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December 5, 2006 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Town Hall – 10 East Church Street
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 – 9:00 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Gordon Mowrer offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo and J. Michael Schweder, 6. Jean Belinski was absent, 1.
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, a Public Hearing was conducted to consider a request to rezone from I – Institutional District to RM – Residential District a tract of land along the easterly side of Montclair Avenue and north of West Eighth Street, in the City of Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
7 A. Planning Commission – Rezoning 625-633 Montclair Avenue – I to RM
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 13, 2006 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, stating that the Planning Commission voted unanimously at their meeting of November 9, 2006 to recommend approval of the rezoning proposal for 625-633 Montclair Avenue from I – Institutional District to RM – Residential District.
7 B. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission - Rezoning 625-633
Montclair Avenue – I to RM
The Clerk read a letter dated October 27, 2006 from Olev Taremae, Chief Planner, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, stating that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, at their October 26, 2006 meeting, considered the proposed rezoning and found the matter to be a matter of local concern only and voted to offer no comments in its regard.
Planning Director Comments
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, pointed to a map and explained there is land currently owned by Lehigh University but is under agreement with HOM, Inc. Ms. Heller showed the land presently zoned I – Institutional and owned by Lehigh University, and Montclair Avenue that dead ends to the south and towards the top of South Mountain. Ms. Heller advised that everything to the west is zoned RM – Residential which is high density. She highlighted the parcels that jut out owned by Lehigh University and requested to be rezoned that are three separate lots that combined are about one-third acre, are non-conforming, are zoned Institutional, the minimum lot size is five acres, and schools and churches are among the permitted uses but which could not be accommodated on a parcel this size. There is no rear access to the parcel, the only access is via Montclair Avenue, and immediately to the rear there is a fraternity house. HOM, Inc. plans to build affordable housing on the lots. Ms. Heller confirmed that the Planning Commission, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and the Planning and Zoning Office support the rezoning. Surrounding the area, most of the lots are developed and are comprised of singles, twins, or town homes. Ms. Heller affirmed that reuse of the parcels as residential would be in keeping with the surrounding area.
Ms. Szabo asked if the proposed plans come under the steep slope Ordinance.
Ms. Heller said it goes up the mountain and no matter what occurs on the parcels would have to go before the Zoning Hearing Board for variances from the steep slope provisions. Ms. Heller further affirmed to Ms. Szabo that will come as the plan develops.
Ms. Szabo inquired should it not be considered if it is going to change with the development.
Ms. Dolan asked if the homes would be for sale to low income owners as opposed to renters.
Ms. Heller responded in the affirmative, and explained it is a non-profit group that sells homes to first time home buyers at affordable rates.
Attorney Michael Corriere, representing HOM, Inc., advised it is a non-profit corporation created in 1981 that has a past relationship working with the City, and it is a CHDO certified agency. Attorney Corriere explained the organization is requesting zoning relief and is the equitable owner of the property. The land will be subdivided into four properties with single family attached dwellings. Attorney Corriere communicated it would be of benefit to the community, and the surrounding area is all Residential mostly for faculty and students. Adding it would otherwise be vacant land, Attorney Corriere expressed that is why Lehigh University and the HOM Board worked together to do something creative with the land to the benefit of the City. Attorney Corriere, affirming the organization has applied for a CHDO grant, further confirmed the housing will be for sale, and will not be rentals.
President Schweder asked if the matter would have to go to the Zoning Hearing Board after it were approved by Council.
Ms. Heller confirmed it would have to go to the Zoning Hearing Board to review the development on the slopes.
Attorney Corriere advised the engineer has already prepared the issue that will need to be reviewed by the Zoning Hearing Board.
President Schweder thought the process is backwards, and perhaps the Ordinance could be changed where that approval would be requested first before a rezoning request is made.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Ordinance
will be placed on the December 19
Council Agenda for First Reading.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of November 21, 2006 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances
and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
City of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council
Kim Shaffer, 735 Center Street, co-owner of Clothes Line Organics located on East Third Street, remarked that creation of an Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) is the right thing to do in view of issues such as air pollution and food supply, and added that people will vote with their tourism dollars. She pointed out that cities across the country are responding with green initiatives. Ms. Shaffer thought an EAC has the potential to save the City money over time since an environmentally forward City is an efficient City and would make the City a better place. Ms. Shaffer said she looks forward to passage of the Ordinance.
Pratima Agrawal, 4008 Killarney Drive, spoke in support of the formation of an Environmental Advisory Council. Ms. Agrawal recounted that points raised by Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil were a faction of the environmental concerns that the City could be addressing. Ms. Agrawal thought it would defy logic to not have a dedicated and knowledgeable group of individuals who can tackle such issues. Ms. Agrawal communicated that the City does have environmental issues as does every City including green building standards, emissions, transportation, and air quality. She added it is the duty of a City to provide a safe, healthy, and clean environment for citizens, and to preserve its natural resources. Ms. Agrawal stressed that an EAC is needed to make Bethlehem a more livable and sustainable place to live now and for future generations. Ms. Agrawal urged Council to approve the creation of an Environmental Advisory Council.
Phil Burtner, 1851 Paul Avenue, president of the Monocacy Creek Watershed Association, asked for Council’s support for the creation of an Environmental Advisory Council. Mr. Burtner recalled that under former Mayor Smith’s Administration a Citizens Action Committee was formed of which he was a member but it disbanded. Mr. Burtner advised he was impressed with what EAC’s have done in other communities, and again asked for Council’s support.
George Assad, 1501 East Highland Street, with Global Business Access, commented that an Environmental Advisory Council is needed in terms of quality of life related to environmental issues, asserted it is also a health issue, and one of enforcement and compliance with laws at the State, Federal, and International levels. In addition, he thought it was the City’s fiduciary responsibility to enforce any and all laws dealing with development.
Jeanne Ortiz, of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council located in Philadelphia, expressed her support for the formation of an Environmental Advisory Council. Ms. Ortiz affirmed that over the past few months she has been working with the Human Resources and Environment Committee on the issue. Ms. Ortiz pointed out that Bethlehem’s would be the first City EAC in the Northeast. Ms. Ortiz informed the assembly that the formation has the full support of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and residents. She observed there is an impressive group of talented and committed individuals in Bethlehem who are willing to serve on an EAC. Ms. Ortiz explained that the Pennsylvania Environmental Council would help launch the City’s EAC and move it forward.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, informed the assembly that the Bethlehem Citizens Association voted 11 to 0 with one abstention in support of the establishment of a City of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council. He added that a number of members of the Association would like to be on the EAC. Mr. Scheirer noted he was quite impressed by the Lower Saucon Township EAC.
Bruce Haines, 65 West Market Street, expressed his support
for the implementation of an
Environmental Advisory Council. Mr. Haines thought the first action EAC would have to take would be to recommend that a casino not be brought into Bethlehem in view of emissions from 30,000 people a day coming into the City, as well as the number of buses and traffic. Mr. Haines remarked it would be incongruous for any Council Member voting for the EAC to also support the casino.
6. OLD BUSINESS
C. Director of Public Works – Resolution for Installation and Maintenance of Traffic Signal at Intersection of East Fourth Street and Lynn Avenue
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 29, 2006 from Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to which was attached a proposed resolution to erect, operate, and maintain a traffic signal at the intersection of East Fourth Street, Lynn Avenue, and a realigned Bessemer Street (vacated) as part of the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII development. The realignment of Bessemer Street (which will then be called Lynn Avenue) opposite Lynn Avenue and signalization of this intersection will improve safety and access to East Fourth Street. The resolution is a standard requirement of Penn DOT.
President Schweder stated the resolution will be placed on the December 19, 2006 Agenda.
D. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement – Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 28, 2006 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Use Permit Agreement between the Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant Society and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Community Arts Pavilion and surrounding field for the 2006 Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant.
President Schweder stated that authorizing Resolution 11 F is listed on the agenda.
A. President of Council
C. Human Resources and Environment Committee
Ms. Dolan, Chairwoman of the Human Resources and Environment
Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee's meeting
held on Tuesday, November 28, 2006 on the following subjects:
Health Bureau - A. Director of Environmental Health –
Upgrade, B. Director of Health Education and Planning –
Upgrade; Human Resources Bureau - Addition of Payroll/Human
Resources Assistant; City Controller - A. Combining Deputy
Controller and Internal Auditor, B. Deletion of Internal Auditor,
C. Addition of Account Clerk II; Department of Police –
Addition of One Police Officer; Department of Fire - A. Addition
of One Lieutenant Inspector; B. Bureau of Emergency Medical
Services – Addition of Two Paramedics; and 911 System
- Addition of One Public Safety Information Technology Officer.
D. Finance Committee
Mr. Leeson, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held December 5, 2006, prior to this evening's Council Meeting, on the following subjects: Bethlehem Authority – Finances.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 41 – 2006 – Amending General Fund Budget
The Clerk read Bill No. 41 – 2006 – Amending General Fund Budget, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 41 - 2006: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 41 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4404, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 42 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget
The Clerk read Bill No. 42 – 2006 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 42 - 2006: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 42 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4405, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 54 – 2006 – Amending Article 342 – Re-enacting LERTA – Enterprise Development Area
The Clerk read Bill No. 54 – 2006 – Amending Article 342 – Re-enacting LERTA – Enterprise Development Area, on Final Reading.
Ms. Szabo asked if more information was supposed to be supplied about the LERTA Program.
Howard Lieberman, Economic Development Coordination, replied the current proposal is to extend the current LERTA Program exactly the way it is with the exception of the dates. Mr. Lieberman confirmed the proposed changes were tabled and will be presented at a future date.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 54 – 2006: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 54 – 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4406, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 55 – 2006 – Establishing City of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC)
The Clerk read Bill No. 55 – 2006 – Establishing City of Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mr. Donchez, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
NORTHAMPTON AND LEHIGH COUNTIES,
PENNSYLVANIA, CREATING AN ENVIRONMENTAL
ADVISORY COUNCIL, PROVIDING OPERATING PROCEDURES
AND STATING THE POWERS OF THE COUNCIL
Mr. Leeson, affirming he will vote in favor of the Bill on First Reading, stated his vote on Final Reading will be conditioned on several changes being made. Mr. Leeson requested that Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, draft appropriate language so that Amendments can be considered on Final Reading, as follows: Section 4 – delete the provision concerning reimbursement for expenses; Section 9 – delete provision concerning appropriation of funds by City Council; insert a sunset provision so that three years from date of enactment City Council will conduct a review of the work of the Environmental Advisory Council to see if it has been a constructive addition to the process of City government. Mr. Leeson, noting he had a discussion with Ms. Dolan who convinced him there is merit to the EAC, explained the paving of green space and the destruction of farmland that are two issues of most concern to him would not be ameliorated under the Ordinance. However, Ms. Dolan pointed out there are other issues that can potentially be addressed. Mr. Leeson observed whenever the type of language appears in an Ordinance pertaining to reimbursement for expenses then there are expenses, money is spent, and a bureaucracy sometimes grows around it. Mr. Leeson expressed that sometimes government creates new agencies that take on a life of their own and do not have to justify their continued existence so he would like to visit the issue in three years to review whether the work of the organization merits reauthorization.
Ms. Dolan asked if each of the amendments could be voted on separately.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 55 – 2006 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Transfer of Funds – Police Department – Overtime
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 14,968 that transferred $54,000 in the General Fund Budget from the following accounts: $41,000 – Unforeseen Contingency and $13,000 – Police Department-Salaries to the Police Department – General Overtime account to provide additional funds needed in the account.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
Considering Resolutions11 B Through 11 E as a Group
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan moved to consider Resolutions 11 B through 11 E as a group. Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 12-14 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,969 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install leaded glass transoms at 12-14 West Fourth Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 407 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,970 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 407 East Fourth Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 322 East Third Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,971 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 322 East Third Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 123 West Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,972 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 123 West Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 B through 11 E: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
F. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – 2006 Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,973 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between the Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant Society, Inc. and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Community Arts Pavilion and surrounding field for the 2006 Live Bethlehem Christmas Pageant from December 4, 2006 to January 8, 2007, according to the terms of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Final Budget Meeting - Amendments
Mr. Donchez asked if a date is set by which Members of Council would have to submit their amendments for the Final Budget Meeting.
President Schweder asked anyone who has amendments to submit them to the City Clerk’s Office by Friday, December 8, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.
Ms. Dolan communicated that the op ed piece written by Tony
Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development in rebuttal
to a previous op ed piece in the Morning
Call about the quality of life was cogent and well written, and commended Mr. Hanna.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Planning Commission Meeting
Martin Romeril, 26 West Market Street, expressed his understanding that there was compliance with the law in advertisement of the October 31, 2006 Planning Commission meeting in the classified section of the Saturday, October 28 edition of the Express-Times, the lowest circulation day of the smallest circulation newspaper. He thought a reason why this was done was to suppress public notice of and participation in the meeting. Mr. Romeril communicated that an Ordinance should be passed requiring that all public meetings of the City be posted publicly for five days when City Hall is open before the meeting is held so that the situation is not repeated. Mr. Romeril added that the Planning Commission cannot vote on anything that has not been submitted at least 30 days prior as stated on the City’s website. Mr. Romeril wondered why the matter could not have waited until the next regularly scheduled meeting the following Thursday.
Proposed Casino Development Project - BethWorks
Bruce Haines, 65 West Market Street, expressed his displeasure with the misrepresentations on the eve of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meetings that came out of City Hall concerning Mr. Hanna’s article in the Morning Call, and a similar article in the Morning Call by the Mayor several days earlier in which he said the Mayor grossly misrepresented that the community has congealed behind the proposed plans for a casino at BethWorks. Mr. Haines highlighted the fact that at a past meeting in Town Hall on the zoning of the site people were standing outside prepared to talk about why this was the wrong thing for the City. Mr. Haines continued on to say at that time people could stand up and rebut the Mayor as they do in an op ed piece. Mr. Haines pointed out that at tomorrow’s Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting there will be no opportunity to rebut by the citizens. Mr. Haines asked that the City representatives accurately portray the fact that this remains a very divided City over the issue of a casino development project. Mr. Haines said the second inaccuracy and misrepresentation are the telephone calls received by citizens from the Mayor’s South Side Task Force inviting them to go for free to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting to support the Sand’s casino development project at the BethWorks site, presumably paid for by the City of Bethlehem which he thought would be a misuse of City funds. Mr. Haines advised that he attended the October 31, 2006 Planning Commission meeting at which was approved preliminary architectural plans which he stressed is a big difference from preliminary land development approval. Mr. Haines wanted to ensure that is made very clear tomorrow at the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting.
Edwin Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, asked that the microphones be fixed so the public can hear what is said. Mr. Rodriquez said some City officials make commitments and do not follow through on them, and explained that Mr. Hanna has assumed the responsibility for several things but has not followed through. Mr. Rodriquez said Jose Cruz from the Health Bureau mentioned something that Mr. Hanna was supposed to handle and he is still waiting. Mr. Rodriquez thanked the City staff for taking the time to assist when they can. Mr. Rodriquez advised that some garbage haulers are not assuming responsibility for pickup up trash that falls out of their trucks particular at Broadway and Ontario Street. Mr. Rodriquez stressed a lot of sites are being damaged by graffiti including Boyer Street. Mr. Rodriquez agreed that the City is divided on the issue of the casino development.
Proposed Casino Development Project - BethWorks
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, said many of the people who came to the hearings on the casinos did not live in the City and specifically did not live on the South Side. Ms. Pongracz pointed out if someone does not wish to gamble then they do not gamble. Ms. Pongracz, remarking it was unfair to declare the majority of people do not want the casino, stated the majority of people want economic development and that is why she supports the casino. Ms. Pongracz asserted without economic development the City will die, and highlighted the fact that the City needs economic development. Ms. Pongracz, stressing it is time for people in the community to understand that City Council has looked at the topic of BethWorks carefully, acknowledged there are negatives, observed there are negatives to everything, but said the positives outweigh the negatives. Ms. Pongracz denoted that Northampton Community College is ready to start a hospitality program for students so they can work in the casino industry. Ms. Pongracz added that the brownfields at the site of the Bethlehem Works have been there far too long. Focusing on the buses to take people to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meeting to support the Sand’s casino development project at the BethWorks site, Ms. Pongracz stressed the City had nothing whatsoever to do with the bus for tomorrow and it was a misrepresentation to say the City was involved.
City of Bethlehem
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, read a statement about a very special interest taken in the community that the forefathers named in honor of the birthplace of his only son.
Volume of Speakers
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, stated there were a
number of speakers that could not be heard this evening, and
suggested that citizens give a sign that they cannot hear
so that the speaker moves closer to the microphone.
City Officials - Honesty
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, communicated that many senior citizens in the community struggle to stay in their homes, and suggested that no budget cut is too small.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:05 p.m.