City Council

Council Minutes

January 17, 2006 Meeting Minutes

10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 – 7:30 PM


President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Father Nicholas Palis of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.

Citation – Honoring Robert C. Nenow

President Schweder presented a Citation to Robert C. Nenow who retired from the Department of Water and Sewer Resources after 43 years of service.

The Members of Council congratulated Mr. Nenow on the occasion of his retirement.


Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, President Schweder called to order a Public Hearing to consider two Zoning Text Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, as follows.

(1) Define Assisted Living Facility and Personal Care Center; allow them as by right uses in the I - Institutional and the RRC – Residential Retirement Complex Districts; allow them by Special Exception in all Residential Districts except the RR – Residential District; create special provisions for the uses; and, outline parking requirements.

Communication 7 A - Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Zoning Text Amendment – Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities

The Clerk read a letter dated December 15, 2005 from Frederick Brock, Assistant Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, advising that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission reviewed the proposed amendment on December 15, 2005. The Commission considers the amendment to be a matter of local concern and voted to offer no comment.

Planning and Zoning Director Comment

Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, affirmed that the two proposed amendments were reviewed by the Planning Commission at their November 2005 meeting.

Ms. Heller first reviewed the Zoning Text Amendment for Personal Care and Assisted Living Facilities. Ms. Heller, noting there have been some discussions about the provisions at prior meetings, advised the proposal adds new definitions to the Zoning Ordinance and reviewed the proposed amendment. Ms. Heller said assisted living facilities and personal care centers are both added to the Definitions section and they share the same definitions. It is a type of facility where residents will need some type of care or assistance but it does not meet the same definition as a nursing facility would. They would be allowed as permitted uses in the I - Institutional and the RRC – Residential Retirement Complex Zoning Districts. They would not be permitted in RR – Residential Districts, but would be permitted in all the other Residential Districts by Special Exception meaning they would still need to go to the Zoning Hearing Board for permission to show they meet some particular criteria that is specified in other sections of the Zoning Ordinance. Provisions are added for parking requirements, and have been added to the requirement that currently exists for nursing and convalescent homes. One space would be required for every four beds, plus one off-street parking space for every two employees. Special Exception criteria are listed for the Residential Zoning Districts. The minimum setback from the street or any other lot line would be 30 feet, buffer yards will be required, maximum permitted density would be 25 units per acre, and all State, Federal, and local licenses and permits are needed. Ms. Heller continued on to explain the proposal requires that 20% of the lot should be passive recreation use and open space such as trails, benches, or walkways. In a Residential Zone, the personal care centers or assisted living facilities shall only be permitted on arterial or collector roads.

Council Comment

President Schweder queried whether there is some problem that is being attempted to be addressed with the proposed changes.

Ms. Heller, while advising that the need was seen to create the provisions, recalled it was also requested by some City Council Members. Ms. Heller noted there was some question because the specific definition for these types of uses is not currently in the Zoning Ordinance. An interpretation was made by the Zoning Hearing Board to allow similar uses under the definition of a group home type facility. Ms. Heller, affirming that was not the way the Bureau wanted a group home definition to be interpreted, advised “this will clear that up” and noted the proposal will clear up any confusion between the two types of uses.

Mr. Leeson asked what is the reasoning behind the proposal to allow Personal Care Centers by Special Exception in all Residential Districts other than RR – Residential.

Ms. Heller, confirming that RR – Residential is the strictest Residential Zoning District, pointed out the District permits single family homes while the other Residential Districts allow a variety of uses, including different types of residential uses, churches, and schools. Ms. Heller continued on to explain it was felt it was appropriate as a Special Exception because there is still public review at a Zoning Hearing Board meeting offering opportunities for residents or abutters to provide comment.

Mr. Leeson queried whether allowing these types of facilities in all the other Residential Districts by Special Exception has a tendency to dilute the Residential flavor of neighborhoods.

Ms. Heller, observing the units are residential in nature, noted many residents will be in the units for years, and added they are generally a low traffic use. While acknowledging they would have a more institutional appearance than residential homes, Ms. Heller pointed out it is being required they are located on arterial or collector roads so they would not be interior to a residential development.

Mr. Leeson explained the concern he has is they are institutional in their structure, construction, and services such as bulk deliveries, and many can be quite sizable in building size and not fit in well with a residential area where there are primarily homes.

Ms. Heller commented that would depend on the size of the lot, and added that buffering is required as well as considerable setbacks. Ms. Heller continued on to explain it was felt that limiting them to more major streets would provide some protection for residential neighborhoods.

Mr. Leeson posed the hypothetical question if he were to propose an amendment to delete the provision to allow them by Special Exception in all Residential Districts would that cause consternation. Mr. Leeson confirmed to Ms. Heller that hypothetically they would only be allowed in the Institutional or RRC Districts.

Advising if one looks at the number of lots that are zoned Institutional or RRC and that also have room for development there really is not much room for that, Ms. Heller said it is recognized there is a need for assisted living facilities. Affirming the senior population is growing, Ms. Heller stated the Bureau wanted to be flexible enough to still provide opportunities for these uses. While acknowledging that thought was given to limiting them to the Institutional or RRC Districts, Ms. Heller explained it did not seem there were enough opportunities for these types of units to be created there.

Mr. Leeson inquired if there are any Zoning Districts other than Residential that could be suggested as an alternative to the Residential areas.

Confirming they would not be located in Industrial zones, Ms. Heller noted the only other types of Zoning Districts would be Commercial. Ms. Heller, while explaining the CL Zone is for neighborhood type commercial uses that are less intense than would be seen in CG or CB, noted there are not very many CL Zoning Districts but would be something that could be looked at.
Mr. Leeson asked if that could be looked at since it is something that he might propose, and added he would like to look at some alternatives. Affirming that obviously one would not want to exclude a use that residents might need or want, Mr. Leeson communicated he is seeking to preserve as much as possible the residential character of neighborhoods and try not to allow too much of an institutional infiltration.

Mr. Donchez, expressing he agrees with Mr. Leeson, said the quality of neighborhoods needs to be preserved and hoped that Mr. Leeson’s suggestion would be reviewed. Mr. Donchez thought the term that should be tightened up is residential treatment center since it was a broad interpretation that permitted two assisted living facilities on Linden Street. Mr. Donchez questioned whether there are any other plans for assisted living facilities, other than the two on Linden Street, that have been submitted to the Planning Bureau before the presently proposed Zoning Text Amendment.

Ms. Heller, responding that three were submitted along the Linden Street corridor, said there is one on Oakland Road, the office just received the plan development for one, and the other has not yet been received. Ms. Heller affirmed to Mr. Donchez the first is Oakland Road and Linden Street, and the second one would be across from the former Pichel’s Market at Johnston Drive and Linden Street. Mr. Donchez observed the third one must be North on Linden Street.

Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, thought the third was further South and closer to the former Best’s Store, and is by the same developer. Mr. Hanna affirming there are three in the same Linden Street corridor, confirmed one is already built, and two were proposed, one at Johnston Drive and another one further South behind Best’s Store.

Mr. Donchez asked for a memorandum listing the facilities.

Mrs. Belinski, referring to a former Zoning Hearing Board meeting, noted Holy Family Manor asked to expand and residents turned out in large numbers who were very upset since they had expensive homes in a lovely neighborhood. Mrs. Belinski asked what is the zoning designation of Holy Family Manor. Ms. Heller, responding it is Residential, advised that did not have anything to do with this type of proposal. She explained what was before the Zoning Hearing Board on that matter was the question of expansion of a non-conforming use. Ms. Heller, noting the request was denied, added that nothing was requested in lieu of the proposal so the matter was denied. Ms. Heller, affirming the other proposed Zoning Text Amendment before Council tonight deals with non-conforming uses, advised a property owner is permitted to expand a non-conforming use up to 50%. Ms. Heller, explaining that Holy Family Manor was asking to expand the use more than 100%, thought what was quoted in the newspaper was that the requester could come back and ask for an expansion up to the 50% limit that would be reviewed as a Special Exception rather than as a variance.

Ms. Szabo, referring to Mr. Hanna’s response to Mr. Donchez, queried whether in one City block there will be two nursing homes.

Mr. Hanna, advising they are personal care facilities, affirmed they were granted that relief by the Zoning Hearing Board.

Ms. Szabo observed that one developer was allowed to have two personal care facilities. Ms. Heller affirmed it was under the same interpretation.

Ms. Dolan wondered what is the opinion on the notion that assisted care facilities are somehow different, potentially offensive, or incompatible with homes in Residential Districts. Ms. Dolan continued on to question if by their nature they appear more institutional, and since they are going to be on arterial roads will trucks be a problem. Ms. Dolan, observing that as people get older they need some place to live, queried does it make sense to separate people as they get older from other residents and, if so, for what reason.

Ms. Heller explained the amount of impact on surrounding areas has a lot to do with the size of the development. Ms. Heller, while observing that many of these developments can be easily incorporated into a neighborhood, noted it depends on the size, the number of units, the number of parking spaces, magnitude of the development, and it also impacts such factors as the amount of truck traffic. Ms. Heller stated it was felt that with the provisions that are included, including buffering and setbacks, it would provide some protection for the neighborhood. Ms. Heller, confirming that the facilities are seen as a growing need, expressed the Bureau has received more applications for different types of senior housing, and it has been occurring throughout the Lehigh Valley. Ms. Heller affirmed it is something that needs to be addressed in a reasonable way, and the City wants to provide opportunities. Ms. Heller communicated if Council would feel more comfortable with refinement of some of the Special Exceptions then those provisions could be looked at. Ms. Heller confirmed it was thought reasonable to incorporate these uses into Residential neighborhoods in some manner.

Ms. Dolan asked about the number of units per acre.

Ms. Heller responded the Bureau reviews Ordinances of other surrounding communities, looks at what is felt appropriate for the community, and at what has been done in other areas. Ms. Heller advised the 25 units per acre was a number that seems to be somewhat average for these types of developments. Ms. Heller continued on to note that many of the lots left in the City are smaller lots and will not be large developments especially in the Residential Zones. Ms. Heller, while acknowledging it sounds like a large number, said these are really very small units and can be very compact within a development. Observing there may be some design regulations that could be invoked, Ms. Heller thought sometimes it is the institutional appearance that makes them stand out more from other residential structures in the neighborhood than anything else.

Mrs. Belinski, referring again to the request of Holy Family Manor, pointed out that some residents thought the proposed expansion would devalue their properties which research showed had been the case in other areas, in addition to truck traffic.

Ms. Heller observed that was related to the magnitude of the development in comparison to the lots and residential structures that surround it.

Ms. Szabo asked the capacity of the units that are to be built on Linden Street.

Ms. Heller said she can get that information since she does not have it with her tonight.

President Schweder, recalling there have been discussions over the past year and commitments have been made by Ms. Heller and Mr. Hanna to move forward with a study and rewriting of the entire Zoning Ordinance, asked why would there be changes proposed before that is completed. President Schweder, expressing concern about loopholes in the interim, observed there could be developments in places where six months from now it is decided they are not wanted. President Schweder, while expressing appreciation for the work on the proposed amendments in light of inquiries by Members of Council, thought it seemed the timing may not be appropriate and the City would be better served if nothing is done at the present time while the re-examination of the Zoning Ordinance moves ahead.

Ms. Heller, affirming the Department is moving ahead with review of the Zoning Ordinance, thought all agreed in advance of that the Comprehensive Plan would be completed which does take some time. Recalling there have been discussions about personal care facilities, Ms. Heller thought there was some concurrence from City Council that this amendment needed to move ahead in advance of a rewrite of the Zoning Ordinance, and affirmed the Department agreed with that.

Ms. Szabo, noting she was one of the people who wanted this done without waiting because of the fact that what will take place on Linden Street would destroy the view of the unique Byzantine Church, expressed her concern was to stop the infiltration of the RR – Residential Zone. Ms. Szabo pointed out that things were allowed to go into the RR Zone that did not belong.

President Schweder suggested that the present proposal will not make a difference with respect to those properties.

Public Comment

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said he wanted to clarify that the proposal will distinguish assisted living facilities and personal care centers from residential treatment facilities and group homes.

Ms. Heller replied there is a definition in the Zoning Ordinance for residential treatment facilities that is a different definition.

Mr. Grubb queried at what point does the City have enough of these kinds of facilities.

Ms. Heller said the senior population is growing, continuing to grow, and it is expected to continue many years into the future according to census projections.

Mr. Grubb, commenting that over a period of time Alexandria Manor had several projects approved one of which has been constructed, expressed his personal observation that the faux pink retaining walls are not the most attractive first impression as one comes into the City. Mr. Grubb wondered why the Zoning Hearing Board was not advised of the intent of the zoning revisions that were made in 1993 so the Board would understand the intent of the revisions made at the direction of the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department and consequently the Board may have reacted in a different fashion to the proposed developments instead of permitting them under the existing Zoning Ordinance definition of a residential treatment facility.

Ms. Heller, responding that the Zoning Hearing Board is a quasi-judicial body, affirmed they have their own counsel and act on their own. Ms. Heller continued on to explain the Board reviewed the application and Ordinance, and interpreted the Ordinance the way that it is seen now. Ms. Heller continued on to advise the Bureau does not agree with that interpretation and so is revising the Zoning Ordinance to eliminate any confusion within the definitions.

Mr. Grubb said his question is why did the City Administration not appear and take a stance.

Ms. Heller explained it was the belief that the Ordinance was clear the way it was written.

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, referring to the issue of Holy Family Manor, said he was at the Zoning Hearing Board meeting and the residents are still upset. Mr. Scheirer, stating his proposal is to add RS to RR, stated in other words it would not be allowed by Special Exception in RS. Explaining his opinion from his visual point of view, Mr. Scheirer thought that facilities like this tend to look like garden apartments and should not be allowed anywhere where garden apartments are not allowed.

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, expressed his recollection that the RR District was developed to keep areas restricted as a privileged zoning for those who materialistically could live there and also to exclude undesirables. Mr. Antalics felt it was unconstitutional because it is a privileged zoning based upon materialistic ability and not equality as human beings. Mr. Antalics thought what is being said is that a senior citizen who is a decent person has to reduce their quality of life by moving from their property which might be in RR to go to a lower level of zoning because of their inability to maintain their own home, and added to him that is very discriminatory. Mr. Antalics, questioning the difference between a garbage truck and a delivery truck, remarked what is the difference in that it is still a truck. Referring to the issue of Holy Family Manor, Mr. Antalics said the case was lost because a Monsignor some time ago wrote to the citizens of that area of Prospect Avenue that the Manor would not be expanded because he wanted to maintain the good relationship with the neighbors. He added it was not a zoning issue, and the people who lived there had a copy of the letter. Mr. Antalics, reiterating that the issue of RR bothers him sociologically, said it is selective zoning against a certain section of the citizens who deserve to be treated equally as anybody else.

(2) Allow a lawful nonconforming use or structure to be expanded if certain requirements are met; regulate the conditions under which a nonconforming structure that has been destroyed or damaged by casualties is permitted to be rebuilt, restored, or used in a nonconforming manner; provide for termination and abandonment of nonconforming uses, buildings, or structures; and regulations for nonconforming lots.

Communication 7 B - Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Zoning Text Amendment – Non-Conforming Uses

The Clerk read a letter dated December 15, 2005 from Frederick Brock, Assistant Director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, advising that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission reviewed the proposed amendment on December 15, 2005. The Commission considers the amendment to be a matter of local concern and voted to offer no comment.

Planning and Zoning Director Comment

Ms. Heller next reviewed the Zoning Ordinance Amendment for Non-Conforming Uses. Ms. Heller verified there are three sections proposed to be revised. Ms. Heller added the changes will make these sections more specific, more clear, there will be less ambiguity, and the responsibility is placed on the property owner in some instances for providing information about the non-conforming use. Ms. Heller informed the assembly the first revision is for additions and enlargements. The current Zoning Ordinance allows expansion up to 50%, and the proposed amendment also allows expansion up to 50% of the existing use of the existing structure. It is a Special Exception. In order to minimize applications before the Zoning Hearing Board, a one time exception is included. Ms. Heller explained that, if someone is expanding their non-conforming use by less than 5%, it could be approved by the Zoning Officer through a building permit without Zoning Hearing Board review just for one time. The expansion is required to meet all required setbacks of the Zoning Ordinance which is a change from the current provisions. The proposal also provides a one time exemption for single family detached homes, twin dwellings, and row homes or town homes. Ms. Heller, pointing out that many times there is a small side yard which is a non-conformity, said the provision being added is that expansion is allowed for a porch or a small side yard addition if the addition does not go beyond the existing structure. The second section proposed to be updated is for restoration. The Bureau changed the determination for how the maximum amount of damage that can be occurring at a structure before restoration would be permitted. The current Zoning Ordinance provisions talks about fair market value with which there was some ambiguity. The proposed revision is based on the amount of building that is not structurally damaged. Ms. Heller advised it seems to be a clearer way to take a look at these matters, and it is a more common provision in the other zoning ordinances reviewed by the Bureau. The other part of the restoration section deals with how the buildings would be restored. The restoration must occur promptly within twelve months, and no new non-conformity can be created in the restoration. The third section deals with abandonment and is the largest change. Ms. Heller noted the current Zoning Ordinance provisions require that the Inspection staff or Zoning Officer initiate the creation of an abandonment. In a typical zoning ordinance that responsibility is placed on the property or business owner. Accordingly, the Bureau is revising the section so that the burden is on the property or business owner to show that a non-conforming use has not been abandoned. The fourth section pertains to non-conforming lots. Ms. Heller, noting that some provisions were added, said all non-conforming lots must comply with Section 1318 that outlines lot coverage, setbacks, and so on. A provision was also added that if two non-conforming lots abut each other and one does not have a principal building on it they would consider to be merged. Ms. Heller explained that is an attempt to eliminate existing non-conforming lots in the City.

Council Comment

Mr. Leeson, referring to the proposed restoration provisions, observed the insurance industry has shifted the way it writes fire insurance to pay the cost of reconstruction of structures. Noting that traditionally there are two bases to get coverage for buildings, one is actual cash value and the other is replacement cost, Mr. Leeson stated many people opt for replacement cost so they can have their structure restored as much as possible to the original condition. Mr. Leeson advised the insurance industry has now changed many of the policies to say they do not pay replacement cost unless the structure is actually rebuilt the way it was. Mr. Leeson, pointing out that the restoration provision references that someone can only rebuild the way it was if a majority of the exterior walls are still structurally sound, questioned what does that mean. While acknowledging there may not be a definition, Mr. Leeson though the question needs to be asked because it is theoretically possible that someone could suffer a major fire loss and be denied the opportunity to rebuild which would lead to a major economic loss through failure of the insurance company to submit an adequate insurance payment.

Ms. Heller, responding that all the provisions of the non-conforming chapter are designed to try to eliminate or minimize the impact of non-conforming uses, said that is what the provisions on restoration are for as well. Ms. Heller thought if there is a hardship that a property owner incurs the relief always is through the Zoning Hearing Board. Ms. Heller continued on to say if there was a situation where someone was not permitted to rebuild because less than 60% of the exterior walls were remaining and yet their insurance company did not compensate them because they were not permitted to build the original building, then she thought the relief would be through the Zoning Hearing Board.

Mr. Leeson, observing that if the individual needed a variance they could only get a variance for something that is unique to the geographic and configuration of the lot itself, highlighted the fact that economic hardship does not justify a variance. Mr. Leeson wondered whether something needs to be inserted into the Zoning Ordinance about economic hardship in order to provide some element of flexibility so that economic destruction of a taxpayer does not result which would be unintended but might be the net effect of this type of an Ordinance.

Ms. Heller suggested that the Bureau could contact some other communities to find out how they are utilizing this provision which, she added, is common in using criteria to determine when and if restoration of a non-conforming use should be permitted.

Mr. Leeson expressed he would be interested in what Ms. Heller finds out concerning the matter.

Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, thought there was recent case law that allows the introduction of economic hardship for zoning variances, and added he thought the Zoning Hearing Board has invoked it several times for the granting of variances. Mr. Hanna communicated the matter should be checked to determine whether or not introduction of such a provision may be redundant in that there may be case law that allows it.

President Schweder asked is there any need for anything to be written with respect to flood damage if there are City properties in the flood plain. Ms. Heller affirmed there are flood plain provisions within the Zoning Ordinance. President Schweder clarified his question is with respect to restoration.

Ms. Heller responded only if they are non-conforming either by use, setbacks, lot coverage, and so on.

President Schweder, requesting that Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, talk to Ms. Heller about the matter, observed one of the issues raised is how the Federal flood insurance is impacted by what is written in the local ordinance, unless someone can go back and rebuild there.

Ms. Heller noted that, if a structure is in the floodplain and it meets the use provisions of that Zoning District, the Bureau does not have anything to say about whether or not it could be reconstructed in the flood plain since that would be through the property owner’s insurance carrier.

President Schweder, expressing his understanding, suggested that should be looked at to see if there is any conflict with federal or local regulations.

Ms. Dolan queried, if there is already a lawful non-conforming use, why would the City want to have language that outlines how it can be made more non-conforming by making it a larger non-conforming use.

Ms. Heller explained that a non-conforming use is permitted some rights of expansion since it existed before the Zoning Ordinance was enacted, it is permitted to continue there, and it is permitted some natural expansion. Ms. Heller advised the 50% is a fairly standard provision in Zoning Ordinances. In further response to Ms. Dolan, Ms. Heller affirmed it means that these uses existed prior to enactment of the City’s Zoning Ordinance, they were legal, lawful uses at that time, and they are permitted to continue as non-conforming uses after the Zoning Ordinance was enacted.

Public Comment

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said he finds the 50% expansion to be rather generous. He recalled that a lawyer at the Zoning Hearing Board meeting last week said in Philadelphia it is 10%.

President Schweder stated the appropriate Ordinances for the two Zoning Text Amendments will be placed on the February 7, 2006 Agenda for First Reading.

The Public Hearing was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.


The Minutes of January 3, 2006 were approved.

5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)



Leaf Collection

Mr. Donchez, acknowledging that the snowfall of about four or five weeks ago resulted in a setback of the leaf collection schedule, said he had more complaints this year about leaf collection than he has received in the past ten years as a Member of Council. Mr. Donchez requested an update.

Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, advising there has been at least and usually more than one leaf pickup almost everywhere in the City by this time, pointed out the problem has been the occurrence of the snowfall during the key weeks when most of the leaves are picked up. Mr. Alkhal continued on to explain the snow remained for a while and the weather was cold leading to conditions that were not conducive for efficient leaf collection. The types of equipment utilized are not as clean and slower than if the leaf vacuum truck could be used. Consequently, the staff has to return to some areas and pick up leaves with the sweeper. Affirming there is still some work to do, Mr. Alkhal noted there is mild weather predicted over the next week or so. Mr. Alkhal acknowledged that the City did get some complaints, and the leaf pickup this year was difficult to take care of.

President Schweder, observing the snow did not arrive until well into December, thought the leaves would have been collected long before the middle of December. President Schweder highlighted the fact that on the day after Thanksgiving, the first day of holiday shopping, downtown Main Street looked as bad as it has ever looked, and the leaves were off the trees. President Schweder continued on to point out that people were shuffling their way through sidewalks covered with leaves that were not picked up in a timely fashion. Expressing his agreement with Mr. Donchez, President Schweder advised that Members of Council received more calls than before. President Schweder commented he has not seen the operation take as long and done as poorly.

Mr. Alkhal, advising he has been involved with the leaf collection operations for the past seven seasons, expressed he thought the best was done under the circumstances and with the constraints, including labor force constraints. Mr. Alkhal, focusing on Main Street, affirmed the leaves were picked up multiple times during the season but pointed out they could be picked up one day and the next day the trucks could be loaded up again. In addition, due to the amount of rain, the leaves came down later than usual and fast. Mr. Alkhal continued on to explain that, despite the fact that the leaf collection schedule is advertised in the newspapers, as soon as the staff goes through an area, more leaves are brought out. Mr. Alkhal, while noting that pickup of leaves is done as a service to the residents, explained that residents always have the option to bag the leaves and the staff will go back repeatedly to remove the bagged leaves. Mr. Alkhal thought that overall, given the conditions, the operation was done fairly reasonably well.

President Schweder commented that the residents of the City do not think the same.

Mr. Alkhal explained he looks at the City as a whole rather than at individual complaints. Mr. Alkhal further informed President Schweder that he judiciously goes on a route on a Friday. Mr. Alkhal communicated that people who look at the whole City would agree with the operations.

Mr. Mowrer inquired whether many people put their leaves in bags.

Mr. Alkhal, affirming there are people who bag their leaves, said they have the option year round. In further response to Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Alkhal stated there are not that many people who bag leaves because of the convenience of putting leaves in the gutter for pickup.

Mr. Alkhal confirmed to Mrs. Belinski that the bags are biodegradable, and residents are not permitted to use plastic bags. Mrs. Belinski pointed out that the leaves on her two large oak trees did not come down until much later in the season and were still on the tree when the City crews came through her neighborhood. Mrs. Belinski, commenting that the snow came about two weeks earlier than normal, agreed that was a problem for the collection efforts. Mrs. Belinski denoted there were two positions eliminated in the Parks Department so there were operational problems.

Mr. Alkhal observed if there were unlimited resources the leaves could be picked up in one week and the operation would go a lot smoother. Mr. Alkhal noted that neighboring communities had the same problems.


C. Assistant City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Office of City Solicitor

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 13, 2006 from Timothy Brennan, Assistant City Solicitor, in which it was requested that City Council authorize the destruction of records for the Solicitor’s Office as listed in the attached Exhibit under the provisions of the Municipal Records Retention Act that was adopted by City Council.

President Schweder stated that the authorizing Resolution will be placed on the February 7, 2006 Agenda.

D. Assistant City Solicitor – Easement and Indemnification Agreements – Saucon Square Land Development Project

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 11, 2006 from Joseph M. Kelly, Assistant City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Easement Agreement and Indemnification Agreement between the City and Wagner Enterprises, Ltd., concerning plans submitted to the City for the Saucon Square Land Development project. As part of the review process, the City’s Engineering Bureau has required that the developer obtain a storm sewer easement across City land and along the Saucon Creek for the storm water outfall.

President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Works Committee.

E. Director of Water and Sewer Resources – Modifications to Article 927 – Sewer Charge Increase

The Clerk read a memorandum dated January 12, 2006 from David L. Brong, Director of Water and Sewer Resources, to which was attached modifications to Article 927 – Sewer Rental, to establish a sewer charge increase of 30% for the City of Bethlehem. An example of the proposed increase is that a current sewer rate of $1.56742 for each 1,000 gallons be increased to $2.04. The Hanover Township, Northampton County sewer charges will be increased to be 25% more than the City’s charges per the 1965 Maintenance Agreement, and the penalty for late payment will be increased from 1.25% to 1.50% consistent with the water penalty.

President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Works Committee.


A. President of Council

President Schweder announced the City Council Committee Assignments for the years 2006 and 2007, as follows: Community Development Committee - Magdalena F. Szabo, Chairwoman, Jean Belinski, and Joseph F. Leeson; Finance Committee - Joseph F. Leeson, Chairman, Jean Belinski, and Robert J. Donchez; Human Resources and Environment Committee - Karen D. Dolan, Chairwoman, Gordon B. Mowrer, and Magdalena F. Szabo; Parks and Public Property Committee - Jean Belinski, Chairwoman, Karen D. Dolan, and Joseph F. Leeson; Public Safety Committee - Robert J. Donchez, Chairman, Karen D. Dolan, and Gordon B. Mowrer; Public Works Committee - Gordon B. Mowrer, Chairman, Robert J. Donchez, and Magdalena F. Szabo.

B. Mayor


C. Finance Committee

Mr. Leeson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, gave an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held prior to this evening’s City Council meeting on the following subjects: Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Enterprise Zone Grant, General Fund Budget Revision – Police Equipment, and Amending Water Capital Budget – Communication System Upgrade.




A. Bill No. 1 - 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Enterprise Zone Grant

The Clerk read Bill No. 1 - 2006, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Enterprise Zone Grant, sponsored by Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 1 - 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.

B. Bill No. 2 – 2006 – Amending Water Capital Budget – Communication System Upgrade

The Clerk read Bill No. 2 - 2006, Amending Water Capital Budget – Communication System Upgrade, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 2 - 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.


Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Arcelay moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 C as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

A. Authorizing Records Destruction – Purchasing Bureau

Mr. Mower and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,763 that authorized the disposition of the public records of the Purchasing Bureau, as listed in Exhibit A, according to schedules and procedures for the disposition of records as set forth in the Municipal Records Manual approved on July 16, 1993 and Resolution 13,076.

B. Authorizing Records Destruction – Financial Services Bureau

Ms. Szabo and Mr. Mower sponsored Resolution 14,764 that authorized the disposition of the public records of the Financial Services Bureau, as listed in Exhibit A, according to schedules and procedures for the disposition of records as set forth in the Municipal Records Manual approved on July 16, 1993 and Resolution 13,076.

C. Authorizing Records Destruction – Payroll Office

Mr. Mower and Ms. Szabo sponsored Resolution 14,765 that authorized the disposition of the public records of the Payroll Office, as listed in Exhibit A, according to schedules and procedures for the disposition of records as set forth in the Municipal Records Manual approved on July 16, 1993 and Resolution 13,076.

Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 C: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.

Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group

Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 D through 11 G as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 518-522 Long Street

Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,766 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the side double door at 518-522 Long Street.

E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 429 Heckewelder Place

Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,767 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install an educational sign at 429 Heckewelder Place.

F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 459 Old York Road

Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,768 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install gutters and downspouts on the Tannery and Waterworks at 459 Old York Road.

G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 427 North New Street

Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,769 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the roof at 427 North New Street.

Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 D through 11 G: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolutions passed.

Removing Resolution 11 H from the Table

Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Donchez moved to remove from the table Resolution 11 H that had been tabled at the December 20, 2005 City Council Meeting. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

H Certificate of Appropriateness – 318 West Street

Mr. Arcelay and Mr. Mowrer sponsored the Certificate of Appropriateness, Resolution 14,770, to retain roofing installed without HARB review at 318 West Street. The HARB had recommended that the request to retain the roofing installed without HARB review be denied.

Mr. Mowrer, advising that he visited the site with Chris Ussler, Historic Officer, said he thinks the property owner did a good job, the roof fits and blends into the neighborhood. Mr. Mowrer further noted that Ms. Ussler’s recommendation was that the roof work should remain. Pointing out that the location of the house is on the border of the Historic District, Mr. Mowrer observed one could not tell whether or not they were in the Historic District. Mr. Mowrer said he would recommend approval of the work that was done to replace the roof.

President Schweder, informing the assembly that he also visited the site and talked with Ms. Ussler regarding the matter, said he thinks it is legitimate that the owner was unaware that the one side of the street was in the Historic District. President Schweder noted that probably half of the roofs in Historic Bethlehem have been replaced but not with slates.

Ms. Dolan wondered whether the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) has adequate notification to those who move into the Historic District. Ms. Dolan, noting the residents who moved into the home stated they did not know they lived in the Historic District, said she is being told there is reliance on realtors to inform people although there is no requirement that realtors inform new residents that their homes are located in the Historic District. So this does not occur in the future, Ms. Dolan questioned is there some other way the City can inform new residents.

Mr. Hanna, stating it is a rare occurrence, affirmed this was a condition of the house being on the edge of the Historic District. Mr. Hanna advised that a lot of roofers and others who do work in the Historic District understand the locations and when they come to the City for permits they understand that the work is subject to HARB approval. Mr. Hanna informed Ms. Dolan this was an exceptional situation and he does not think the City must address the manner of notification to people. Mr. Hanna continued on to say there is a great educational program about work in the Historic District, and more money is being spent upgrading design guidelines and so forth. Mr. Hanna added that the Department concurs with Council regarding the roof work.

Voting AYE to grant a Certificate of Appropriateness to retain roofing installed without HARB review at 318 West Street: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.


Request for Executive Session

Ms. Szabo asked for an Executive Session to discuss several legal situations that have come before the City.

President Schweder stated it would be his position that Ms. Szabo’s request be honored, and suggested that Council would meet in Executive Session with the appropriate individuals from the Administration.

Mr. Leeson suggested that the topics be put on the record either tonight or at a subsequent meeting to identify what will be discussed.

President Schweder affirmed that, as in the past, he would report on the matter.

Historic District - Boundaries

Ms. Szabo questioned why only one side of the street along West Street is in the Historic District.

Mr. Hanna replied because the description is that the Historic District runs down the centerline of the street.

Ms. Szabo inquired how that boundary was derived.

President Schweder, affirming it is determined by the Historic Board in Harrisburg, recalled that in the South Side Historic Conservation District one side of Wyandotte Street is in the Historic District and the other is not. President Schweder, noting the City requested that both sides be in the District, advised that the Historic Board in Harrisburg made the determination that the other side did not meet the criteria.


Police Department – Volunteer Patrols

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Street, said that lately a number of robberies, including several just four blocks from his residence, have given him reason to consider ways in which neighborhoods can be made safer. Mr. Grubb observed that the Police Department, while among the best, has budget and staffing limitations. He noted that the recent recommendations of the Community Policing Task Force included getting citizens involved on a volunteer basis, and added there are vibrant block watch and checkmate programs. Mr. Grubb stated that some residents have proposed significant increases to the number of Police Officers while others have expressed deep concerns about problems throughout neighborhoods. Mr. Grubb recommended that supplementing the Police Department through the use of volunteer patrols in the community be strongly considered. He felt it is apparent that certain crimes are on the upswing, and that some in the City want to become more involved in support of law enforcement activities. Instead of, or in addition to, locating citizen volunteers in sub-stations, Mr. Grubb thought that individuals who want to volunteer to patrol problem areas could be trained by the Police Department, paired in personal vehicles, and use their cell phones to contact 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity that would ramp up enforcement initiatives. Mr. Grubb encouraged the Administration and City Council to review and consider this kind of initiative to assist the Police Department and make the City even safer.

Police Department – Volunteer Patrols

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said he wants to second the remarks of Dana Grubb.

Certificate of Appropriateness - 318 West Street

Mr. Scheirer, expressing his opinion that a precedent has been established regarding the Certificate of Appropriateness for the roof work at 318 West Street, thought that consideration should be given to putting notices in the tax bills advising people that they are in the Historic District. He said there cannot be reliance on realtors because some homes are sold without a realtor.

Leaf Collection

Mr. Scheirer explained that, in defense of Mr. Alkhal, his maple tree is probably the last tree on the street to shed its leaves, and the City had already collected leaves in his area before the maple tree’s leaves came off. Mr. Scheirer continued on to say after he put the leaves in the gutter it snowed. Consequently, Mr. Scheirer did not think the City did a worse job this year.

Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, said he also would like to defend what Mr. Alkhal stated, expressed that a tremendous effort was done by the City, and pointed out the City trucks went back to certain areas two and three times. Mr. Rodriquez advised that after the City picked up leaves some residents gathered leaves that were not coming down as fast as usual and put them on the street.

Police Department and Citizen Involvement

Mr. Rodriquez stated that Francis Donchez, Police Commissioner, is doing a great job because of the way that he puts certain Police Officers in certain locations in dealing with robberies. Adding it has been taken care of but not entirely, Mr. Rodriquez expressed the wish that Police Officers could get to the scene faster.

Mr. Rodriquez thought that citizen involvement with the Police Department is something with which he wants to get involved. Stating he wants to see this happen, Mr. Rodriquez said a lot more citizens would like to see something happen but they are scared of not being received or of the way in which actions are taken. Mr. Rodriquez stressed that the City and the community need to come together. While expressing he did not think the South Side Task Force and the Pawnee Street Block Watch are doing as good a job as they could, Mr. Rodriquez thought some groups are effective. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that everything he has mentioned over the past months has come true, and remarked it is going to get worse.


Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, related that between Saturday, January 14, 2006 and today there were two Police incident reports on vehicle break-ins across the street from her home. Ms. Krasley, highlighting the fact that there are street lights, outdoor lights, and lights from the 7-11, communicated it seems as though they are doing everything they are supposed to be doing and yet there is still crime.

Ms. Krasley inquired about what appeared on the local television station today regarding Wyandotte and the arterial streets where a baby had died and heroin was found.

Francis Donchez, Police Commissioner, advised that the Police Department investigated a report of a sick child, and upon arrival at the scene the ten month old child had passed away. One of the Detectives saw in plain view drug paraphernalia and contacted the Vice Unit. A search warrant resulted in seizure of approximately $160,000 of heroin, $8,000 cash, a stolen hand gun, and packaging material. Police Commissioner Donchez, noting an autopsy was done and the investigation is continuing, said at this point there is no reason to believe that the initial call regarding the child and the drug arrest are connected.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.