ll give us the money we need for our economy. We’re broke. We’re in a bad financial situation. I don’t know what we’re going to do next year.
It’s been great controversy. And I have, and I see Ms. Szabo has in front of her, one of those sheets contains four postcards…[The City Clerk’s Office] made copies for us, individually, of…postcards…This isn’t a phone call that they say oh well they deceived us, and didn’t say who was doing the survey. This is in black and white, and this postcard tells these people. They knew full well what they were doing when they sent these [postcards] in to us: ‘Dear Mayor Callahan and Bethlehem City Council, I am writing to ask you to oppose the resolution that will prohibit gambling on the old Bethlehem Steel site. I join with retired and active Steelworkers in support of the Bethlehem Works Now project that will preserve our heritage, create nearly 10,000 jobs, and bring millions of tax dollars to Bethlehem.’ Here they are…Now, the total is: the postcards of approval, thus far, 2,935; postcards not in favor…was 58, and this is up to including today at 2:00 p.m. And phone calls…people say oh, well, those phone calls, we didn’t know what we were doing, or they didn’t know what they were doing. E-mails, now a person has to have their mind on what they’re doing to do e-mails: 496 yes votes on e-mail; 252 no. So, it’s more than half, two to one, more than two to one. People do want this. They know we’re in trouble. Now, I told you how serious our financial condition is. I’m not fooling here. I don’t know where we’re going to get the money from. People who called me at my home, I’ve taken the time, I spent five hours straight on the phone on Sunday afternoon. And, some people said to me, oh my word, I didn’t know we were in such dire financial condition. I said, well, I’m telling you we are. I said that’s why not only do we need the money, I also want to save the buildings, and that’s why I’m voting tonight no on these resolutions.”
Ms. Szabo stated “on Saturday, September 17, I attended my class reunion from Liberty High School, and one person came up to me and said ‘I remember you because you were so very quiet in school. You hardly ever spoke.’ Well, what a difference 25 years makes. But based on what we heard as arguments which was all valuable information and I understand a lot of the feelings, but, unfortunately, the day of redemption has come and I have to analyze things, and I do see things a little bit differently because I relate things to the South Side of Bethlehem where I spent all my life. I have a strong feeling about that area…[W]e kept hearing about Count Zinzendorf and what he would think about this proposal. Well, in 1742, Count Zinzendorf very generously and faithfully sponsored the village which was going to be named Bethlehem. He paid for…the religious group of Moravians to come to…the new land, and they walked, and came by wagons to what is now Bethlehem. They had come here because of the religious discrimination against them. And the first thing they did was make it a cloistered village, and other people who were not Moravians could not live in that village. As a result, people who wanted to…buy land along the Delaware River had to go south of the river, and that means…what is now South Bethlehem was developed. It was not called South Bethlehem. It had different names, several names, during the years, and the western end was called Fountain Hill because of the already named Bethlehem Fountain Hill, and the rest had two different names…That’s where the industry went, and plantations. The Moravians raised their crops on that side of the river. It was all very good flat land, and the river being right there, and it was a very prosperous area, and grew, and grew, and grew. Then, along came the industrial revolution, and the Moravians found that they, too, sitting in the village of Bethlehem, were in financial difficulty…When they came in 1742, they were gambling with their lives because they were coming to an unknown factor. Would they be able to survive here, and were they going to be able to survive their neighbors who had a bad reputation going after people, especially if you replaced them in their natural habitat…And, they had strict religious rules to govern their village by. In the mid 1800’s, in the 19th century, the industrial revolution caught up with them, and the way they made their living was just not sufficient any more. So, they gambled giving up their way of living, their very strict values, and rules for themselves, and opened the village of Bethlehem and moved for…allowing development in the whole area. In the early 1800’s, along came Bethlehem Iron Works with development of Bethlehem Steel. What I’m trying to point out here is that it’s not a history of Count Zinzendorf who never lived here, he visited, but he never lived here. His daughter lived here for a few years, but they both died in Europe, and are buried there. We should honor and give credit where credit is due, but there is credit due a lot of other people since that time. The Bethlehem Steel area was built up by the people coming from other parts of other states, and by the many, many thousands, going into millions of immigrants who came from different parts of Europe and other parts of the world. So, this is not a question of…living up to Count Zinzendorf’s values and what he would like. This is the South Side Bethlehem which is now called, and has been called since 1917, I understand when Charlie Schwab said to the Steelworkers living on the South Side that they should give Charlie a vote, vote for the merging of the boroughs to form the City of Bethlehem. And they honored Charlie Schwab so they went along with it. So this is a history of South Bethlehem, and I hope we have learned from what happened to the very valuable history on the North side of the river.
As years went on, all of those wonderful stone buildings that were the industry of the colony and supported them for so many years started falling apart, too, and a large area was sold before it became a scrap yard. And, every time the floods came you’d see all these scrap cars and other things under water and it was an ugly, ugly site. That had to be cleaned up because of the many, many flood problems, but it wasn’t until very recent that the buildings that were part of the original South Side, original Bethlehem,…they were considering preservation. And, it cost millions of dollars to put those buildings back into shape for which it was money well spent. But, little of those buildings are the original because too much time was let go, and they needed too much replacement, and all the very quaint…1800’s and early 1900’s little homes were all lost so that in the early 20th century they could build the business buildings…that are on Main Street and other streets. So, we lost all that district. Now, I hope we’re not going to lose this history because it’s already cost millions of dollars to preserve and to save for the future…history of the world because people come from Germany and other places to see the one building, especially, because in the whole world that building and the machinery inside is the last of that type of machinery. And, because in Europe and the rest of the world the steel companies…were all destroyed in World War II. So, it’s not only history for this area, but it’s history for the whole world, and people are…very happy to be able to come and say that they saw what is still remaining. So, I hope we will not allow it to go to the point where most of it has to be replaced.
And, as far as students coming to college here, students do not develop bad habits here. They bring it from home. One does have to see how many students have already been arrested from being drunk at 3:00 in the morning, and they’re only here a couple weeks. And, yes, they have a lot of money, that they do, because the way they spend it. And, they have a garage sale at the end of the season and give the proceeds to the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center, and some of the clothes have hundred dollar price tags because the clothes were never worn. And, they have the most expensive shoes, costing two and three hundred dollars that were never worn, so students have a lot of money. So, I don’t doubt that they’ll be drawn to anything that they would think that would be joyous. But, at the same time, there are age restrictions [for] who may enter a casino or who may gamble in a casino. Under a certain age you cannot even enter a casino which I presume will be the same here…Yes, students are a problem, and a concern. I worked for a number of years on the Robert Wood project that was across country about binge drinking in universities…and…when we came to the point after a couple years where…the committee recommended no drinking be allowed on the campus, I can remember the calls…’You’re forcing my son to take drugs if he can’t drink.’ We can’t win no matter what we do. No matter what society does we cannot buck that kind of attitude. So where do we need help? We need help at home, and that’s the story all across the United States, not just here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania…if we’d get slot machines…So, yes, we’ll have problems.
Now, there was a time, and prostitution has been [mentioned] a lot, alcoholism, and other things. Well, in the early 20th century there was a section along the New Street Bridge, and in that immediate area, that got the name ‘Sin City’. Very few people on the South Side knew that was there. It was not a South Side enterprise, an immigrant enterprise, and it was endorsed by the Bethlehem Steel and some very prominent people. And, it was put there because of the attitude that anything can be dumped on the South Side and people won’t complain, in comparison if you tried to put something like that on the North Side people will complain. But, that was a different period of time. There was much corruption with the police getting big payoffs…and a different attitude towards people on the South Side, the immigrants who faced from the time they landed in New York…bigotry. And, it was a horrible time. And, yes, the Bethlehem natives then became involved because that was one way to earn money when jobs were low. But, there’s a different attitude towards these things now. There isn’t the tolerance that there was, and there isn’t the corruption in City Hall…So…there’s a different attitude towards life in Bethlehem and in South Bethlehem, and a greater control of what’s going on. So, we can’t compare what went on years ago with today, and we can’t say the same thing is going to happen. It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen, that I admit, but I think we have…a better attitude and better control of things. It may take a lot of extra work but what doesn’t because prostitution is already here, not only in Bethlehem, but in the whole Lehigh Valley. Drugs are very heavy here. I watch the drug dealers from my porch, people coming for their buy, and it’s very difficult to get rid of those situations. We spend a lot of money on that. It’s very difficult to work with problems like that. And, we agree, we have problems that create such actions but we just band-aid them instead of finding out why a woman…becomes a prostitute…Oh, yes, we have become more serious about life…We were straightened out…by a South Bethlehem boy who became Mayor, Mayor Pfeifle, and remained Mayor for 30 years, and he dumped a whole lot of get tough attitudes around and he really cleaned up things. He was richly rewarded by having an alley on the South Side named after him…
The South Side businesses and the North Side businesses are very much hurt by Musikfest. They’re very much hurt by Christkindlmarkt who are outside merchants who come into town to sell, [but]…they have loyal customers, regardless of what goes on…And, that’s what I foresee is going to happen here, too. Any development of businesses, shopping mall or something like that, are going to be price-geared to tourists, which means that I’m not going there because I’m not going to spend 300 bucks for a blouse…The restaurants are going to be very high priced, too, so the local people who are already dedicated customers of businesses will continue that attitude, and still go to the Dancing Fish for the best sushi in the world…I’m going to vote no.”
Mr. Arcelay said he wants to thank the community for coming out in numbers to voice their concerns as they relate to this issue. Mr. Arcelay continued on to say “we on Council have had the opportunity to listen, to review many studies, much documentation, and to do our research. This summer we had constituents come out two to one against gambling during the Zoning meetings that were held in August. Last night [at the Public Hearing] as I listened to each speaker, they came out three to one against gambling. I’ve walked the community this past year, knocking on doors, speaking, and listening to constituents, and I listened to the community overall. During the early part of the year, the ratio was three to one in favor of gambling. However, as we have had more information released, that number has moved two to one against gaming. In all, I have listened and spoken to 2,000 people. We receive on Council information packages weekly on the issues that we’re going to vote on. And, for all the documentation that has been made available to Council, I will consider us all experts on the virtues of gaming. All of the opinions I’ve read, and am fully aware of the long-term impacts making the decisions I make tonight on this community in the long-term. Those…facts are not hard to interpret. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist. They clearly point to long term social impacts saying that the benefits are far outweighed by the social conditions. I could read opinion after opinion of the effects of gambling to you tonight. However, the one that stands out in my mind was this. Rarely, if ever, does gambling result in a positive social outcome in our communities. After the initial growth of four to five years, the associated costs far outweigh all the benefits. As I decide how to vote, I do so weighing the following. I agree with both sides. Bethlehem…needs [jobs] locally. However, what concerns me is what happens after the building [is completed in] four to five years, and the construction jobs start to go away. Looking at the Venetian agreements…that were handed out last night, we’ll be left with cashier jobs, catering, hospitality jobs, cocktail servers, bartenders, hardly the type of jobs that provide both workers a house…[Preserving] the structures, I agree with you. They are valuable entities that should be preserved. However, at the expense of what. Last night, a speaker mentioned that the structures of Bethlehem Steel was our most value asset. He mentioned that a few of those structures should be preserved. I agree with you, Mayor, on that point, but I disagree with the speaker. Our most valuable assets are you…the people sitting here in this room, the people in the City of Bethlehem. Collectively, they are what make up this City. The City has become the great melting pot…We all know why they live here. They saw the quality of this small town and they fell in love with it. We knew that it would grow and we would face change. However, that is about to change drastically. To my peers on Council, you have already voiced your opinions, and I would ask you to remember your promises from your campaigns. Your short-term vision will have long-lasting consequences. It is from watching each and every one of you, and my conversations, that I learned about quality of life issues. Remember, as you vote tonight, how you are really affecting that quality of life. Report after report has spelled out the long-term higher price that is needed to come back from the related social ills that will affect a segment of the very community you say you want to help. Let’s take our time and perform detailed reviews on how this site should be developed so that we can [feel comfortable]…, [instead] of sitting here and trying to get concurrence on more acknowledgement on that document…Tonight I was hoping that we would vote on facts and not on promises…Bethlehem means the house of the holy, and that means a lot to both sides of people here. Your vote tonight will change that to the house of gambling. As I spoke with the proponents and had discussions with them about gambling, one common theme kept reoccurring…that being when I asked them about the adverse affects that gambling has in the community what I was returned with in answer to that was that’s the cost of doing business. I leave you with an Irish proverb: time is a great story teller. Tonight I will support resolution numbers 41, 42, and 43.”
Mr. Mowrer stated it was seven years ago that he read a book by Stephen Covey entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. Mr. Mowrer related one of the things that was pointed out in the book was that people often can see the same thing but see it completely different. Mr. Mowrer communicated he thinks in many ways that is what has happened here on the issue of gaming. Mr. Mowrer observed some “look at gaming as the answer for almost all of Bethlehem’s problems, and the way in which we get buildings restored, and for you that’s what it’s like. Let me just show you a picture…what do you see here? Anybody see a young lady…Anybody see an old lady? Some of you see an old lady, some of you see a young lady.” Mr. Mowrer described the picture of the woman for the audience, pointing out the features of both the young lady and the old lady contained in the picture. Mr. Mowrer commented that “four Members of City Council today saw gaming as an answer to a property on the South Side called Bethlehem Works. Some of them saw it as ways of paying the bills, and some of the debts that [the City] has. That’s one way some people looked at gaming. Another way others of us looked at it is the potential for many problems, and at great human cost. We looked at it differently than other Members of Council. But I will pledge you this today, and I’ve lost this battle and I’m going to vote for my Ordinance, and I feel like I’ve lost this battle tonight with City Council. But I pledge my support and I’m sure that the other Members of Council do, too, to continue to work together and make you follow up on everything that you’ve promised and make it the best we possibly can for this community.”
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, confirmed that a vote of aye would be in favor of the Zoning Ordinance Amendments to prohibit gambling in the IR, IR-F, and HI Zoning Districts, and vote of nay would be against.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Mowrer, 3. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 4. Bill No. 41 – 2005 was declared defeated on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 42 – 2005 – Amending Article 1317B.03 – Prohibiting Gambling in IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District
The Clerk read Bill No. 42 – 2005, Amending Article 1317B.03 – Prohibiting Gambling in the IR-F Industrial Redevelopment Flexible District, sponsored by Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, COUNTIES OF
LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON, COMMONWEALTH OF
PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING ARTICLE 1317B.03 (e) OF THE
ZONING ORDINANCE, AS AMENDED, ENTITLED "IR-F
INDUSTRIAL REDEVELOPMENT FLEXIBLE DISTRICT"
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Mowrer, 3. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 4. Bill No. 42 – 2005 was declared defeated on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 43 – 2005 – Amending Article 1317.02 – Prohibiting Gambling in HI Heavy Industrial District
The Clerk read Bill No. 43 – 2005 – Amending Article 1317.02 – Prohibiting Gambling in the HI Heavy Industrial District, sponsored by Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, COUNTIES OF
LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON, COMMONWEALTH OF
PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING ARTICLE 1317.02 OF THE
ZONING ORDINANCE, AS AMENDED, ENTITLED "H-I HEAVY INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT"
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Mowrer, 3. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 4. Bill No. 43 – 2005 was declared defeated on First Reading.
President Schweder, pointing out that Bills 41, 42, and 43 failed on the first vote, affirmed there will be no second vote on the legislation.
D. Bill No. 44 – 2005 Amending Article 921 – Instituting Sewer Tapping Fee
The Clerk read Bill No. 44 – 2005 – Amending Article 921 – Instituting Sewer Tapping Fee, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 921 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED SANITARY SEWER REGULATIONS.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 44 – 2005, was declared passed on First Reading.
Considering Resolutions 11 A through 11 G as a Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 G as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 25 Wall Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,690 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate and paint the façade at 25 Wall Street.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 56 West Market Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,691 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install satellite dishes in several units at 56 West Market Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 518 Main Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,692 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a single sided sign at 518 Main Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 241 East Market Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,693 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to add a second floor addition to an existing garage at 241 East Market Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 44 East Market Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,694 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install clapboard siding and repaint trim at the rear of 44 East Market Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 535 Main Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,695 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to add awnings to the rear of the building at 535 Main Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 510 High Street, Unit 2
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,696 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a ramp with a covered landing at the rear of the building at 510 High Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 G: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, commented that at the Public Hearing last evening Mayor Callahan appeared to be hiding behind the Third Class City Code in not responding to Councilwoman Szabo’s request for a working arrangement. Mr. Pfenning said, as a taxpayer, he hopes that both the Legislative and Administrative branches of government can work together to solve the problems of the City. Mr. Pfenning, with reference to Ms. Szabo comments this evening regarding Lehigh University students, reminded the assembly that alcohol at the casinos is not free, it is prepaid coming out of the losses of the gamblers. Mr. Pfenning continued on to say the temporary regulations adopted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Board set forth that the application must have plans for enforcing underage gaming rules and employee training related to serving of alcohol. Mr. Pfenning added that enforcement will fall to the State Police because they have a jurisdiction within the casino facility. Mr. Pfenning, turning to comments about money leaving local businesses and gravitating to the casino, explained if a Lehigh Valley casino offers video poker with reasonable cash back and compensation policies he will be shifting his business from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Mr. Pfenning pointed out one of the reasons the Gaming Act was put in place was to stop the outflow of gaming funds from Pennsylvania into New Jersey, and to create jobs and taxes in Pennsylvania. Mr. Pfenning, commenting that going to a casino is entertainment and people are getting something back, thought that the critics of casino gaming either have not experienced it or do not understand the industry. Mr. Pfenning stressed when someone enters a casino they should understand what is going on or they are going to get in trouble.
Price of Gas – South Side Bethlehem
Cecilio Gonzalez, 1181 E. Fourth Street, asked why people in South Side Bethlehem are paying over $3.00 a gallon for gas versus the North Side where the price at a gas station is $2.77, and whether there is anything the City can do about it.
Ms. Szabo responded she was told the price differential is because of the students who can afford to pay and do not question the price.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, thought that those who are in favor of gambling are making a terrible mistake because of the social ills, as he has talked about for many months, and because of how his personal experience affected him in the past. Mr. Rodriquez remarked that those who are committed to bringing gambling to Bethlehem from the outside “don’t know beans about our City.” Mr. Rodriquez asserted it will give the City a massive traffic congestion problem. Mr. Rodriquez thought it would be a waste of money to put a ramp again off Third Street near Ginny’s Restaurant and Orchard Knoll seafood market. Focusing on the problems of drugs, Mr. Rodriquez stressed those people will be waiting until gamblers get their money and then will go after them, and predicted that murders, knifings, burglaries, and robberies will get worse. Mr. Rodriquez communicated that Council Members do not have any experience with such problems, but he sees them every day. Mr. Rodriquez expressed the hope that Council Members who voted to defeat the proposals to prohibit gambling will change their minds for the sake of future generations. Mr. Rodriquez explained his son who is a drug user is in jail right now, and communicated that he had to lose a son in order to gain one. Mr. Rodriquez emphasized he does not want to see families torn apart because of what is going to come into the area. Mr. Rodriquez added it is a massive illusion and a mirage, and again asked that Council not do this to the City.
Jose Cruz, 1422 Phillip Street, noted he has lived in Bethlehem for approximately 30 years. Mr. Cruz thanked City Council for voting against Bills 41, 42, and 43. Referring to President Schweder’s mentioning the Latino community, Mr. Cruz said he felt very proud to be a resident of Bethlehem because finally decisions are being made taking into consideration “our community”. Mr. Cruz expressed his belief that, for one reason or another, the community has been ignored many times, and its having been mentioned is very gratifying for him. Mr. Cruz commented that if the Ordinances would have been approved it would have affected the Latino community. Mr. Cruz stated that the unemployment rate in the Latino community is very high, and they have to travel to work because there are not enough jobs in the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Cruz believes that by passing the Ordinances it will bring more opportunities and more jobs which is definitely needed. Mr. Cruz, with reference to Mrs. Belinski’s comments about the City needing money, explained that the City needs money to fix its own buildings and agreed the City desperately needs the revenues. Mr. Cruz felt that the Ordinances are very simple in that they are a matter of economics, and if the City does not have money it cannot provide services.
Margarita Gonzales-Rivera, 1349 Lynn Avenue, noted that is the location of her business called Magic Woman. Ms. Gonzales-Rivera said she is very saddened today to think that the City is going to accept the gambling. Ms. Gonzales-Rivera stated she is not against Bethlehem Works, and the City does need to preserve its heritage and the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation buildings which are an eyesore to some and a work of art to her. Ms. Gonzales-Rivera explained she sees them as a work of art because they were made and utilized by the people of the City. Remarking the decision has been made and people will have to live with it, Ms. Gonzales-Rivera stressed “we’ll also have to live with the consequences of it.” She communicated that people need to stand strong and help those who made those decisions and all those involved including neighbors, friends, and families so that “we don’t have the problems that are going to come.” Acknowledging that problems already exist here and everywhere, Ms. Gonzales-Rivera stressed moving away is not a solution and the problems must be faced. Ms. Gonzales-Rivera said she will stay, continue to grow her business, and make efforts to have jobs for those who come here. Communicating that the issue reminds her of the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” Ms. Gonzales-Rivera asserted “we together should have stuck it out” and exclaimed that Mr. Potter won. Ms. Gonzales-Rivera stressed money is not the solution for everything.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, commended those on Council “who have guts enough to stand up for what people of this community…[want].” Ms. Pongracz stated that Council Members are to do what is best for the City of Bethlehem. Ms. Pongracz stressed that “you cannot preserve a quality of life unless you can pay your bills, unless you can put food on the table for your family, unless you can pay for the mortgage, unless you can pay your utilities. No one in this room lives without adequate money. The City cannot exist without adequate money.” Ms. Pongracz expressed that naysayers in the room put themselves and their ideas above the needs of the community. Ms. Pongracz further communicated that naysayers should not tell her what will happen since she is “living here and now.” Ms. Pongracz asserted that the people in the community cannot wait ten or fifteen years, and need help now such as to pay Police, and Firefighters, and utilities. Ms. Pongracz again thanked the Members of Council who have the courage to stand up and vote for what is right for the people of the community. Ms. Pongracz commended President Schweder on his handling of a very difficult meeting last evening.
Larry Burd, 3659 Michigan Court, stressed that people have every right to stand behind whatever they believe. Mr. Burd inquired if he understands correctly that those in favor of gambling are saying that more of the students, senior citizens, and people who go into the casino and lose more and more money are going to be happier. Mr. Burd said if he understands correctly “we want that casino to really prosper.” Mr. Burd suggested that people in favor of gambling take the money and donate it to the City rather than donating it to the casino to those who are going to profit. Mr. Burd, referring to the Mayor’s comments last night that the casino is an engine that is going to drive redevelopment of the Bethlehem Works site, noted he is very in favor of much of what has been proposed. Mr. Burd expressed his belief that the engine has a cracked head. Mr. Burd asked “have you checked with the heavenly mechanic and asked him what you should do. Have you read his owner’s manual. It’s still the world’s best seller. Will you be men and women of character, conviction and courage. Will you remember that righteousness exalts a nation or a City but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Expressing his belief that the decision tonight did not come easily, and his respect for all the Members for wrestling with it, Mr. Burd said “those of you who are in favor of gambling, I believe you will live to deeply, deeply, deeply regret this decision.”
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, said he understands tonight that “you’ve cured an ill with an ill.” Mr. Bruch remarked it is astounding to hear Mrs. Belinski’s comments about the City’s debt. Mr. Bruch stressed that things have to change. Mr. Bruch wondered what the City’s debt was ten years ago. Mr. Bruch queried why someone does not have the authority to stop some of the actions that spend the money.
Traffic Flow and Price of Gas
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, focusing on traffic flow in the City and the price of gas, thought it might be wise for someone in the City to look at citizens expenditures on travel. He cited several streets in the City where motorists have to stop within several blocks, and pointed out that some streets in Philadelphia are one-way based on the time of day and motorists do not have to stop for several miles. Mr. Antalics suggested that traffic studies be done to determine what streets could be continuous and help save citizens’ expenditures on gas. Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, advised there are numerous streets in the City where the traffic lights are synchronized to facilitate the steady flow of traffic, although there are some streets that could use a closer look.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Ziona Brotleit, 408 Second Avenue, said last night she was astonished and she is appalled. Ms. Brotleit, with reference to Mr. Arcelay’s comments, commented that Members of Council are probably experts by now having read reports indicating the social and economic costs of gambling. Ms. Brotleit questioned “how can you ignore them all.” Ms. Brotleit pointed out that Dexter Baker, retired CEO of Air Products, called the casino project a Trojan horse. She exclaimed that Ms. Szabo reported on the kinds of problems and then voted nay. Stressing she does not understand, Ms. Brotleit said Council has heard the constituents three to one last night. Ms. Brotleit asserted “there’s something very wrong here.”
Sophia Martin, 1446 Cortland Street, commented that the issue of the proposed Bethlehem Works project reminds her of the Lowe’s project at the former Durkee site on Eighth Avenue that took almost six years to go through the process. Ms. Martin said she wants the casino project, and the reason is because the City needs the money. Ms. Martin communicated the reason why the City is in debt is because it has to take care of everything in the City and the money only goes so far. Referring to comments about students, Ms. Martin pointed out that she lives in a college area, and remarked that at the colleges in Bethlehem, the City rezones streets, and vacates streets. Questioning how many new houses can be built, Ms. Martin remarked that then there is the need for more schools because of the added number of children. Ms. Martin explained that although the jobs will not be high paying they are jobs that will be in the City. Ms. Martin, advising that she retired from Sure-Fit company, highlighted the fact that the company is no longer in Bethlehem and another industry has not replaced it and is not going to. Ms. Martin stated “and that’s the reason I’m in favor of what’s going on today.”
Juan Cruz, 1236 E. Fifth Street, noted that he visited Atlantic City in 1978 when the casino resorts first opened, and expressed that people make choices that are sometimes not the correct choices, and each individual has to measure what is best for oneself and the family. Mr. Cruz advised when he goes to the casinos he sets a spending limit, and people must discipline themselves. Mr. Cruz added that he took his mother to Las Vegas in June and she had a wonderful time. Mr. Cruz explained that he wanted his son to learn to discipline himself when going to a casino. Mr. Cruz thanked the Members for supporting the Bethlehem Works project. Mr. Cruz, with reference to Mr. Mowrer’s comments, observed it is a matter of perception. Mr. Cruz expressed that Members of Council did not make a decision because they wanted to do anything negative to hurt the City of Bethlehem but did it with the best intentions, and said he respects all of them.
Jim Follweiler, 2222 Main Street, noted that he returned from the Middle East and had just returned from assisting with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Mr. Follweiler said, personally, he is opposed to the gambling project and commended Mr. Leeson on his comments this evening. Mr. Follweiler, stating that a lot of the issue comes down to Unions and jobs, feared that a lot of large construction firms will build the project and expressed the hope that local employees are hired. Mr. Follweiler, noting that BethWorks is only 10% of the former Bethlehem Steel property, pointed out there are a lot of projects on the South Side including LVIP, OraSure, Ashley Development, and Johnson Machinery development projects. Mr. Follweiler, focusing on the City’s budget issues, stressed that was not his doing as a citizen. Mr. Follweiler commended everyone for their diligence on the issue, and communicated “let’s just move forward, manage it properly, make sure on the legal side everything is taken care of properly…”.
Pam Fischl, 1307 Congress Street, Allentown, said she was born and raised in Bethlehem, and Mr. Mowrer was her Sunday school teacher who she respects, as well as the comments of Mr. Leeson. Ms. Fischl queried “has anyone here during this whole process considered God.” Ms. Fischl explained that she and her children went on a mission to Holland. Ms. Fischl, communicating that God gave her a message that God loves everyone, and sin kills, said “anybody with half a brain knows that gambling is not good.” She continued on with the message that Jesus saves, and “it’s our choice.”
Ronald Schantz, 2034 Country Place, said tonight he is glad his children are raised. Mr. Schantz, asserting “we are all one decision away from disaster, every one of us, every day of our lives,” remarked “and you’re making that disastrous decision.” Mr. Schantz, highlighting the fact that he has never come to a meeting before last night and tonight, explained that he had confidence. Mr. Schantz stressed “you’ve read every report and not one is positive, not one of them is telling you that this is a good idea. You’ve listened to sentimentalism over Bethlehem Steel…It’s being used to entice us into doing something we otherwise would never do. I’m embarrassed, but I will become more involved in this City…”.
Roy Gruver, 415 North New Street, commended the BethWorks Now people and the people from the casino for running a very effective campaign, and those who are opposed for doing an excellent job. Mr. Gruver said “I think we actually won the war of words because we used real words. We brought forth facts, we shared experiences…There’s not one good experience in a municipal setting, one positive experience, for gambling…We’re focused on things like preservation…Everything they’ve focused on they cannot make a legal commitment to you…and have not done so. And yet, their promises were chosen over the facts and experience of every other gambling city in this country…”. Focusing on the casino industry’s record on jobs, Mr. Gruver exemplified that in Atlantic City there were 30,000 jobs created in the casino industry. The post-unemployment numbers in Atlantic City “were virtually identical to the pre-casino unemployment numbers in Atlantic City. Most every job came from outside of the City.” Mr. Gruver further exemplified that in a small town in Mississippi 14,000 jobs that went to people outside the City were created at a casino there, and the city still has no grocery store, no drug store, no movie theater, and has the lowest public school test scores in the State. Mr. Gruver stressed there is no way the casino can guarantee jobs will come from the City, and it is illegal to do that.
Santiago Rivera, 1349 Lynn Avenue, said his understanding is that there would be two votes on the Ordinances. President Schweder informed Mr. Rivera that if the Ordinances had passed on First Reading tonight there would have been a second vote in two weeks at the next City Council Meeting. However, if a Bill is defeated on First Reading, it is defeated and there is no Final Reading.
John Dow, stated he attends Lehigh University, said he does not drink and it is embarrassing for him to be classified in the whole group of partygoers. Mr. Dow continued on to say he wants City officials to know there are students at Lehigh University who chose to be committed to a non-alcoholic and substance-free lifestyle. Mr. Dow stated it is really not true that all Lehigh students are rich.
Gary Hamm, 1613 West Market Street, said his father worked at Bethlehem Steel for 40 years, as well as his uncle. Mr. Hamm, stating he is against gambling and thinks it was a bad decision, thought that wisdom needed to be applied more to the situation because of the aftermath of what this industry will more than likely do to Bethlehem and surrounding communities. Mr. Hamm said if there is any way that this can be stopped from proceeding he would ask City Council to use their collective thinking and knowledge to do so. Mr. Hamm, remarking that the decision was made in light of the City’s debt, stressed “a love of money is the real evil” and if it is not stopped the City will see what real evil is. Mr. Hamm observed that since the Bethlehem Works Now property is under private ownership “we have no power or say on how and what they do and how they distribute the land.” President Schweder informed him that development of the land is covered under State and local land use laws. Mr. Hamm wondered whether the City could have acquired the land when it was sold by Bethlehem Steel. President Schweder noted he does not recall that the City had an opportunity to purchase it. President Schweder, explaining that the process with the Leeson-Mowrer amendment is the opposite of what is normally done, advised when the owners come forward with their proposals the City will have to review them and reach an agreement. President Schweder stated that the owners were not asking for a zoning change so those related matters could not take place but will at some point afterwards.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:47 p.m.