City Council

Council Minutes

September 5, 2006 Meeting Minutes

Town Hall – 10 East Church Street
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, September 5, 2006 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall


President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Father Carmen Bolock, of Our Lord's Ascension Polish National Catholic 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.


The Minutes of August 15, 2006 approved.

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

Establishing Article 1314.B – CMU - Commercial Mixed Uses Zoning District and Rezoning Parcels Along Eighth Avenue, Eaton Avenue and Schoenersville Road to CMU District

Attorney Dennis Benner stated he is the owner of one of a number of tracts of property in the vicinity of Eighth Avenue proposed to be rezoned to CMU – Commercial Mixed Use. Mr. Benner, affirming he was out of the country when the Public Hearing was held at the August 15, 2006 City Council Meeting, said there are two engineers at the Meeting this evening, and he has brought along architectural renderings of what the site can look like in terms of setbacks, and so on. Mr. Benner, referring to comments made at the August 15 Public Hearing about the width of setbacks and impact on the neighborhood, noted the topic was discussed at length with the Planning Commission and City staff. As a result, Mr. Benner advised he took pictures of the current site and what it would look like based on what the proposed Ordinance requires that is a 20 foot setback. Mr. Benner explained it is a 20 foot setback with heavy landscaping materials, berming, walls, and a number of things that buffer the site from the neighborhood. Mr. Benner showed photographs to the Members of Council. Pointing out that the parking lot looking into the neighborhood is within about 5 feet of the residential property line and expressing that the former EDS site looks and feels as if it were in the neighborhood, Mr. Benner showed a rendering of how it would look when it is graded and with the buffering requirements. Mr. Benner, showing a photograph going into his site from the neighborhood, said with the same kind of landscaping it feels more distant from the location than it is now. Mr. Benner showed a picture of the former EDS building comprised of 75,000 square feet that is very dated, and informed the Members that the water, sewer, and electricity have been disconnected as a result of the widening of Eighth Avenue. Mr. Benner, showing an artist’s rendering of how the building could look, expressed it would be an upscale type of development into which he intends to move his law offices. Mr. Benner, turning to traffic issues, notified the Members he engaged a traffic firm to conduct a full traffic study. Focusing on comments about a proposed coffee shop for the development that would have a drive-through, Mr. Benner explained the reality is that some people do not want to get out of their cars to get a cup of coffee. Mr. Benner informed the Members that, with regard to any other restaurant facilities for the site, “there are no drive-ins. There’s not going to [be] the McDonald’s. You’re not going to get any of that kind of stuff. This is intended to be substantially upscale.” Mr. Benner added “to create bigger and wider setbacks [would] effectively kill this project.”

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said the Bethlehem Citizens Association voted overwhelmingly that the rezoning is premature. Mr. Scheirer, referring to his testimony at the August 15, 2006 Public Hearing, repeated and emphasized central points. Mr. Scheirer noted the Administration was quoted in the newspapers as saying the project is needed to serve the people who would be moving into the residential development proposed for Martin Tower located across the street. However, Mr. Scheirer stressed that a six story office building is not needed to serve them. Mr. Scheirer continued on to say that to a significant extent it is creating another destination in the City, or augmenting those as a destination center. Mr. Scheirer explained in the view of the group it is premature to do this in advance of revising the City’s comprehensive plan that can identify which areas of the City will be destinations. Mr. Scheirer also felt it is premature to the extent that it serves Martin Tower because one does not know really what is going to happen there, and things can change from what has been proposed. Repeating that the group finds the proposed rezoning to be premature, Mr. Scheirer said the proposal should be put aside.

Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, noted that Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, invoked the Comprehensive Plan at the August 15 Public Hearing. Mr. Pfenning, referring to figure 9, commercial and industrial strategy, noted the area is shown in white and not included. Turning to figure 10, residential strategy, Mr. Pfenning pointed out the bulk of this area is set up for single family detached houses. Mr. Pfenning observed how useful a comprehensive plan is in future zoning and planning decisions.

David Kuhns, 1144 Ralston Road, referring to evergreen trees planned to be planted between the properties, highlighted the fact that his property is approximately 4 feet above the parking level. Consequently, if the trees were planted at the level of the current parking lot, the 6 foot screen will in reality only be two feet.

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, noted that, when entering the main drive at the Lowe’s store on Eighth Avenue and looking to the right of the building, there may be a buffer zone designated but there is nothing there that buffers the homes located in the residential area above the Lowe’s. He said there is very little evidence of new planting, and the neighbors are probably going to be exposed to light, noise, and possibly litter. Mr. Grubb pointed out, if that is the example of the kinds of buffer zones that are being discussed and new zoning is located immediately adjacent to residential areas, then every residential area in the City is at risk. Mr. Grubb stressed a much better job must be done of insuring that if retail is placed immediately adjacent to residential neighborhoods the buffer zones are not only required but there is appropriate follow-through so that residents are not impacted in any way by the introduction of these types of development. Mr. Grubb, referring to his remarks at the August 15 Public Hearing, thought there are more than sufficient retail areas throughout the community and particularly within a one mile radius of the location proposed to be rezoned to service the residents. Mr. Grubb, reiterating there should be sufficient buffer, said when a homeowner is on their back deck or looks out the back window, there should be no evidence of this type of intrusion immediately adjacent to their residentially zoned neighborhoods.

Gene Haney, 1136 Ralston Road, informed the assembly he formerly lived on Stanford Road directly behind Lowe’s, and highlighted the fact that, as was stated by the previous speaker, there is no buffer between there and the residential neighborhood. Advising that he moved to Ralston Road located just up the street, Mr. Haney pointed out the neighborhood to which he has moved is the location of the new CMU rezoning proposal. Mr. Haney stressed he is really afraid that this is going to happen again. Mr. Haney, noting the buffer is supposed to be 20 feet under the proposed rezoning, expressed the hope that the distance will be reevaluated and changed to 50 feet since he does not want to see the lack of a buffer happen again.


Comprehensive Plan

Mr. Mowrer said he would like to see the funding for the Comprehensive Plan brought again before City Council for the next Meeting.

President Schweder, recalling that the Ordinance containing the funding for the Comprehensive Plan was tabled, suggested that if Council so desires it can be taken from the table at the September 19 Meeting and voted on.


A. City Solicitor – Proposed Ordinance Amending Article 1159 – Animals

The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 25, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance to amend Article 1159 – Animals.

President Schweder referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.

B. City Solicitor – Amendment No. 2 to Lease Agreement – Ice Skating Rink Food Concession Stand

The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 25, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Amendment No. 2 to Lease Agreement with Richard J. H. Keck, Jr. for the Ice Skating Rink Food Concession Stand.

President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution will be placed on the September 19 Agenda, unless the Parks and Public Property Committee wishes to review the matter.

C. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Harvest Wine and Beer Festival

The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 25, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Use Permit Agreement with Celtic Fest, Inc. and Downtown Bethlehem Association for a Harvest Wine and Beer Festival on October 7, 2006.

President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution will be placed on the September 19 Agenda, unless the Parks and Public Property Committee wishes to review the matter.

D. Director of Human Resources – Amending Police Civil Service Rules and Regulations

The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 16, 2006 from Jean A. Zweifel, Director of Human Resources, to which were attached additions and deletions to the Police Civil Service Rules and Regulations that were approved by the Police Civil Service Board at its meeting of August 15, 2006.

President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee.

E. Director of Parks and Public Property – Amending Golf Fees

The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 29, 2006 from Charles A. Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, requesting that the Golf Fees be amended to eliminate "Winter Rates" and "Specials – Mondays with Cart" sections, as contained in Resolution 14,752.

President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution will be placed on the September 19 Agenda, unless the Finance Committee, in consultation with the Parks and Public Property Committee, wishes to review the matter.

F. Director of Purchasing – List for City Auction – September 30

The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 31, 2006 from Mary Jo Reed, Director of Purchasing, to which was attached a list for the items to be sold at the City Auction on Saturday, September 30, 2006.

President Schweder stated that the appropriate resolution will be listed on the September 19 Agenda.

G. Director of Planning and Zoning - Addressing Licensed Gaming Facility Use, Providing Additional Regulations within the IR Zoning District, and Adding Various Definitions and Provisions for Adult Oriented Establishments, Pawn Shops, BYOB's and Check Cashing Operations

The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 1, 2006 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising of recommendations approved by the Planning Commission at its August 17 meeting. The Commission recommended approval of a Zoning amendment prepared by the Planning Bureau to include not only provisions for the licensed gaming facility proposed for the BethWorks site at the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation property on the South Side, but also additional provisions in the IR zoning district and additional definitions and provisions for adult oriented establishments, pawn shops, Bring Your Own Bottle Clubs (BYOB’s) and check cashing operations. The Planning Commission made minor revisions to the original proposal submitted by Bethworks Now, LLC and Sands Bethworks Gaming, LLC, including deletion of the sign provisions, an additional provision that the Planning Commission shall have the opportunity to review and comment on conceptual sign designs, and provisions to allow pawn shops and check cashing facilities as special exception uses rather than by right permitted uses. The Planning Commission also recommended approval of the zoning amendment submitted to the City for consideration by Bethworks Now, LLC and Sands Bethworks Gaming LLC.

President Schweder noted that the Public Hearing has been scheduled on September 19, 2006 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.

H. Director of Public Works – Final Draft – Act 537 Plan

The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 1, 2006 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a resolution that authorized the submission of the City's Final Draft Act 537 Plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for its review, comment, and eventual approval.

President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 C is listed on the Agenda.


A. President of Council


B. Mayor


C. Community Development Committee

Ms. Szabo, Chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held on September 5, 2006, prior to this evening's City Council Meeting, on the following subject: Establishing Local Redevelopment Authority – Reuse Planning for Wilson-Kramer Army Reserve Center – Airport Road.




A. Bill No. 27 – 2006 – Establishing Article 1314.B – CMU - Commercial Mixed Uses Zoning District and Rezoning Parcels Along Eighth Avenue, Eaton Avenue and Schoenersville Road to CMU District

The Clerk read Bill No. 27 – 2006 – Establishing Article 1314.B – CMU - Commercial Mixed Uses Zoning District and Rezoning Parcels Along Eighth Avenue, Eaton Avenue and Schoenersville Road to CMU District, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Ms. Dolan, and titled:


Mayor John Callahan, recounting he was unable to attend the Public Hearing at the August 15, 2006 Council Meeting, stated he would like to go on record as saying the Administration is very supportive of the project. Mayor Callahan thought the rezoning, as well as the impact on the 10 acre parcel, will address a grayfield in view of the fact that there is a rather unattractive 75,000 square foot building located there that is rendered obsolete. He continued on to highlight the fact that much of the utility services to the building including heating and cooling was provided by the former Martin Tower owned by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Mayor Callahan, noting that Mr. Benner has been very cooperative with the Administration and has scaled back the uses on the site, pointed out it represents an opportunity to improve an important corner of the City and bring 75,000 square feet of mixed use to the property. Focusing on economic impact to the City, Mayor Callahan enumerated that the project will be assessed at more than $14 million and will bring $870,000 of tax revenue to the City. In terms of the office use, Mayor Callahan observed it will be a Class A signature building of which everyone can be proud.

Ms. Dolan asked if increasing the setbacks between Ralston Road and the parking lot would kill the project, and queried if they could be increased to some length beyond 20 feet.

Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, affirming that the matter has been reviewed extensively with the Planning Commission and the staff, and zoning ordinances in other communities have been reviewed, explained that most of the time has been spent looking at possible impacts on the abutting residential properties. Ms. Heller stated it is felt that a 20 foot wide buffer area is substantial in comparison to buffers currently required in the City and also in view of what is required to be within the buffer. Ms. Heller highlighted the fact that it is important to know what will be in the buffer. Ms. Heller continued on to enumerate that berming is required but is not required anywhere else in the Ordinance, the height of the trees needs to be more significant when planted, and the Planning Commission is given the option to add solid fencing or masonry wall. Ms. Heller, restating that a significant amount of buffering is required to be within the 20 feet, affirmed it is felt that is adequate.

Ms. Dolan, questioning why the coffee shop would have a microphone, highlighted the fact that two other drive up coffee shops in the City function very well without microphones which is a low impact use. Ms. Dolan stressed that as soon as a microphone and more staff is added it becomes a heavier use.

Ms. Dolan commented that, on both of those issues, she may be offering proposed amendments.

Ms. Heller pointed out that a lot of time was also spent on reviewing the drive-through. Ms. Heller advised the setbacks for that use were increased, the hours were limited, and provisions were added for such issues as stacking. Ms. Heller affirmed if it became a problem it would be an enforcement issue.

Ms. Dolan, referring to comments that the proposed project creates a destination, said she does not get a sense that it would be creating a destination. Ms. Dolan said it feels like the area is getting cleaned up, and added it looks better than before and is safer. In addition, Ms. Dolan noted she has been to Lowe’s many times and has never had such an easy drive on Eighth Avenue. Observing it is different than what a lot of people predicted, Ms. Dolan invited anyone who thinks otherwise to walk, bike, or drive in the area at rush hour since it is an improvement to the corridor.

Ms. Dolan inquired whether the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has reviewed the traffic study.

Ms. Heller responded that as of late last week the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission is still reviewing the traffic study, and typically has 30 days to review any proposal sent to them.

Mrs. Belinski, advising that she kept detailed records, pointed out that 50% of the people in West Bethlehem did not want the former Durkee site on Eighth Avenue to be rezoned for a development that included a Lowe’s and 50% were in favor of it. She noted that the December 12, 2001 City Council Meeting on a rezoning proposal for the site lasted until midnight. Mrs. Belinski recalled there was a very in-depth explanation of the pros and cons from the No Mall group that made an excellent presentation. Mrs. Belinski further noted she was approached at lunch last week by a resident of Tenth Avenue who exclaimed that the neighborhood is being ruined, and she said not to blame her because she did not vote for it. Mrs. Belinski advised she is not going to be voting in favor of Bill 27 tonight, and added there will be more traffic and the resident is right that it will no longer be the nice residential area it is now. Mrs. Belinski, adding she is wondering about Nitschmann School located on Eighth Avenue, pointed out that installation of the air conditioning promised three years ago has been delayed. Mrs. Belinski, expressing her thoughts the school officials are waiting until parents voice their concerns about the traffic, congestion, and safety of their children, remarked that the school officials will then say the problem can be solved by building a new Nitschmann School on the athletic fields as she has predicted. She added that even the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission had serious reservations about the negative impact on Nitschmann School.

President Schweder, stating he will be voting against the proposal, said he has had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Benner and talk to him at length. President Schweder observed that if it were a stand-alone proposal he would be in favor of it. However, President Schweder said unfortunately it is not, as it is part and parcel and mixed in with many other proposals. President Schweder pointed out it is not only a matter of what was done at the adjacent former Durkee site where there is now a Lowe’s, but what will be done across the street at the 21 story Martin Tower building owned by the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and what will come with the additional area that is included in the rezoning proposal. President Schweder commented that, in the long debate about the Lowe’s project, in the end concessions were made by the developer that allowed the matter to proceed such as making the project smaller, adding a residential component, and that the agreed upon traffic upgrades would be sufficient for the project. President Schweder thought it was safe to say that no one ever envisioned what else was going to be proposed for the street, what has been proposed, and what will continue to be proposed. President Schweder, noting that he and his family moved to Eaton Avenue located down the street from Eighth Avenue over fifty years ago, said he watched the roadway during the period of time when Martin Tower was built, and Route 378 was built to accommodate traffic. Recalling the road was then and continued to be an avenue, President Schweder stressed that today it surely is not. President Schweder pointed out it is even referred to as a corridor or artery for traffic. In the latest report provided by Mr. Benner, President Schweder highlighted the fact that Eaton Avenue is referred to as a corridor to transport traffic from East Allentown to the Schoenersville Road corridor, and remarked that is what it has become. President Schweder said it is inconceivable to him that at this point there are five lanes at the intersection of Eaton Avenue and Eighth Avenue, and more traffic is going to be put into this area. President Schweder stressed that Eighth Avenue is the only North-South corridor in West Bethlehem, and is the only street on which one can travel from Lehigh Street to Schoenersville Road and on to the northern end of the City. President Schweder, emphasizing that project after project is now being placed on that Avenue which he thinks is simply wrong, stated frankly that the worst will be yet to come. President Schweder pointed out that Council is being asked to rezone more than the property on which Mr. Benner’s proposed project is located and that is the triangle located caddy-corner from Mr. Benner’s property bounded by Eaton Avenue and Schoenersville Road. Observing that, undoubtedly, all the property will change, President Schweder highlighted the fact that property is still primarily residential down Eaton Avenue. President Schweder stressed, once that is done, all know that what will come next in the planning process is to take away the last few residential homes on Eighth Avenue between Eaton Avenue and Schoenersville Road. President Schweder asserted then Eighth Avenue and Schoenersville Road will effectively have been made into Bethlehem’s version of MacArthur Road in Whitehall going through one of the finest residential areas in the Lehigh Valley. President Schweder expressed that particularly alarming in what Mr. Benner shared with him was this proposal was available for Council to look at over a year ago, but he was told by the Administration that he could not proceed until the project across the street moves first. Pointing out that Council has not heard from many neighbors in the area, President Schweder stressed that, when one looks back at the debates over the proposed Lowe’s project on Eighth Avenue, the lack of neighborhood input is dramatic. President Schweder remarked the neighbors are not here because they support the proposal but rather because they have lost all faith in the process, and they believe the voices of people who live in the neighborhoods will not be heard by the Administration or the planning process, and therefore there is no need to come before Council. President Schweder stated he does not think Bethlehem needs a new building on every corner in the City. President Schweder expressed the hope there will be other elected officials who will stand up for the neighbors.

Ms. Szabo, referring to the proposal for the residential reuse of Martin Tower, said much to her dismay during a meeting the lawyer indicated those are not necessarily the plans that will be undertaken. Ms. Szabo queried what kind of commercial development will go there and how large will it be. Ms. Szabo asserted that the “plop method” is being developed where one plops something here and plops something there. Acknowledging that Mr. Benner has put a lot of effort into his project, Ms. Szabo expressed she feels badly, and now even more so having heard he was delayed to give way to someone else’s proposal, and is sorry but she cannot vote in his favor.

Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Mowrer, 4. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 3. Bill No. 27 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.


A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 521 East Fourth Street

Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,901 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install two double-sided projecting signs at 521 East Fourth Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 617 East Fourth Street

Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,902 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the facades at 617 East Fourth Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

C. Authorizing Submission of Draft Act 537 Plan – Department of Environmental

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,903 that authorized the submittal of the Final Draft Act 537 Plan to the Department of Environmental Protection for its approval, stating the alternative of choice to be implemented is Alternative No. 2 – Additional Aeration and Clarification, providing the key implementation dates, and noting that a portion of a sanitary sewer upgrade for Homestead Avenue will be included.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.


Musikfest – Private Security

Mrs. Belinski, referring to a memorandum from Mr. Donchez inquiring about private security hired by Musikfest to patrol from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., asked Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, to elaborate on his written response concerning individuals sleeping and going through vendors stands. Mrs. Belinski inquired about background checks, and noted they were carrying guns.

Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, saying that is correct, advised Musikfest contracted with Lehigh Valley Law Enforcement, the same firm that handles the security for the Allentown Fairgrounds. Police Commissioner Miller affirmed that, by Pennsylvania law, they are allowed to carry firearms and are certified to do so. Police Commissioner Miller said he has received information from some of the Police Officers reporting what Mrs. Belinski referenced about the security personnel. Police Commissioner Miller advised he spoke with chief Spang about the matter and also about the bus stop incident. Police Commissioner Miller, in further response to Mrs. Belinski, affirmed the security personnel were abusive to people and were mistaken for Bethlehem Police Officers.

Mrs. Belinski remarked she thought the matter of use of private security during Musikfest had been resolved and she was not aware that private security was brought in.

Police Commissioner Miller commented that the private security personnel work from 3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Police Commissioner Miller, in response to Mrs. Belinski’s question about security checks, said he is not sure what their hiring requirements are.

Mrs. Belinski, stressing she does not like the arrangement, insisted it should be Bethlehem Police and no one else.


Proposed Casino – Bethlehem Works

Beverly Benton Bruch, 555 Spring Street, queried “is the Star of Bethlehem today the same one that led wise men.” Mrs. Bruch stated that long ago the Star of Bethlehem led to the site of the living God. She continued on to say that when the first Moravian believers celebrated the first Christmas in the community they named the town Bethlehem since the living God was with them. Mrs. Bruch, posing the question whether today wise men still seek the light of the living God, said the answer is no because the living God was sold for 30 pieces of silver. She remarked that “today our town has been sold by our esteemed leaders…into bondage for 30 pieces of paper from…the dead gods of wagering on our naiveté for a solution to our indebtedness…, the dead gods of greed, power, and corruption…”. Mrs. Bruch wondered if the past and present Mayors had followed the Star as did the wise men “would the living God say ‘cha ching’.”

Phentenol Laced Heroin

Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, noted that he had a meeting with Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, and questioned Mr. Hanna about the meeting. Mr. Hanna explained the discussion was generally about Mr. Rodriquez’s desire to educate the public better about the risks involved in phentenol laced heroin. In addition, Mr. Hanna noted that Mr. Rodriquez had spoken with the Police Commissioner, Deputy Police Commissioner, and with the Health Bureau. Mr. Hanna expressed that if Mr. Rodriquez feels he wants to engage in better education then City officials would be supportive of that. Mr. Rodriquez asked what Mr. Hanna would do if he were aware of the issue. Mr. Hanna, affirming that Mr. Rodriquez provided him with some anecdotal data, said he did some further checking with the Emergency Room at St. Luke’s Hospital and learned that some of the drug overdose cases could be related to phentenol although there has not been any direct correlation at this point. Mr. Rodriquez asked what Mr. Hanna would direct the Health Bureau to do. Mr. Hanna replied that if Mr. Rodriquez has educational materials he will give them to the Health Bureau. Mr. Rodriquez noted that testing needs to be done by urine and blood. Enumerating the various individuals he has spoken with, Mr. Rodriquez further stated he thinks there is more to the issue than meets the eye and he is asking for further follow-up. Stressing that people are dying, Mr. Rodriquez asserted he does not ever want to hear distaining remarks about these individuals, and added that everyone is a human being no matter what their problems are.

Increasing Police Force

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said since he last spoke about the need to increase the Police force by 20 officers over a 5 year period, it has come to his attention that the Bethlehem Citizens Association has not specified that the Officers should be on the street. Further, the group has not specified what the allocation should be among the four shifts. Mr. Scheirer advised this will be taken up soon by the Association.

Zoning Amendments – Licensed Gaming Facility Use

Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, said he is glad to see the Mayor has changed his opinion about making gaming part of the IR District. Mr. Pfenning said he was not sure why the Administration combined the Sands original ordinance in with theirs, and remarked it has created a parliamentary mess. Mr. Pfenning, noting he supports the zoning amendments, commented he is concerned that the parking requirements are too lenient. Mr. Pfenning stated he raised the issue of bus parking at the Planning Commission meeting, and related that a representative of the Sands did say that some place on the site would be found for buses. However, Mr. Pfenning observed that putting buses on the west of the site would take them through the Third and Hayes Streets intersection that already at most times has a D rating in the traffic study. Mr. Pfenning thought the City may want to look into opening its own lot and making some money from it. Focusing on Ms. Dolan’s remarks about the marina district in Atlantic City, Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that the district is devoid of check cashing, pawn shops, and adult businesses. Mr. Pfenning, turning to discussions about the green aspects of the development, informed the assembly that the sewer facility to the edge of the marina district has put in solar panels generating enough power for 4,000 homes, while meeting its own needs, and already $140,000 has been saved in the first four months of 2006.

State Check - Ashley Development

Holding up Senator Boscola’s legislative update, Mr. Pfenning pointed out there is a picture of a cardboard check in the amount of $550,000 made out to the City of Bethlehem as opposed to Ashley Development and he questioned why.

Mr. Hanna replied he does not know why, but noted the application was in the name of Ashley Development, and further informed Mr. Pfenning that the City does not have the $550,000.

Zoning Amendments – Licensed Gaming Facility Use

Martin Romeril, 26 West Market Street, noted that the proposed Ordinance addressing a licensed gaming facility in the IR District states that adult-oriented businesses must be at least 1,000 feet from a school but only 500 feet from a playground. Mr. Romeril asserted that children are more likely to be playing unsupervised at a playground than at a school where they are under constant supervision. Mr. Romeril wondered why the distance could not be 1,000 feet from playgrounds. Pointing out it also states a distance of 500 feet from churches, Mr. Romeril remarked he does not think churches are any more eager to have such businesses close to them. Mr. Romeril wondered if Members of Council could think about expanding the distance to 1,000 feet for all restricted institutions listed.

Proposed Casino Development Project – Impact on Fire Department

Mr. Romeril read a quote from a Morning Call article of May 24 about the public hearing held in the Lehigh Valley by the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission referring to comments by Kevin Moyzan, former Fire Commissioner, who said the Las Vegas Sands did not provide the Fire Department with the statistics needed for planning and who felt the numbers were not provided to back up their claim that there would be no effect on emergency management in the City. Mr. Romeril asked has the Sands delivered that specific information to the Fire Department.

George Barkanic, Fire Commissioner, responded no, the Fire Department has not received any information from them. Fire Commissioner Barkanic continued on to say, however, it would not be any different than any other development project in the City in that it goes through the Fire Marshall’s office. Fire Commissioner Barkanic continued on to say it will be fully sprinklered because of the size and it is not going to pose much more of a problem than would an industrial park.

Mr. Romeril, expressing his curiosity about the increased number and breakdown of emergency calls as a result of the large number of people who will be at the casino complex, remarked disbelief that bringing 30,000 people a day to the site will not put extra strain on the City’s services.

Mr. Barkanic thought the majority of calls will be EMS calls. Mr. Barkanic added his recollection that the Sands made a commitment to the EMS Bureau for increasing staffing and placing them on that side of town.

Mr. Romeril communicated he wanted to know if it is wise to change the zoning for people who maybe were not being completely forthcoming or cooperative with the City.

Mrs. Belinski recalled she distinctly remembers reading that former Fire Commissioner Moyzan had said he was confident his Department could cover any emergency that would arise. Mrs. Belinski said as far as she knows someone else who retired around the same time had said they were included in any discussions with the Sands.

Zoning Amendments – Licensed Gaming Facility Use

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commented a Member of Council proposed a Resolution to prohibit gambling in the BethWorks area in support of the Moravian Congregation that stated gambling is intrinsically evil and has no place in Bethlehem. The same Member of Council was recently quoted in the newspaper that at this time he would vote to support the zoning amendment that would provide for gambling in that area. Mr. Antalics queried has moral principal given way to political expediency, and questioned might there be a reelection in the wings.

Tunkhannock Creek Reclassification - Exceptional Value

Mr. Antalics, referring to the recent meeting of the Bethlehem Authority at which it considered the advantage of reclassifying the Tunkhannock Creek as Exceptional Value, noted that a Member of Council who gained a reputation as an environmentalist and advocate of open space raised the question at the meeting how would the redesignation affect development. Mr. Antalics queried is it also wise political expedience for a politician to pay heed to their largest campaign contributors.

Middle East

Mr. Antalics, referring to a placard denoting there are 710 reasons to be in the Middle East, held the card upside down to show that the number 710 converts to the word oil.

Zoning Amendments – Licensed Gaming Facility Use

Bruce Haines, 65 West Market Street, commented he finds it interesting that the Administration acknowledges that gaming does bring problems including associated detrimental activities. Mr. Haines stated the proposed zoning ordinance amendment is an attempt to preclude the ancillary activities one would associate with gaming from congregating around the casino. Mr. Haines remarked that to permit gaming in the middle of the community and near a nationally ranked institution of higher learning is a net loss and not a net gain for Bethlehem. Mr. Haines asserted that a detailed review of the proposed zoning ordinance amendment will reveal the entire recommendation is seriously flawed, and lacks the proper due diligence recommended by the Planning Commission nearly one year ago for an independent, third party study to assess the total impact of this change. Mr. Haines insisted the end result is a document that spreads all of the detrimental activities associated with gaming into other neighborhoods throughout the City. Exemplifying that pawn shops will not be permitted in the IR zone or within 5,000 feet of the casino property, Mr. Haines stressed it puts them into neighborhoods all over the City where CG and CS zones exist. He continued on to point out it permits them in virtually every entry corridor in the City such as Five Points, Stefko Boulevard, Liberty High School area, New Street area north of Broad Street, Linden Street near Macada Road, most of West Broad Street, Lehigh Shopping Center, and near Hellertown. Observing that on the surface it seems reasonable to permit adult entertainment only in the HI district at least 5,000 feet from the casino, Mr. Haines pointed out the property adjoining the new Riverport residential and restaurant facility, and Union Station where St. Luke’s Hospital facilities are located appears to meet the criteria. Highlighting the fact that check cashing facilities will be permitted inside the casino hotel, Mr. Haines observed it could drive local residents to the casino in order to cash their checks. Mr. Haines further pointed out that, by designating the IR District as the appropriate zone for gaming facilities, it opens the door for a second casino to be located on the site of the new Lowe’s on Eighth Avenue located in an IR zone. Mr. Haines thought the obvious zone for a casino is the IR-Flexible zone that has only one location near the I-78 interchange and is surrounded by heavy industrial zoned property. He added this would put the casino further from the historic community and away from the residential district, churches, and schools. Mr. Haines reminded City Council that at every meeting on the subject of casino gambling the citizens of Bethlehem spoke out anywhere from two to one to as much as four to one against the casino. He noted that in the election last November Joseph Leeson garnered the most votes as the only anti-casino candidate on the ballot while the most outspoken casino supporter, Jean Belinski, totaled the fewest number of votes. Mr. Haines insisted the citizens have been clear that casinos are not welcome here. Mr. Haines expressed the hope that City Council will represent the voice of the people. He urged City officials to demand proper due diligence in the process, including the third party study recommended by the Planning Commission, and to properly comprehend the impact to the community of the voluminous additional traffic. He added that the traffic study presented by the Sands failed to properly address the already congested I-78 corridor. Mr. Haines said the proposed zoning ordinance amendments are seriously flawed and incomplete. Mr. Haines urged City Council to demand proper due diligence before rushing into a vote on the most significant zoning change in the history of the City.

Unsanitary Conditions - 200, 300, and 400 blocks of East Fifth Street

Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, informed the assembly that on Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 8:35 a.m. she came across the filthiest conditions she has ever seen in the 200, 300, and 400 blocks of East Fifth Street. Stressing this is not a blanket indictment of students and landlords, Ms. Pongracz explained she called Mr. Donchez who called Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, and the Police were astounded to see the behavior of the students. Further advising that City Inspectors were sent, Ms. Pongracz applauded the Administration for their efforts.

Mayor Callahan advised that the Mayor’s Office also received a call over the weekend, and it looked at least as bad as Ms. Pongracz described. The Police Commissioner talked to the Mayor about the events that transpired over the weekend, and the Police tried to deal with a rather difficult situation. Focusing on the trash and litter issues, the Mayor advised that Health and Housing Inspectors went to the site. The Health Bureau issued 20 notices last week, as of today 10 of those issues were abated, and citations were issued for the others. A number of issues were so egregious that the City corrected them and will request reimbursement. Turning to housing issues, Mayor Callahan continued on to advise that in the 200 to 600 blocks of East Fifth Street 38 notices were issued.

Proposed Casino Development Project – BethWorks Site – South Side

Ms. Pongracz, stating she is in favor of a casino, said “we need the City to stay afloat.” Remarking that people would not say they will give the City 50% more in taxes, Ms. Pongracz said things that have been quoted may happen but she lives in a world of what will happen that is the City will be on financial footing. Ms. Pongracz, questioning how many people at the casino hearings did not live in the City, asserted “the people in this City want a casino because of the preservation of Bethlehem Steel [and] because of the preservation of the largest brownfield that is going to die if we don’t preserve it.”

Neighborhood Activities – Raspberry and Garrison Streets Area

Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, referring to several newspaper articles, said on August 25, 2006 in the Express-Times it was reported that the Police said the actions could have endangered lives because in July an individual cut a bolt clipping a gas pipe that could have started a catastrophic explosion. Previously, in the unit block of Raspberry Street there was a gas explosion. In addition, Ms. Krasley pointed out that someone had donated money to the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) as a loan for the person to pay off his utility company’s debt. Ms. Krasley remarked that she thought the CACLV was to target services for low-income families. Ms. Krasley continued on to relate that on August 29, 2006 in the Morning Call it was reported that a judge ordered a sex offender, living in the 100 block of Garrison Street, to pay for the victim’s therapy. Ms. Krasley questioned “how are we going to keep our children safe. How are we going to know when people are in our neighborhoods.” She continued on to inform the assembly that on August 29, 2006 in the Express-Times it was reported that a man, who was living with his girlfriend and her family in the 100 block of East Raspberry Street, was accused of stealing money and a computer from his girlfriend’s family and fleeing in their vehicle. Ms. Krasley remarked this is a brief overview of what is going on in her neighborhood.

Parking Requirements – Downtown Development Projects

Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, communicated that parking does not have to be provided for Ashley Development’s projects. Mr. Bruch stressed that garages are being built that cannot go up much higher. Mr. Bruch asserted that the City should not authorize something if it is not done right. Mr. Bruch queried whether the building being constructed by Ashley Development at Broad and New Street will have 20 parking spaces.

Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, responded that parking is not required in the CB – Commercial Business District, but advised that parking will be provided within the first floor of the building. Ms. Heller further informed Mr. Bruch that parking is not required in the CB zone because there are public parking lots and parking garages.

Commercial Mixed Uses Zoning District and Rezoning Parcels Along Eighth Avenue, Eaton Avenue and Schoenersville Road to CMU District

Mr. Bruch, focusing on the project proposed for Eighth Avenue, remarked that the person wants to develop something that was never envisioned to be.

City Spending

Turning to the proposed casino, Mr. Bruch said he does not think City officials know how to make money and save it, but they spend, and borrow money from Authorities. Mr. Bruch stressed this type of loaning practice has to stop.

BEDCO – Real Estate Taxes

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, referring to recent newspaper articles, noted some real estate taxes were not paid on property that is owned by BEDCO. Mr. Grubb, saying he would like to know if the taxes were paid and from what source, expressed the hope that taxpayers money was not used.

Northampton County – Tax Assessments

Mr. Grubb, turning to an article in this morning’s newspaper, remarked that Northampton County cannot keep up with the rate of development and getting properties assessed and on the tax rolls. Mr. Grubb, presuming this would also affect taxes for the City of Bethlehem and the Bethlehem Area School District, said it means existing taxpayers are footing the bill more than they should be. Mr. Grubb said he would be curious to know how much is outstanding in the City because of the backlog. Mr. Grubb questioned the source of the real estate computation for the 2006 assessed valuation number listed in the 2006 Budget and whether the number includes what is anticipated or is provided by the County. He further asked how much is the City not getting taxes on what it should be. Mr. Grubb inquired can the City legally back charge to January 1, and further asked will the City do so. Mr. Grubb pointed out it was discovered that for Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VI there was $9.7 million in assessed property that was not being taxed, so every other taxpayer is footing the bill. Mr. Grubb expressed the hope that the City is encouraging the County to address the matter because there is a lot of revenue that the City needs and should be getting.

Mayor Callahan confirmed that the taxes have been paid by BEDCO. Mayor Callahan commented it is unfortunate that the County is behind in their tax assessment since it is a basic county function and they need to do a better job in doing so. Mayor Callahan, advising he will be having a conversation with the Northampton County Executive about the issue, further stated that the Business Administrator and Financial Services Director are diligent in checking with the County to make sure redevelopment projects are put on the tax roles as soon as possible. Mayor Callahan remarked that, fortunately, the majority of Council this evening agreed to take a property that is presently assessed at $2 million and have it redeveloped for a new assessment of $15 million that will result in $370,000 more in tax revenue for the City. Mayor Callahan advised the number that is quoted as the City’s tax base is a County number. The City calls the County at budget time and asks the tax base or the total ratables and the City budgets accordingly.


The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.