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May 1, 2007 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 – 7:30 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Schweder called the meeting to order. Reverend Gilberto Garcia-Rodriguez of First United Church of Christ offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder 6. Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. was absent, 1.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of April 10, 2007 and April 17, 2007 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Street Vacation – Deschler Street
President Schweder stated that, under Agenda item 7, he will ask that a letter received today be read into the record requesting that Bill No. 7 for the Deschler Street Vacation be removed from the Agenda.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, urged Council to vote down Resolution 11 A that authorizes a lease agreement with Adams Outdoor Advertising for billboards, to table it, or refer it to committee. He noted the Resolution would lease property on the north side of Schoenersville Road and on the west side of Monocacy Creek for five outdoor advertising display boards from January 1 through December 31, 2009 at a rental rate $5,000 per year. Mr. Scheirer expressed it is surprising there are still billboards in the City of Bethlehem, forty years after the successful efforts of Ladybird Johnson to ban billboards from interstate highways. Mr. Scheirer expressed the opinion that not only are billboards unsightly, but they distract drivers if they are effective, and there are many other ways in which advertisers can communicate with the public. In addition, Mr. Scheirer urged City Council to ban any additional billboards in the City, stating that it would be a prohibition like any other in the zoning regulations. Mr. Scheirer said if there are any other billboards on City property, the leases could simply not be renewed when they expired, and the City could take easements on current properties with billboards by eminent domain, compensating the owners at the rate of $1,000 per year for each billboard. If there were complaints about the cost, Mr. Scheirer thought the City could add an optional box to the real estate tax form for taxpayers to donate $5 to eliminate billboards, and added he has already heard from a number of people who would be willing to do so. Mr. Scheirer thought that not having billboards in the City would make Bethlehem stand out even more.
Amending Article 1714 – Creating Mount Airy Historic District
Mark Smith, Chief Financial Officer of the Allentown Diocese, noted one of the largest parts of the Mount Airy Historic District is a property owned by the Diocese of Allentown that is Holy Family Manor, Holy Family Villa, Trexler Manor, and Holy Family Villa Apartments. While observing that the desire for a historic district is recognized, Mr. Smith said it is requested that Holy Family Manor properties be specifically excluded from the provisions of the proposed Mount Airy Historic District Ordinance. Noting the National Register Historic District has existed since 1987, Mr. Smith read from the original National Register of Historic Places that three private residences have been altered for other uses but remain contributing. In each case, changes made to the houses reflect sensitivity to the integrity of the original designs. The former Eugene Grace Mansion became Holy Family Manor, a nursing home operated by the Diocese of Allentown. A large addition was made, and all the new work is in character with the original. The C. A. Buck house is now a residence for priests. A large addition in white stone was made to the rear of the building in a style similar to the house. In 1990, the Diocese built the McShea Pavilion, the architectural integrity of the property was maintained, and the brick was matched to the original brick of Grace Mansion. Stating it is felt the proposed Ordinance will be a burden on the Diocese, and particularly on Holy Family Manor because of its mission of assisting the needy, the elderly, and the impoverished, Mr. Smith read from Holy Family Manor’s mission statement. Mr. Smith, highlighting the fact that Holy Family Manor is a non-profit, pointed out it does not make money, and operates at break-even. Mr. Smith continued on to say it is felt the proposed Ordinance will be time-consuming to comply with since the organization will have to file with the Historic Commission to seek approval for any exterior changes. Advising there are 320 residents, Mr. Smith further informed the Members that 362 people are employed at the complex of which 199 are Bethlehem residents. Commenting that 30 people received notice of the proposed Ordinance change, Mr. Smith said it is felt that as a care provider, Holy Family Manor is the largest land mass and probably has the largest number of residents in the Historic District. Adding it is felt the District is fragmented. Mr. Smith noted only three properties in the District are surrounded on all four sides by other properties in the District. Reiterating it is felt that complying with the Ordinance will be time-consuming and require another level of bureaucracy, Mr. Smith highlighted the fact that the organization is already subject to Federal and State regulations because of Medicare, Medicaid, and licensure as an assisted living facility and nursing home. Mr. Smith advised that Holy Family Manor would request to be specifically excluded from the Ordinance.
Attorney Thomas Maloney, 901 West Lehigh Street, advised he is at the Meeting on behalf of two clients. Attorney Maloney, stating he represents Tom and Laura Kerr of 1521 Prospect Avenue, denoted the property is very well-maintained and explained it consists of two acres on which is located a single family residence and carriage house, it always has been a single family residential use, and there are no tenants in the property. Adding it is located on the western edge of the Historic District, Attorney Maloney pointed out there is no room for any additional buildings or units that would be constructed on the premises. Attorney Maloney said he is here to petition Council to please delete this property from the proposed Historic District Ordinance. Communicating that his clients cannot support the Ordinance as presented, Attorney Maloney noted the historic designation was made over 15 years ago, and the proposed Historic District Ordinance is before City Council at the behest of many residents in the area. Attorney Maloney explained it is being asked to reward the Kerrs in a sense for maintaining their property and beautifying it in a very fine historic manner. Pointing out there are other Ordinances that dictate how buildings are to be maintained, including building codes, Attorney Maloney pointed out there are City inspectors and the City spends much money each year enforcing the various codes. Attorney Maloney said it is thought the proposal is just overlay on top of overlay. Attorney Maloney communicated the Ordinance is constitutionally vague, standards are mentioned and yet there are standards that will be developed after passage. Most importantly, Attorney Maloney stressed it is believed that, if the Ordinance is adopted, there has been an inappropriate delegation of City Council’s responsibilities to make the law since, according to the letter dated April 11, 2007 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, the State Historical Commission and the National Register determine what properties should be in the Historic District. Speaking on behalf of his second client, Attorney Maloney stated it is wrong to include in the Ordinance the property to the east at 1509 Calypso Avenue fronting on Calypso Avenue. Attorney Maloney stated it has no basis in law and no basis in fact. Attorney Maloney, observing these designations are clearly the basis of including the historical designations that took place in late 1980’s, said this lot was part of another property that fronted on Prospect Avenue. It was included because that property was historic in nature. However, in 1991 the City approved a subdivision of that property and therefore the Hayfield property which is a vacant lot has been erroneously included. Attorney Maloney asked, on that basis alone since there are no buildings to control, that the property be excluded. Attorney Maloney stated the five minute restriction placed on two separate clients is inappropriate.
Attorney Maloney asked that the record of the proceeding this evening include his letter dated April 23, 2007 addressed to Magdalena Szabo, Chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, concerning the Mount Airy Historic District in order to make it part of the legislative history.
Jim Polaski, Administrator at Holy Family Manor, said he also represents Trexler Pavilion, Grace Mansion, and Holy Family Partners. Mr. Polaski affirmed the properties are nearly 50% of the proposed area of the Historic District by land mass. Adding there are over 300 residents and over 300 employees, Mr. Polaski asserted the proposed Ordinance does nothing to protect or improve their lives. Mr. Polaski said since 1963 the property has been beautifully maintained and improved, and stressed that the Ordinance is not necessary. Affirming the organization is a non-profit, Mr. Polaski highlighted the fact that in 2006 it provided $2.7 million of charitable care for the citizens of Bethlehem. Mr. Polaski pointed out that every additional cost in time and money that the proposal causes directly affects the organization’s ability to care for its residents. Reiterating that Holy Family Manor would like to be excluded from the Historic District, Mr. Polaski stated the organization’s residents are the people who built the City, and the Ordinance does nothing to protect them or to improve their lives.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commended William Scheirer for his efforts concerning billboards and expressed his support. Mr. Antalics suggested that Resolution 11 A be tabled. Referring to various streets in Philadelphia and Wayne, Mr. Antalics highlighted how they are thriving in the midst of large shopping centers, and contrasted them with an area of Camden, New Jersey where there is a derelict area of businesses. Mr. Antalics said the difference is the presence or absence of billboards, and the residential nature of the communities. Mr. Antalics stressed how that can be destroyed by commercializing an area. Mr. Antalics suggested that the Members of Council visit the areas and then vote on Resolution 11 A.
Amending Article 1714 –Creating Mount Airy Historic District
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, a member of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission, advised that many hours were spent debating about the Mount Airy Historic District. Ms. Pongracz said in her opinion Mount Airy is a historic area that circles the City of Bethlehem from the South Side to the North Side and to the West Side historic areas. Ms. Pongracz expressed she finds it difficult to understand how representatives of Holy Family Manor can speak about not wanting to be part of the Historic District. Highlighting the fact that the representatives spoke about how new construction conforms to the historic look of the exterior, Ms. Pongracz pointed out that the organization has done what it was supposed to do, she queried then why not make it legal, and wondered what is the difficulty. Affirming she is very well aware of what Holy Family Manor has done for the City, Ms. Pongracz stressed that the request to be excluded from the historic area with the protections that come from being part of it is difficult to understand. Ms. Pongracz queried what is the difference between continuing the present look of the area and being part of the Historic Conservation District. Ms. Pongracz asserted the arguments are not logical and do not make sense. Asking that Council add the Mount Airy District to the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District, Ms. Pongracz observed that all are working for the same purpose that is to preserve what history the City has in the different eras of the City’s history. Ms. Pongracz wondered, if it continues to be said that Holy Family Manor does not want to be part of the Historic District, why is the organization staying in Bethlehem.
Beverly Phelan, 1857 Homestead Avenue, informing the Members that she works for a home health non-profit agency in the City, said she is certain any construction that was done at Holy Family Manor has always been in keeping with trying to maintain the integrity of the building and in a most cost effective way. Ms. Phelan expressed her impression of a historical area is that there is a higher level of monies involved in maintaining historical homes, and there is an exactness that needs to be maintained that sometimes is not able to be accomplished in the most cost effective way. Stating she understands the challenges of Holy Family Manor as a non-profit agency in trying to operate under the Medicare guidelines, Ms. Phelan communicated she would prefer to put an extra dollar into the care and maintaining the dignity and quality of life of the residents of the facility rather than into maintaining the historic nature of the building.
Dean Rinehart, 821 Prospect Avenue, noted he is a resident of the Mount Airy Historic District and would be affected by the Ordinance. Mr. Rinehart stated the Ordinance should be passed as written. Pointing out that the overwhelming majority of residents in the area are in favor of passage of the Ordinance, Mr. Rinehart denoted that the representatives of Holy Family Manor who spoke this evening are not residents. Mr. Rinehart said those in favor of the Ordinance fully understand the benefits and burdens they will undertake because the Ordinance is clear, the boundaries are set following the National Register, and the representation within the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission is fair and balanced. Asserting that the Mount Airy Historic District needs and deserves conservation, Mr. Rinehart observed that West Bethlehem is enjoying a boom aided by a locally favorable housing market, and the Martin Tower project. Mr. Rinehart communicated that people are realizing the benefits of moving back into urban areas and with them comes money and a desire to rehabilitate classic homes. Communicating that the Mount Airy Historic District is unique in the City, Mr. Rinehart added it contains well-maintained single family homes that in most cases are indistinguishable from the day they were first occupied. He continued on to say with the proper conservation Ordinance in place, it can be assured the properties will be maintained appropriately for future generations. Mr. Rinehart stressed it can be seen what happens when historic conservation districts come too late or not at all, and grand old homes are lost. Mr. Rinehart asserted that nationally recognized historic districts should be protected. Mr. Rinehart pointed out that a historic district can have a markedly positive impact on structures within its boundaries and the surrounding area, as demonstrated by increased property values and revitalization. Mr. Rinehart remarked that the absence of an approved historic district Ordinance may impact the integrity and significance of historic structures and could result in removal of a district by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and from the National Register. Mr. Rinehart emphasized that, without proper conservation, historic structures may be lost forever. Mr. Rinehart added that review of work on a structure is conducted for free by experienced and informed members of the City’s Historic Commission. Mr. Rinehart noted his understanding that, under the guidelines, if work on a structure will cost more than can be reasonably afforded then the property owner may come to the Historic Commission or City Council concerning the hardship in order to resolve the issue. Mr. Rinehart said to his knowledge no businesses or organizations in the City’s historic conservation districts have closed because of inability to meet guidelines. Mr. Rinehart stressed that passage of the Ordinance is a must to preserve the homes and their rich history in the Mount Airy Historic District.
Certificate of Appropriateness - Wildflower Café - 316 South New Street
Loly Kinny, Programs Director of the Community Artists of Bethlehem, addressed the Certificate of Appropriateness Resolution 11 E for the Wildflower Café at 316 South New Street where the group is conducting a community mural. Ms. Kinny noted that the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission brought to the group’s attention their concern about the façade of the building structure. Ms. Kinny affirmed that, at the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission’s special meeting, held April 12, 2007, at the Wildflower Café, it was agreed to use backing board so that the mosaic tiles would not be applied directly on the façade of the brick building. Ms. Kinny asked Council to support the Certificate of Appropriateness because so many people have a vested interest in the project, and added that the community has been involved with it for three weekends. Ms. Kinny read quotes from newspaper articles about the project, including a quote from Mayor Callahan.
Amending Article 1714 – Creating Mount Airy Historic District
Judith Swartley-Loush, 1324 Prospect Avenue, stated she is at the Meeting to support the Mount Airy Historic District Ordinance, as presently written, that includes Holy Family Manor along with the other properties. Ms. Swartley pointed out that, of the 29 properties to be included in the District, 3 belong to Holy Family Manor located at 1220 and 1230 Prospect Avenue, and an unnumbered residence. Of the 26 remaining homes, there are letters of support from 19 homeowners, or 73%. Highlighting the fact that the reason for the Mount Airy area is Eugene Grace, a past president of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Ms. Swartley queried what will be left of the Mount Airy Historic District if Holy Family Manor, the site of the former mansion of Eugene Grace, is not included in the Historic District. Ms. Swartley stressed if that were to occur there is the risk of losing the historic designation by the National Register. Informing the assembly that 4 of the 10 former CEO’s of Bethlehem Steel Corporation lived in Mount Airy, Ms. Swartley remarked it would be a shame not to recognize that fact. Ms. Swartley noted that over the last few weeks the neighborhood group forwarded letters of support to the Members of Council. Ms. Swartley explained the four recurring themes of the letters. The first was questions about why Holy Family Manor opposes the Ordinance because it is not a restrictive Ordinance. Ms. Swartley noted the Ordinance would involve one more review for Holy Family Manor but would take only a few hours, and might involve a month until the Certificate of Appropriateness is forwarded to and voted on by City Council. The second was that other historic districts in Bethlehem include a mixture of churches, residences, and businesses with positive outcomes. Third, neighbors asked not to let a minority group of high profile, well-endowed, politically connected residents sway City Council from the mission. Turning to the fourth point, Ms. Swartley noted that Holy Family Manor could suggest they would have to move out of the area if the Ordinance is adopted, leading City Council to think about lost revenues, lost jobs, and what will happen to the buildings. Observing that additions to Holy Family Manor are a moot point since the space of the property is limited, Ms. Swartley asserted Holy Family Manor needs to reconsider their corporate model that is outdated. Ms. Swartley suggested that Bethlehem residents could be served at the present Holy Family Manor, and then another facility with more property could be built elsewhere. Ms. Swartley commented that, if Holy Family Manor were to move, perhaps Trexler Pavilion could be turned back into a private residence.
6. OLD BUSINESS
A. Council Member Gordon Mowrer – Renaming Ice House
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 26, 2007 from Gordon B. Mowrer, Member of Council, to which was attached a proposed Resolution for the renaming of the Ice House building in honor of Charles A. Brown, former Director of Parks and Public Property.
President Schweder stated that the Resolution will be placed on the May 16 Agenda.
Mrs. Belinski, noting that Mr. Brown always preferred to be called Charlie Brown, thought it would be more appropriate if the Ice House were to be renamed the Charlie Brown Ice House. Ms. Szabo expressed her agreement.
President Schweder suggested that the Department notify Council what are their and Mr. Brown’s wishes regarding the matter.
B. City Solicitor – Amendment No. 2 to Lease Agreement - Mali's Café – Golf Course Clubhouse Restaurant
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 27, 2007 to which was attached a proposed Amendment No. 2 to Lease Agreement between Mali's Café, LLC, and the City for use of the Golf Course Clubhouse Restaurant for operation of restaurant with liquor license for the renewal term of one year, beginning on March 1, 2007 and ending on February 28, 2008, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution can be placed on the May 16 Agenda, unless the Parks or Public Works Committees wish to review the matter.
C. City Solicitor – Tower Lease Agreement – Omnipoint Communications – Monocacy Park on Illick's Mill Road
The Clerk read a memorandum from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Tower Lease Agreement between the City and Omnipoint Communications, Inc. to erect and maintain improvements, personal property and facilities necessary to operate a communications system to be located in Monocacy Park on Illick's Mill Road, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
President Schweder stated that the appropriate Resolution can be placed on the May 1 Agenda, unless the Parks or Public Works Committees wish to review the matter.
Ms. Dolan, advising she has already requested some additional information, explained although she is not specifically requesting a Committee meeting, she will be requesting an individual meeting to have a better understanding of the tower location. Mrs. Belinski asked about the location of the tower. Mayor Callahan noted a representative of Omnipoint is present at this evening’s Meeting.
President Schweder suggested that any Member who wishes can meet with various individuals, or a Committee meeting could be scheduled if it is so determined; otherwise, a Resolution could be placed on the May 16 Agenda.
D. City Solicitor – Tower Lease Agreement – Verizon Wireless – Sell Field at Rodgers and Lewis Streets
The Clerk read a memorandum from John F. Spirk, Jr., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Tower Lease Agreement between the City and Allentown SMSA Limited Partnership, d/b/a Verizon Wireless, to erect and maintain improvements, personal property and facilities necessary to operate a communications system to be located at Rodgers Street and Lewis Street, according to the terms and conditions of the agreement.
President Schweder again suggested that any Member can meet with various individuals, or a Committee meeting could be scheduled; otherwise, a Resolution could be placed on the May 16 Agenda.
President Schweder asked that additional Communication 7 E be read into the record.
E. Lehigh Valley Industrial Park – Withdrawal of Deschler Street Vacation
The Clerk read a letter dated May 1, 2007 from Justin Ryan, Business Development Manager of Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP), requesting the withdrawal of the Deschler Street Vacation Bill from this evening’s City Council Meeting Agenda. LVIP will work with the Law Bureau to incorporate additional language into the body of the Bill for review by City Council at a later date.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Seth A. Cornish – South Bethlehem Conservation District Commission
Mayor Callahan reappointed Seth A. Cornish to the South Bethlehem Conservation District Commission effective until April 2010. Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 15,051 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Mary T. Pongracz – South Bethlehem Conservation District Commission
Mayor Callahan reappointed Mary T. Pongracz to the South Bethlehem Conservation District Commission effective until April 2010. Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 15,052 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mower, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Community Development Committee
Ms. Szabo, Chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee's meeting held on April 23, 2007 on the following subject: Mt. Airy Historic District.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 7 – 2007 – Repealing Existing Article 313 – Private Watchmen and Establishing New Article 313 – Private Security Services
President Schweder stated that, in accordance with correspondence received from Council Solicitor Spadoni who was contacted by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, he will accept a motion to Table Bill No. 7 – 2007 for further review.
Motion - Tabling Bill No. 7 – 2007
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan moved to Table Bill No. 7 – 2007 for further review. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The motion passed.
B. Bill No. 8 – Amending Article 121 – Restrictions on Fund Transfers from Treasurer's Escrow Account to General Fund
The Clerk read Bill No. 8 – 2007 – Amending Article 121 – Restrictions on Fund Transfers from Treasurer's Escrow Account to General Fund, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 8 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4425, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 9 – 2007 – Amending Sewer Capital Budget – Project and year End Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 9 – Amending Sewer Capital Budget – Project and Year End Adjustments, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 9 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4426, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 10 – 2007 – Amending Community Development Budget – Year End Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 10 – 2007 – Amending Community Development Budget – Year End Adjustments, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 10 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4427, was declared adopted.
E. Bill No. 11 – 2007 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Various Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 11 – 2007 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Various Adjustments, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 11 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4428, was declared adopted.
F. Bill No. 12 – 2007 – Amending General Fund Budget – Various Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 12 – 2007 – Amending General Fund Budget – Various Adjustments, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 12 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4429, was declared adopted.
G. Bill No. 13 – 2007 – Amending Article 1120 – Emergency Medical Services – Increasing Ambulance Fees
The Clerk read Bill No. 13 – 2007 – Amending Article 1120 – Emergency Medical Services – Increasing Ambulance Fees, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 13 – 2007, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4430, was declared adopted.
H. Bill No. 55 – 2006 – Establishing Environmental Advisory Council (EAC)
The Clerk read Bill No. 55 – 2006 – Establishing Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), as Amended at the December 19, 2006 City Council Meeting, on Final Reading.
Amendment No. 2 To Bill No. 55 – 2006
The Clerk read Amendment No. 2, sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mr. Donchez, as follows:
That Section 3., paragraph 4) which reads as follows:
4) Wherever possible, one member shall also be a member of the local planning commission and one member shall also be a member of the Bethlehem City Council.
Shall be amended to read as follows:
4) A member of the Bethlehem Planning Commission is to be a liaison to the Environmental Advisory Council. The Planning Commission member as liaison is to be in a non-voting capacity with the Environmental Advisory Council, and the liaison to the Environmental Advisory Council is to be selected by the Chairperson of the Bethlehem Planning Commission.
That Section 6. which reads as follows:
Bethlehem City Council shall designate the chairperson of the council.
Shall be amended to read as follows:
The Environmental Advisory Council shall designate the chairperson of the council.
Voting AYE on Amendment No. 2: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. The Amendment passed.
Ms. Dolan, observing the Ordinance has taken time, pointed out it is good to get things right. Ms. Dolan expressed the hope that the Members of Council will support the Environmental Advisory Council proposal. Ms. Dolan thanked the members of the Human Resources and Environment Committee who stuck with the proposal, and worked to have a positive outcome. In addition, Ms. Dolan thanked all the Members of Council for their input, especially President Schweder, thanked Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, for his input, and thanked the many citizens for their support. Pointing out the proposal was a team effort, Ms. Dolan expressed she is very appreciative.
Mr. Mowrer stated that Chairwoman Dolan worked diligently to have the Ordinance passed, and there were some frustrating moments along the way. Mr. Mowrer continued on to say Ms. Dolan did a great job, and he thinks the Ordinance would be good for the community.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 55 - 2006 as Amended: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, and Mr. Schweder, 5. Bill No. 55 - 2006, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4431, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 14 – 2007 – Amending Article 1714 – Historic Conservation District – South Bethlehem – Adding Mount Airy Historic District
The Clerk read Bill No. 14 – 2007, sponsored by Ms. Dolan and Mr. Mowrer, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 1714 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED HISTORIC CONSERVATION
DISTRICT – SOUTH BETHLEHEM.
Ms. Dolan, noting that the South Side Historic Conservation Commission has representation from the business community, asked if that was written into the Ordinance. Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, confirming it is written in the Ordinance, added there are two residents and two business owners. Ms. Dolan inquired if any consideration was given to have business representation on the Commission for the Mount Airy Historic District. Ms. Heller pointed out that since it is mainly a residential neighborhood the Ordinance was drafted to include two additional residents from the Mount Airy Historic District. Ms. Heller continued on to say that, if there is some interest in including a business owner, the language could be revised to state two property owners instead of two residents that would provide for residents or business owners.
Mrs. Belinski, noting that a citizen, William Scheirer, had suggested that two representatives from Holy Family Manor could be appointed to the Historic Commission, explained that Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, had advised that if an issue pertaining to Holy Family Manor comes before the Commission then the representatives of Holy Family Manor would have to recuse themselves.
Ms. Heller affirmed it is true that if a Commission member has an application before the Historic Commission then the Commission member has to recuse himself or herself.
President Schweder confirmed that, although a representative of Holy Family Manor could be on the Historic Commission, they could not vote on any matters pertaining to Holy Family Manor, as would be the case for any member who owns property in the specific Historic District and who has an application before the Board.
Ms. Dolan, observing a lot of people may fear or misunderstand preservation, both historical and environmental, stressed that conservation adds value to properties, to the City, and for all residents. Ms. Dolan thought that all the current residents of the Mount Airy Historic District will eventually recognize the benefits of the designation. Ms. Dolan communicated she does not think Holy Family Manor has anything to fear, and commented the Historic Board would be flexible with Holy Family Manor as they have been with other South Side non-profits and businesses. Ms. Dolan pointed out that City Council has the final say on Certificates of Appropriateness, and has turned down recommendations of the Board that it felt unreasonable. Highlighting the fact that there is no guarantee Holy Family Manor will always own the property, Ms. Dolan advised that recently a facility located in Hanover Township connected with the Allentown Diocese sold half of its land on Bethlehem’s border despite assurances that would never happen. Ms. Dolan remarked what has occurred now is inappropriate development adjacent to a beautiful property and neighborhoods. Ms. Dolan, emphasizing that conservation protects the rich history of Bethlehem, said that is why she supports the Ordinance.
Mrs. Belinski recalled that Holy Family Manor recently wanted to expand its Trexler Pavilion property across the street, and the neighborhood was successful in stopping the matter when it came before the Zoning Hearing Board. Mrs. Belinski commented she thinks the fear of the residents is that type of expansion will continue. However, Mrs. Belinski wondered how Holy Family Manor can stay competitive in the future with the many assisted living facilities being built in the community if it is restricted. Mrs. Belinski, communicating she can see both sides of the issue, observed there is room for Holy Family Manor to expand in the Mount Airy neighborhood. Mrs. Belinski commented she will be voting against the Ordinance.
Ms. Szabo remarked that Holy Family Manor is being seen as the enemy which is not true. Noting Holy Family Manor is concerned about their very much needed business, Ms. Szabo said at the same time they are not realistic about the fears they have. Ms. Szabo pointed out that State and Federal guidelines would override any local guidelines. Ms. Szabo communicated there may be unknown underlying thinking on both sides of the argument that is bothersome.
Mr. Donchez asked if there is anything contained in the Ordinance that is suggested to be changed. Ms. Heller responded the Ordinance forwarded to the Members of Council reflects the way it needs to be written, it was discussed with the Commission members and also with the State, and it is recommended as it presently is written.
Mr. Donchez stated he intends to support the Ordinance. Mr. Donchez observed when a Historic District is created many times it benefits property values and conservation in the area. Mr. Donchez did not think the Diocese has anything to fear. He expressed that the Ordinance will be a good neighbor policy for everyone, will improve property values, and will improve the neighborhood and quality of life in a very attractive part of the City.
Mr. Mowrer, pointing out that the Administration recommended the proposed Ordinance, said he does not foresee major problems. Mr. Mowrer, noting he met with both sides and appreciates their thoughts, stated that overall he thinks it will be good for the community and it would be wrong to exclude any property. Mr. Mowrer said he will vote in favor of the Ordinance.
President Schweder, observing the Members have listened to both sides in this debate, said his position is that nothing new is being done. Rather, a jurisdiction is being added to something that is already on the books. President Schweder continued on to recount he spent two years working with the Members of Council in drafting the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District Ordinance that is proposed to be amended to include the Mount Airy Historic District. President Schweder recalled what he has learned in traveling throughout the State and talking to other communities that have historic conservation districts is that the City of Bethlehem has enacted an Ordinance that has worked, and the City learned from other communities what should be in the Ordinance. President Schweder pointed out that City Council has overturned several recommendations of the South Side Historic Conservation Commission and the Historic and Architectural Review Board. President Schweder noted the biggest fear, and what drove the formation of the South Side Historic Conservation District, was the demolition of buildings at the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway. President Schweder recalled at that time the Cunningham Administration wanted to make it voluntary for people to be part of the district. President Schweder highlighted the fact that the two most significant exceptions that have taken place on the South Side since the Ordinance was enacted are demolitions, both of which were approved by the South Side Historic Conservation Commission and City Council. One of the requests was from the Diocese of Allentown and Our Lady of Pompeii Church to tear down the former Shupp Funeral Home. President Schweder cited another example when the Portuguese Democratic Club presented a request for demolition of their building, and the Club worked with the Historic Commission to create a structure that is far better than what had been there. While expressing his understanding of the concerns of those who are worried about the proposal, President Schweder stated he does not see that happening. President Schweder communicated if it were a matter of uncharted waters perhaps that would be the case but it is not. Affirming this is a system that has worked, and the City of Bethlehem is the first City in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ever to have a Historic District in 1961, President Schweder expressed he thinks it will continue to work. President Schweder denoted the boundaries of the Mount Airy Historic District were established in the 1980’s, the current proposal includes buildings that are no different than what was laid out in the 1980’s, there was public input at that time, and none of it has changed through this process. In dissuading those who may be overly concerned about the proposal, President Schweder highlighted the fact that the final analysis and what is approved under the Ordinance does not rest with the Historic Board but with City Council in approving Certificates of Appropriateness. President Schweder stated he will be supporting the Ordinance. President Schweder highlighted the fact that, ultimately, the boundaries of the Mount Airy Historic District are determined by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. President Schweder observed, however, since the boundaries were put on the National Register it is more than likely the boundaries will stay the same. President Schweder, further pointing out that the proposed Ordinance is not as stringent as the Historic District Ordinance that applies to North Bethlehem, expressed that the proposed Ordinance will work well for the Mount Airy neighborhood.
Mrs. Belinski queried what would happen in the event that Holy Family Manor would reapply for the expansion of the Trexler Pavilion if the Ordinance were to be enacted.
President Schweder responded that, regardless of the recommendation that would be submitted to City Council by the Historic Conservation Commission, the Members of Council would vote whether or not to approve the recommendation.
Mrs. Belinski, while commenting she does not foresee the worries of the residents that the neighborhood would be ruined if Holy Family Manor expands, said if Council has the final say then Holy Family Manor can resubmit its application for the expansion of the Trexler Pavilion.
Mayor Callahan clarified the fact that in terms of the recommendation of the Historic Conservation Board which is advisory, under the Ordinance provisions the final say rests with City Council in approving or disapproving the Board’s recommendation for the Certificate of Appropriateness. However, the decision on the actual expansion of the Trexler Pavilion rests with the Zoning Hearing Board.
President Schweder affirmed that, with regard to an expansion, the Zoning Hearing Board process would take place whether the Mount Airy Historic Conservation District existed or did not.
Mrs. Belinski expressed her support of historic districts, particularly in view of the current unfortunate situation with the plans to demolish Broughal Middle School on the South Side that would not be occurring if it had been included in the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 14 – 2007 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 15 – 2007 – Street Vacation – Portion of Deschler Street - Removal From Agenda
President Schweder stated that, as requested by Lehigh Valley
Industrial Park, Bill No. 15 – 2007 is removed from
A. Authorizing Execution of Lease Agreement – Adams Outdoor Advertising
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 15,053 that authorized the execution of a Lease Agreement between the City and Adams Outdoor Advertising for the purpose of operating and maintaining five (5) outdoor advertising display boards at property on the north side of Schoenersville Road and on the west side of Monocacy Creek, for the period January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2009, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
Ms. Dolan, while confirming that the billboards are already existing and are not blocking the views of Monocacy Creek or Burnside Plantation, expressed she would agree with Mr. Scheirer’s opinion concerning unsightly billboards. Ms. Dolan commented she would commit herself to researching the matter of billboards in the event an Ordinance needs to be changed.
Mr. Mowrer, noting he was a sponsor of the Resolution so that it can be voted on tonight, stated he will vote against it. Mr. Mowrer expressed his agreement with Mr. Scheirer that the City should get rid of billboards.
Mrs. Belinski communicated that perhaps in the future the City can consider eliminating billboards.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, and Mr. Schweder, 4. Voting NAY: Mr. Mowrer and Ms. Szabo, 2. The Resolution passed.
Considering Resolutions As A Group
Ms. Szabo and Mrs. Belinski moved that Resolutions 11 B through 11 E be considered as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 503 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 15,054 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install window signage at 503 East Fourth Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 308 South New Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 15,055 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the front door at 308 South New Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 409-435 Wyandotte Street
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 15,056 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate and restore the storefronts at 409-435 Wyandotte Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 316 South New Street – Wildflower Cafe
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 15,057 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to create a mosaic and painted mural at the Wildflower Café at 316 South New Street.
Ms. Dolan commended Mary Pongracz and the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission for their diligence and flexibility in considering the Certificate of Appropriateness for the Wildflower Café. Ms. Dolan pointed out how proud she is of the young people who formed their own organization, did a tremendous amount of work, involved the community, and are creating something that is distinctly beautiful on the South Side. Ms. Dolan commended the group and said she looks forward to their next project.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 B through 11 E: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Rescheduling Second City Council Meeting in May
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer moved to reschedule City Council’s second Meeting in May from Tuesday, May 15 which is Primary Election Day to Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission - Rules
Ms. Szabo suggested that the rules of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission be reviewed in view of the fact that the applicants for Resolution 11 E had time to follow the procedure, but started the work in advance. Ms. Szabo noted that the Members heard the comments of Mary Pongracz, member of the Commission, regarding the matter. President Schweder, acknowledging it has been a concern of the Members of Council when this has happened, observed the Department has tried to do the best it can in enforcing the procedures that probably needs to be improved upon.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Edwin Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, expressed his concern that the negative element does not infiltrate the area of the murals at the Wildflower Café. Mr. Rodriquez suggested that something creative could be done in the area of the parks. Mr. Rodriquez said he wants to make sure the greenway area near the Café does not become a hang-out area. Mr. Rodriquez, while saying he wants to see more Police involvement, acknowledged they are doing a fantastic job. Mr. Rodriquez emphasized that the Police Substation should remain at Center Street. Mr. Rodriquez, asserting there should be more Block Watches, stressed that people must be encouraged to contact the Police, and the Police should make frequent contact on foot, so that communications, trust and confidence between Police Officers and the community is always present and is built. Mr. Rodriquez encouraged Members of Council to go to where the problems are occurring. Mr. Rodriquez remarked that one does not want negative issues from the Meeting to go back to the community but rather positive feedback to go into the community. Mr. Rodriquez stressed that the drug and crime environment in the City is very serious.
Wildflower Café - South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission Meeting
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, recalled that at the last City Council Meeting she asked whether the special meeting of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission to review the Wildflower Café project was advertised. Ms. Pongracz stated she would like to have a copy of the legal advertisement. Ms. Pongracz highlighted the fact that her argument has never been with the project at the Wildflower Café but rather that the process was not followed. Ms. Pongracz noted that, according to a newspaper article, the project has been underway for a year and restated her point that the process was not followed.
Loly Kinny, Programs Director of the Community Artists of Bethlehem, explained the group’s mistake in moving ahead is their lack of experience, and they fully intend to follow all City procedures. Ms. Kinny affirmed that the group will not make the same mistake again when they have a project.
Homicides in Bethlehem
Carol Ann Krasley, Center Street, focusing on a murder that occurred last Thursday evening at 1007 North New Street, highlighted the fact that the mother died and her two children are left parentless when the husband apparently killed their mother and himself. Ms. Krasley stressed it is another homicide in Bethlehem.
Riverport Condominiums – Courtyard Noise from Starters Restaurant
Ana Urrutia, 11 West Second Street at Riverport Condominiums, noted she has been at the City Council Meetings about six times to ask City Council for help in resolving the nuisance noise that comes from Starters Restaurant at Riverport. Ms. Urrutia recalled that Dave Rank, owner of Starters Restaurant, attended the March 6, 2007 City Council Meeting, and explained that he spent thousands of dollars to alleviate the problem. Ms. Urrutia confirmed she met with Mr. Rank to try to come to a compromise, and she suggested that the courtyard, located 40 feet away from her bedroom window, be closed by 10:00 p.m. until he could figure out what to do about the noise. However, Mr. Rank said he would not do that. Ms. Urrutia advised that a neighbor whose windows do not face the courtyard suggested that umbrellas could be placed at the outside tables in the courtyard but that does not help whatsoever. Ms. Urrutia recalled that on Saturday, April 8 she called the Police to report loud noise from the courtyard and was told to call the condominium board instead. Ms. Urrutia clarified that she has approached Mr. Rank, the condominium board, the Police, the Liquor Control Board, and City Council about the issue but it is still not resolved. Relating that neighbors accompanied her to previous City Council Meetings, Ms. Urrutia explained some were renters whose leases will end in June and will not be renewed. Ms. Urrutia affirmed she and her husband bought their condominium, and cannot just get up and leave. Prior to completion of construction, Ms. Urrutia said the real estate agent told her the courtyard would be for fine dining and closed at 9:00 p.m. However, Ms. Urrutia stressed that it stays open until 2:00 a.m. Informing the Members that the condominium board is comprised of an Ashley Development employee, the daughter of the insurer, and the husband of a realtor who does business with Ashley Development, Ms. Urrutia asserted there is a lot of conflict of interest and their best interest is to protect Ashley Development, Starters Restaurant, and the reputation of the development, and the board is not willing to help out her and her husband. Ms. Urrutia asked City Council to please help in the issue that will only get worse with the upcoming warmer weather. She added that staff members are in the courtyard cleaning until after 3:00 a.m. Ms. Urrutia said she will keep bringing the issue until something is done.
Riverport Condominiums – Courtyard Noise from Starters Restaurant; Homicides
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed his opinion that the noise issue problem recited by Ms. Urrutia will not go away and will come up elsewhere. Mr. Scheirer commented it is an issue where Bethlehem could lead the way in the State with the concept of quasi-public space. Mr. Scheirer, saying the City is on pace for six homicides this year, remarked violence is all around the City and it is starting to come into the City more. Mr. Scheirer stated he is glad to see the FOP calling for 185 Police and the Commissioner calling for 191. Mr. Scheirer thought there should be 200 Officers over the next five years.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.