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May 20, 2008
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Jeffrey V. Bauer of Christ Church – United Church of Christ offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, J. William Reynolds, J. Michael Schweder, and Robert J. Donchez, 7.
Citation – Honoring Jean Wentz
President Donchez noted that the Citation for Jean Wentz who retired from the Police Department after 37 years of service to the City will be forwarded to her since she was unable to attend the meeting.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of May 6, 2008 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Five Points Intersection and McDonald’s Restaurant – Removing Left Turn Lane
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, questioned why the left hand turn is proposed to be eliminated at the intersection of Five Points and McDonald’s restaurant. Mr. Nyul highlighted the fact that the McDonald’s tractor trailer does make a left hand turn, and wondered what will happen when the left hand turn is removed, and the truck is coming from the direction of Philadelphia and must stop there. Mr. Nyul suggested that the parking meters in the lot that was recently opened at Fourth and Wyandotte Streets be removed to make it easier for shoppers. Mr. Nyul expressed the hope that Council turns down Resolution 11 C to remove the left hand turn.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, expressing his support for the proposal to remove the left turning lane at the intersection of Five Points and McDonald’s restaurant, said there is not enough notice when a motorist is driving up Wyandotte Street hill to move into the right lane. Pointing out there are many incidents at McDonald’s restaurant, Mr. Rodriquez asserted that in the southbound lane one cannot see if someone is making a left hand turn. Mr. Rodriquez further stressed there needs to be concern about pedestrian and traffic safety. Mr. Rodriquez stated that parking should be put back on Wyandotte Street so that business owners and customers have a chance to have what they already had previously. Mr. Rodriquez confirmed that he distributed to the Members of Council a petition signed by approximately 25 individuals who are residents and business owners in the affected area who do not want the left turn lane. Mr. Rodriquez explained he was informed that the left turn was something the developers wanted and City officials knew about it, and the City could take it away if it wanted to.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, thought that the left hand turn was a case of good intentions with some unintended consequences, it proved to be an impediment to traffic flow, and it removed parking. Mr. Grubb expressed the hope that Council supports the Resolution to remove the left hand turn, and return the neighborhood to the way it used to be. He added that it will give the City the opportunity to gauge traffic flow and patterns in the area the way they had been previously. Mr. Grubb observed that during the two rush hour periods the City may not want to have parking on both sides of the street. Mr. Grubb commented that removing the left turn lane is probably only part of the solution. Mr. Grubb communicated that left hand turns should not be allowed in the area.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, asserted that anybody making a left turn in the City takes their life in their hands. Ms. Pongracz remarked it seems there is a history of creating problems to solve problems in the City. Ms. Pongracz stressed it is extremely dangerous to have a left turn in the Five Points area. Ms. Pongracz questioned if the reason everyone is here is to help the people in the neighborhood. Ms. Pongracz asked Council to please vote for the Resolution to remove the left turn lane, and stated it is important to her and to everyone who lives in the area. Ms. Pongracz stated that Council is supposed to be catering to the residents of the City who pay taxes.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commented that removal of the left turn lane is a no-brainer because of the impact on businesses and people wishing to park versus the frequency of a truck coming to McDonalds, and the left turn is a function of McDonald’s wanting a left turn to increase their business for people coming north on Route 378. Mr. Antalics stated that the left hand turn should have never been done. Mr. Antalics strongly urged City Council to support the Resolution. Mr. Antalics, questioning who the left turn serves, stated it does not serve the residents as was heard, and it instead serves the economic interests of a corporation.
John Halleman, 637 Wyandotte Street, noting he has lived there 33 years, recalled that for about 20 years a left hand turn could not be made at Five Points anyway, and added there are too many accidents there already. He continued on to say when going south on Route 378 to Wyandotte Street at Five Points there would be two lanes converging into one, and thought perhaps consideration might be given to taking half the parking away on Wyandotte Street so there is room to merge.
Mark Southard, owner of a business at 427 Wyandotte Street, and resident of 826 North Clewell Street, Fountain Hill, spoke in favor of the Resolution to remove the left turn lane. As a business owner, Mr. Southard said he is experiencing a very negative retail environment due to the lack of parking on the street. He explained most of the customers who find their way to his business query how does anyone get here. Pointing out the City has been putting a lot of effort into the block, Mr. Southard communicated he is excited about the possibilities for the block and it would be a delight to him if some of the problems in the immediate period could be solved. Mr. Southard, acknowledging he looks forward to some of the solutions that are proposed a year from now including the one way pairs, said it seems the removal of the left turn lane and restoring parking is an easy, short-term, low cost solution to a problem that will really make a difference for his business. Mr. Southard expressed he would appreciate Council’s support for his business that is one of the pioneers in bringing retail back to the block.
DCED Grant – Ashley Development
Mr. Antalics, referring to Resolution 11 A, advised he checked with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and they had no knowledge of any monies designated to Ashley Development under the Growing Greener grant funds. Mr. Antalics related that he then called Community Development and questioned the justification of a grant to an individual company under the Growing Greener program and was told the monies were justified because the fire, which had occurred at the former Alpha Graphics building located at the corner of Broad and Main Streets, at that point created an environmental problem.
Host Fee – Designation of Revenue
Mr. Grubb noted that at the Committee of the Whole meeting on May 15, 2008 a number of Council Members thought there were some good points in the proposed Ordinance to designate revenue from the Host Fee to various areas. Mr. Grubb continued on to observe that perhaps amendments need to be offered or the Ordinance needs to be revised. Mr. Grubb thought that in voting on the Ordinance some of the positive aspects of the Ordinance should be taken into consideration.
6. OLD BUSINESS
A. Tabled Items
1. Authorizing Records Destruction – Controller's Office
2. Authorizing Records Destruction – Bureau of Purchasing
3. Authorizing Records Destruction – Department of Water and Sewer Resources
B. Unfinished Business
1. Use Permit Agreement – Youth Athletic Organizations
2. Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
3. Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget for:
? Flatiron Garage – Purchase
? Parks and Playground Improvements
4. Maple Tract – Agreement of Sale
Sandra E. Figueroa – Board of Health
President Donchez, affirming that both he and Mr. Mowrer
spoke with Ms. Figueroa,
advised that he relayed his conversation to the Mayor’s Office and he also sent a memorandum to the Members of Council.
A. City Solicitor – Traffic Signal Maintenance Agreement – Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
The Clerk read a memorandum dated May 12, 2008 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Traffic Signal Maintenance Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation and the City of Bethlehem, for traffic signals at various locations in South Bethlehem listed in the Agreement that have been found to be warranted.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be listed on the June 3 Agenda.
B. Economic Development Specialist – Gift of Real Estate - LVIP
The Clerk read a memorandum dated May 9, 2008 from Wayne Wastler, Economic Development Specialist, requesting that the City accept a gift of real estate from Lehigh Valley Industrial Park (LVIP) located along Applebutter Road surrounded on three sides by land owned by the City of Bethlehem and the property across Applebutter Road owned by PPL. The narrow strip of property to be gifted is zoned Heavy Industrial and nearly bisects the larger City owned parcel. The property was previously used for well pumps to cool the PPL substation located across Applebutter Road. LVIP has requested that the City’s Legal Bureau prepare a quit claim deed to acquire the property.
President Donchez referred the matter to the Community Development Committee and the Parks and Public Property Committee.
C. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Richard Scott Kelley and Has Anyone Seen My Balloon?, Inc.
The Clerk read a memorandum dated May 8, 2008 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and Use Permit Agreement between Richard Scott Kelley and Has Anyone Seen My Balloon?, Inc. and the City of Bethlehem for use of Yellis Park, Monocacy Park Complex Athletic Fields, Saucon Park Complex Athletic Fields, Clearview Complex and the area behind the Municipal Ice Rink for hot air balloon take off, according to the terms and conditions of the Agreement.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be listed on the June 3 Agenda.
D. City Solicitor – Records Destruction – Tax Bureau
The Clerk read a memorandum dated May 15, 2008 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, requesting a resolution for the destruction of records from the Tax Bureau. The Law Bureau reviewed the Municipal Records Retention Act and the records fall within categories where destruction is permitted.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be listed on the June 3 Agenda.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Barbara K. Fraust – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor Callahan reappointed Barbara K. Fraust to membership on the Fine Arts Commission effective until May 2011. Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2008-69 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Public Works Committee
Chairwoman Dolan presented an oral report of the Public Works Committee Meeting held on May 13, 2008 on the following subject: Proposed Sale of Maple Tract by Bethlehem Authority. The members of the Committee unanimously agreed to move the matter to City Council. Comments on the proposed Agreement of Sale received from Attorney Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, were forwarded to Attorney Broughal for the Bethlehem Authority and to Attorney Spirk, City Solicitor.
D. Public Safety Committee
Chairman Mowrer presented an oral report of the Public Safety Committee Meeting held on May 15, 2008 on the following subject: Emergency Operations Plan. The members of the Committee unanimously recommended that City Council approve Resolutions for the adoption of the National Incident Management System Plan, and the Emergency Operations Plan for the City of Bethlehem .
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 12 – 2008 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau Grants, Public Works Equipment Repairs Reimbursement, Police Overtime
The Clerk read Bill No. 12 – 2008 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau Grants, Public Works Equipment Repairs Reimbursement, Police Overtime, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 12 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-13, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 13 – 2008 – Amending 911 Fund Budget – Communications Center Equipment
The Clerk read Bill No. 13 – 2008 – Amending 911 Fund Budget – Communications Center Equipment, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 13 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-14, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 14 – 2008 – Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – State Allocation
The Clerk read Bill No. 14 – 2008 – Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – State Allocation, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 14 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-15, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 15 – 2008 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Fund Budget – HOME Investment Trust and City Center Improvements
The Clerk read Bill No. 15 – 2008 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Fund Budget – HOME Investment Trust and City Center Improvements, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 15 – 2008, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2008-16, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 16 – 2008 – Host Fee – Designation
The Clerk read Bill No. 16 – 2008 – Host Fee – Designation of Revenue, sponsored by Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, NORTHAMPTON
AND LEHIGH COUNTIES, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
REFERENCED THE LOCAL SHARE ASSESSMENT REVENUE PAID
TO THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA BY LICENSED CASINO
OPERATORS AND DISTRIBUTED TO THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM
Mrs. Belinski, noting she received feedback from members of the community, pointed out some citizens thought that with the casino there was going to be tax relief but found out differently according to the Mayor’s proposal, and they are not happy about it.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder, 2. Voting NAY: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Bill No. 16 – 2008 was declared defeated on First Reading.
A. Approving Application – DCED Grant – Ashley Development Corporation
Mr. Reynolds and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution 2008-70 that authorized the filing of a proposal for Ashley Development Corporation to obtain $550,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for the construction of 574 Main Street; and, that Ashley Development Corporation will assume the provision of the full local share of project costs and reimburse the Commonwealth for the State's share of any expenditures found by DCED to be ineligible.
Mrs. Belinski recalled that in the past the State government presented a large scale copy of a check to Louis Pektor, of Ashley Development, in the amount of $550,000 to restore the former Alpha Graphics building at Broad and Main Streets that had been burned in a fire. Mrs. Belinski asked whether the matter has been on hold all this time, and whether the taxpayers are giving money to Mr. Pektor to buy the property.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, confirmed that as Mrs. Belinski pointed out the State did give Ashley Development a check. There was a discussion about making the grant available to Ashley Development to cover the extraordinary costs involved with the meticulous restoration of the building. Mr. Hanna added that City Council passed a Certificate of Appropriateness for the work, and noted there is a slight amendment to that paint color scheme for the intended new owners of the building. Mr. Hanna said it is a reimbursable grant, and the City of Bethlehem is simply acting as a pass-through for the grant that has been done before. The money is a reimbursement for dollars already expended by Ashley Development to cover the costs towards acquisition of the property. Mr. Hanna confirmed that the State requires the Resolution to be passed for the reimbursement.
Mrs. Belinski thanked Mr. Antalics for his letter to the editor to show where taxpayer money is going for another property Mr. Pektor had. Mrs. Belinski stated she is voting no, and thought that free money is being given away. She questioned how many other businesses have this advantage.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, 1. The Resolution passed.
B. Approving Application – DCED Grant – Habitat for Humanity
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-71 that authorized the filing of a proposal for Habitat for Humanity to obtain $450,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for a proposed project at Aaron and James Streets to build new affordable housing units; and, that Habitat for Humanity will assume the provision of the full local share of project costs and reimburse the Commonwealth for the State's share of any expenditures found by DCED to be ineligible.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Removing Left Turn Lane – Five Points
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder sponsored Resolution 2008-72 approving that the appropriate documentation be submitted to PennDOT for the removal of the left turn lane on Route 378 North at the Five Points intersection/McDonald's, and that the parking on the east side of Route 378 between the intersection of Five Points and Fourth Street be restored.
Mr. Schweder advised that he met with PennDot representatives about the matter, and that Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, spoke with Mr. Toomey of PennDot. Mr. Schweder asked Attorney Spadoni if, as a result of his discussions with Mr. Toomey, it is his belief that if the Resolution is passed tonight it would be the written request from the City of Bethlehem for the removal of the left turn and restoring the area back to the way it was before the McDonald’s development.
Attorney Spadoni confirmed he had a telephone call with Dennis Toomey of PennDot and Mr. Toomey indicated that is what would be required.
Mr. Schweder recalled that, when the proposal for the funding of the one way pairs was discussed, at the March 18, 2008 City Council Meeting the Members of Council voted 6 to 1 to move forward with the funding and he voted in favor of that. Council also voted in favor of looking at alternatives as the proposal moved forward to see if there are other options that were acceptable. Mr. Schweder noted the day after the meeting he called Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, and discussed with him that the situation was if the City was told by PennDot it could not use any of the other options then he was willing to accept that. Mr. Schweder recounted he had asked Mr. Alkhal if there could be an honest discussion and review of the proposals, and Mr. Alkhal assured him that would be the case. Mr. Schweder explained that, by coincidence, Mr. Alkhal and Glenn Taggart, of Taggart Associates, the City’s consultants on the project, had requested a meeting with PennDot at the offices on Hamilton Street. Representative Joseph Brennan had also requested a meeting with PennDot not only because of the concerns in parts of the City that are in his legislative district but also because of the concerns about overflow of the problems into the Borough of Fountain Hill that is also part of his legislative district. When Mr. Alkhal and others arrived, he did not know Mr. Schweder was going to be at the meeting and Mr. Schweder did not know Mr. Alkhal was going to be there, and PennDot assumed all were there for the same topic and would sit down and discuss it, which they did. Mr. Schweder commented that, leading up to that and prior to the vote, Council and others who live in the neighborhood were told over a period of time of years there is nothing the City could do to bring back what had existed in the Five Points area and that PennDot had made the decision that the left turn lane was needed and the parking had to be removed. At the outset of the meeting, Mr. Schweder raised that question with the representative from PennDot. Mr. Schweder expressed what the PennDot representative confided was that PennDot was made out to be the entity requiring the left turn but it was never their decision. Mr. Schweder asked Mr. Toomey of PennDot if it were possible to go back to the way it was prior to the McDonald’s restaurant, and what it would take. Mr. Schweder recounted those involved in this matter for a long time understand these problems with the flow of traffic through the neighborhood that did not exist until the McDonald’s restaurant was placed there. When the parking along a portion of Wyandotte Street was taken away it had a catastrophic reaction with the inability of people to get to the stores and also interfered with the flow of traffic. Mr. Schweder advised that Mr. Toomey said if PennDot had a request from City Council or from the City government they would turn it around immediately, and it could be done in a matter of weeks. Mr. Schweder pointed out the situation is that what Council passed in accepting the one way pairs is that it already said the City wants the left turn lane done away with because it will be done away with under the one way pairs plan. Mr. Schweder continued on to say that in his part of the meeting with PennDot that lasted almost over an hour and a half there was discussion about the concerns that President Donchez and others raised about it being done in a timely fashion in conjunction with the construction of the Second Street ramp. Mr. Schweder commented there are serious concerns that PennDot has about whether this can be done and whether the money for the State’s part of it can be developed and delivered in time for the timetables that are set up for the other individuals who are given the money. Mr. Schweder advised the Resolution would allow the Five Points area to be restored back to what it was at least until the determination is made whether the City is going forward with the one way pairs and would perhaps indicate that the City may not need to spend $2 million for a solution. Mr. Schweder noted that, in the discussions and in response to the questions raised to him by President Donchez, the cost is next to nothing. Mr. Schweder stated that with respect to restoring the meters that can be done and there is really no additional cost and it is simply replacing the meters that were there before, and revenue would be generated for that. Mr. Schweder advised the Resolution is drafted in a way that would allow PennDot to tell the City that the left turn lane could be removed. Mr. Schweder commented he would hope it is the sense of Council that what is being said is that it would be restored to what it was before McDonald’s restaurant was built. It would allow traffic to flow through and parking in non-peak hours in front of the stores, and it would give those stores an opportunity to exist at least until there is some resolution of the traffic plan one way or another. Mr. Schweder noted it may be a case where this in fact may be the solution but it is not known yet. Mr. Schweder pointed out it is something that worked before, it was not PennDot’s idea to do this, and may not have been the City’s originally but was the developer’s idea. Mr. Schweder remarked this was done to advantage one business over all the others that were long-standing businesses in that neighborhood, and along that street. Mr. Schweder observed tonight there is the opportunity to restore it to what it once was, and to see whether that works, and how it works. Mr. Schweder denoted, even if the point is reached that it is not a permanent solution, it would allow those individuals who have come to talk with Council the opportunity for their businesses to hopefully survive. Mr. Schweder, advising he was asked to visit with merchants, noted a lot of Members expressed sympathy and support to try to alleviate the problems they face. Mr. Schweder expressed the hope that all Members of Council would support the proposal tonight because it changes nothing and it will be simply what it once was before these problems became so prevalent.
Ms. Dolan affirmed that Frank Barron, Traffic Engineer, sent a memorandum to Council in which he recommends not doing this. Ms. Dolan asked Mr. Barron to explain why he is concerned about it. Ms. Dolan added that Mr. Barron raised some issues in the memorandum that need to be discussed and considered. Ms. Dolan also noted that she spoke with Mr. Barron on the telephone and he mentioned issues related to St. Luke’s Hospital that were not in the memorandum.
President Donchez confirmed that the memorandum from Mr. Barron was on Council’s desks this evening. He asked that Mr. Barron summarize the memo and make some additional points.
Frank Barron, Traffic Engineer, noted the memorandum was from him to Michael Alkhal, Public Works Director, and was in response to the accident history of the left turn lane in the 400 block of Wyandotte Street into the McDonald’s restaurant site. From July 25, 2002 to July 25, 2003 there were a total of 8 accidents involving vehicles turning left into the McDonald’s site. Over the last five years since McDonald’s opening the accidents have been averaging 5 a year. There were 3 reportable accidents in 2007 and 1 in 2008 to date. Considering the number of vehicles that make a left turn and the volume of traffic in the Wyandotte Street corridor this movement cannot be considered as a major hazard. Some of the accidents are being caused by the southbound motorists who stop in the center lane and wave the northbound motorists to make the left turn without realizing there is another southbound motorist traveling in the curb lane. The accidents are low speed, very few have been of any injury, and the injuries that did occur were very minor. Mr. Barron advised that, in his opinion, he would not recommend eliminating the left turn lane because people drive by instinct and for six years the lane was there for them to make the left turn. If the left turn lane is taken away, even though there is a sign for no left turn, people are still going to stop and want to make the left turn. Mr. Barron continued on to say if the parking is restored on that section of Wyandotte Street that leaves no escape lane for anyone behind that person who stops. Mr. Barron pointed out this could be resulting in rear end crashes, or cueing back through the intersections that would disrupt traffic. Mr. Barron noted there is going to be so much activity in this area over the next two years that it will become confusing if all these different changes are made. Presently, PennDot has a contract working in the South Side changing all of the traffic signals throughout the South Side. It will result in trenching of roadways, changing mast arms, it will take lanes away, and traffic will be channeled in different directions. Informing the Members that in the latter part of this year into the first half of next year the two structures on the Hill to Hill Bridge will be painted, Mr. Barron stated it is proposed to use the same detour plan as in 1990; i.e., disallowing southbound traffic on the Hill to Hill Bridge and channeling all the other traffic on the South Side from the north via the Fahy Bridge. In the middle of 2009, the City hopes to get started with the one way pair that will improve the whole area as far as circulation, pedestrian safety, and parking on the streets. Mr. Barron stated those are the reasons why he is suggesting that removal of the left turn lane not be done. Turning to parking issues, Mr. Barron explained what was experienced in the past, especially in the morning, was that trying to get a car moved at 6:00 a.m. does not occur and then the car has to be towed.
Mr. Barron, in further response to Ms. Dolan, explained the way the left turn lane was set up originally was that the City requested PennDot to carry it through to Fourth and Wyandotte Streets, and it is signed for St. Luke’s Hospital. Mr. Barron stated that when coming from the South since there is no way to find St. Luke’s Hospital the lane saved people a lot of time trying to get to the hospital.
Mr. Reynolds asked if the Resolution would still be enough, even if the Administration thought it would be a bad idea, to be able to tell the State to start the process by which to remove the left turn lane.
Attorney Spadoni responded that was as a result of his conversation with Mr. Toomey of PennDot, and he has a memo in that regard.
Mr. Reynolds observed that two different stories are being heard as to what happened in conversations with PennDot regarding whether or not the City, or the developer, or PennDot was really asking for the left turn lane. Mr. Reynolds asked Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, to clarify how he thought the situation unfolded.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, replied when the developer came forth and identified the site for development for the particular use of McDonald’s restaurant it was critical to them that they have access via both northbound and southbound Wyandotte Street. The developer along with their engineers tried to come up with any possible way in order to effect that without resulting in any significant impact on the corridor from a traffic flow perspective. The City supported their efforts to try to permit and advance that development, and part of that support included the left turn lane. In order to offset the impact of implementing the left turn lane, the parking had to be removed on a portion of Wyandotte Street, and other measures taken in order to minimize the amount of impact from a traffic perspective on the corridor in order to allow PennDot to be able to permit it which PennDot eventually did. As far as requesting subsequently to remove the left turn, about nine months after the development was completed the City did request that PennDot consider removing the left turn and PennDot indicated to the City that they would evaluate the request if the City would provide them with viable alternatives. Mr. Alkhal explained it was understood at the time that included how access to McDonald’s could be maintained in the northbound direction while being able to turn and, since there was no way to do that, was why it was viewed as a no go and is why it remained that way.
Mrs. Belinski recalled that not too long after the left turn was in place Members of Council received complaints about all the accidents. The Police Department was requested to check into the number of accidents and she recalled being shocked at how many accidents were occurring. Mrs. Belinski commented she cannot agree with the figures about how few accidents occurred since as she remembers a lot of accidents were occurring. Mrs. Belinski noted that one of the residents submitted petitions from 26 people who live in the area who want the left hand turn removed. Mrs. Belinski questioned who is being satisfied: the businesses and residents who live and work here and are impacted, or big companies like McDonald’s. Mrs. Belinski noted people are afraid to cross the street because of the constant traffic, and people who travel through the Five Points area every morning tell her that the traffic became backed up once the left turn into McDonald’s was placed there. Mrs. Belinski stated she is in favor of removing the left hand turn.
Ms. Dolan, commenting it is a tough issue, communicated she wants the left turn removed and probably all want it removed, and Council voted 6 to 1 to remove it. Ms. Dolan denoted that is currently in the hands of the traffic engineering company that is currently redesigning the area with the one way pair and it will remove the left hand turn. Ms. Dolan observed then the question becomes what about a short term solution, and get rid of the left hand turn faster. Ms. Dolan expressed she tends to want to listen to the people who have the expertise. Further, Ms. Dolan communicated that, if Mr. Barron says he would not recommend removing the left hand turn lane at this time, it will influence her decision more than even her own first instinct. Ms. Dolan acknowledged that she does not know much about the way traffic really works, and she assumes that Mr. Barron with 30 plus years of experience with the City knows more than she does. Ms. Dolan pointed out the things Mr. Barron said that really concerned her was that it would go from minor accidents to rear end collisions. Ms. Dolan related that last September her vehicle was rear-ended and it was a horrible experience. Ms. Dolan expressed she tends to think it is worth waiting for the long term solution that might not be that much longer. Ms. Dolan, affirming she already voted to remove the left hand turn that is currently in the pipeline, said as much as she is sorry it will not provide the short term relief she thinks the potential dangers suggested by Mr. Barron and the loss of the easier access to St. Luke’s Hospital points her in the direction of caution. Ms. Dolan stated she will not vote for an expedited removal of the left turn lane because of complications Mr. Barron has raised.
Mr. Reynolds asked if the Administration is able to veto a Resolution.
Attorney Spadoni replied no.
Mr. Reynolds pointed out Council could make a decision, if the Resolution were to pass tonight, that would mandate PennDot removing the left turn lane without the Administration being able to have any say over that.
Attorney Spadoni noted that is his understanding from speaking with Mr. Toomey.
Mr. Reynolds stated he will be voting against the Resolution and that is one of the reasons why. Mr. Reynolds explained it does not make sense to him that Council by passing a Resolution could make a decision that goes above and beyond what Mr. Alkhal and Mr. Barron say and people who deal with traffic for a living. He continued on to point out it would leave those who do this for a living with no say or ability to come back and tell Council that this is not a good idea. Mr. Reynolds, confirming he already voted to remove the left turn lane, communicated when Council voted for the one way pair it was done not just because of the left turn problem. Rather, it was done because of the traffic issues in the area as well as the traffic issue that will exist after there is the development on the eastern side of the South Side, for the streetscape improvements, for pedestrian safety, and for parking on both sides of the roadway. Mr. Reynolds, affirming he drove in the area probably 2,300 times on a daily basis to travel to work, said he knows what a problem it is, and he thought the vote on the one way pair proposal was a viable solution. Mr. Reynolds said he does not think it makes sense from the timeline side to remove the left turn now since he does not believe, from his perspective as working with State Representative Samuelson, that PennDot would necessarily put it ahead of the one way pair project. Mr. Reynolds expressed that timeline combined with the other issues he has about the one way pair, including that it does not make sense to him from a democracy point of view that Council could pass a Resolution, rather than an Ordinance, that the Administration would not have any say over, are among his reasons for not supporting the proposal. Mr. Reynolds stated he will be voting no on the Resolution.
Mr. Schweder noted that a Resolution has the same standing as an Ordinance as something that is passed that has the status of law. Mr. Schweder explained if something like this is to be done it has to be done by Resolution because it would not be put in the consolidated statutes. Mr. Schweder said a Resolution has every bit of legal standing as does an Ordinance, and there are requirements in the codes that require certain things be amended in certain ways.
Attorney Spadoni stated he would suggest that it has the same legal effect whether it be a Resolution or an Ordinance. Attorney Spadoni pointed out it is the legislative enactment of Council and that becomes the law of the City.
Mr. Reynolds queried why would Council do other things as Resolutions rather than as Ordinances. Mr. Reynolds stated he does not understand why Council can tell PennDot that they should remove the left turn without the Administration having a say.
Attorney Spadoni advised he has drafted the Resolution appropriately with his understanding of the Third Class Code City Optional Charter Law, and it would not be an Ordinance that would be codified. Attorney Spadoni denoted that it is a legislative statement by Council.
Mr. Reynolds inquired whether Council is making a decision that falls under the Public Works Department jurisdiction.
Attorney Spadoni, replying no, explained the legislative
domain is vested by the voters in Council, and the vote on
the Resolution is an expression of that depending on how the
Mr. Mowrer commented he has probably struggled over this issue as much as anything he has struggled over having to do with voting. Mr. Mowrer stated he hears the citizens coming out and saying what they say and they are fairly uniform in what they believe, and what the people from the South Side live with. Mr. Mowrer continued on to say and then he listens to the professional people who deal with this on a slightly different level on an almost every day basis and see results. Mr. Mowrer noted he hears Mr. Barron give his report and he thinks that Mr. Barron is really right. Mr. Mowrer confessed he has not decided how he is going to vote yet.
Mr. Schweder explained what the Resolution is doing is asking PennDot for permission to remove the left turn lane. Mr. Schweder recalled that several years ago the developer petitioned, and the City seconded it, to install the left turn lane and it was implemented. Mr. Schweder advised he had a discussion yesterday with Stephen Nemes, Executive Director of the Parking Authority, and it would be his jurisdiction to replace the parking meters and the parking requirements. Mr. Schweder noted what Council was given tonight was a written rationale received from Mr. Alkhal after the office closing hours of City Hall on the night Council is asked to vote. Mr. Schweder observed the proposal has been there for weeks, and a copy was sent to Mr. Alkhal on the same day it was sent to the City Clerk’s office. Mr. Schweder expressed what concerns him is that a lot of the information Council was given tonight orally and in the correspondence are in direct contradiction to what the Departments and individuals said to PennDot nine years ago. Mr. Schweder recounted that nine months after the left turn lane was proposed and implemented at the behest of McDonald’s the City went back and asked that it be removed. In the discussion with Mr. Toomey it was made clear that PennDot was made out to be the instigators, but the City was asking PennDot to remove the lane and restore the parking. It was explained by PennDot that the City was the entity who pushed for PennDot to do this, PennDot was not unilaterally going to make the decision, and the City should tell PennDot that is in fact what the City wants. However, the proposal from the City never came back. Mr. Schweder expressed the hope that Council would do what it said it would do and that is if an alternative could be found and it would be acceptable to PennDot then it would be pursued. Mr. Schweder, commenting there are those who over the last several weeks visited the people who have businesses and properties in the area, remarked it simply is not good enough to talk about good intentions, hear their plights, and hope this will be corrected when there is the opportunity to do it tonight. Mr. Schweder expressed the hope that Council would take the steps to correct something whether it is long run or short term, but it is something that at least will allow some businesses to survive until this is finally resolved.
President Donchez recalled that, going back on the issue, there was always a question mark as to whether it was the City, PennDot, or the developer that requested the left turn lane. President Donchez noted in the meeting that Mr. Schweder had with PennDot, attended by Representative Brennan, Mr. Alkhal, and others, it did address the issue as Mr. Schweder stated this evening. President Donchez said he is still committed to the one way pairing because he believes when he voted for that it is making the best of a situation that probably has no ideal, perfect answer. President Donchez communicated that he believes the one way pairing will improve the traffic flow, pedestrian safety, and the improvements in the neighborhood, and will hopefully improve businesses with the addition of parking in that area. President Donchez continued on to say he believes, too, that since the left turn lane will be removed with the one way pairing by its removal it can help the businesses in that area and by installing some of the meters. President Donchez observed it is perhaps a short term, small solution for the long term one way pairing. Based on that, President Donchez stressed that with the utmost respect for Mr. Barron he will support Mr. Schweder’s Resolution.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Voting NAY: Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds, 2. The Resolution passed.
Considering Resolutions 11 D through 11 K as a Group
Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer moved to consider Resolutions 11 D through 11 K as a Group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 458 Main Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-73 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the awning at 458 Main Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 139-159 East Market Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-74 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a freestanding sign at 139-159 East Market Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 83 West Broad Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-75 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the façade at 83 West Broad Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 253 East Market Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-76 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the exterior and construct a new carriage house at 253 East Market Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 36 East Wall Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-77 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to make renovations to the exterior at 36 East Wall Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 449 High Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-78 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace roofing at 449 High Street.
J. Certificate of Appropriateness – 574 Main Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-79 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to alter the exterior of 574 Main Street.
K. Certificate of Appropriateness – 258 East Market Street
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2008-80 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a garage at 258 East Market Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 D through 11 K: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Host Fee; Five Points
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, said he was very discouraged that only seven citizens attended the Committee of the Whole Meeting on May 15, 2008 on the subject of the Host Fee. Mr. Nyul, noting the Mayor showed a lot of good things at the meeting, suggested that a full page ad be placed in the Morning Call with everything in writing so that every citizen knows what is coming. Mr. Nyul asked whether the Police and Firefighters to be hired are only going to take care of the casino area, and why the host fee should not get all the profit.
Mr. Nyul advised that he went to Paradise Township where Mt. Airy lodge and casino is located and talked to people at the borough hall. Stating they get $700,000 a year versus the $8 million the City is projected to receive, Mr. Nyul questioned what would the City do if it got only $700,000 from the host fee. He added that Valley Forge conference center is considering slot machines and it could mean less revenue for the City.
Mr. Nyul, turning to the Five Points, said the City comes first, and Council should make sure it is that way when it votes.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, said the request was from the developer regarding the left turn lane into McDonald’s at the Five Points area. Mr. Rodriquez stressed it is our community and the people who live in the immediate area who are affected. Mr. Rodriquez informed the assembly the outcry is that the left turn lane must go and the parking returned back to the people. Mr. Rodriquez stated tractor trailers that enter Dakotah Street do not always enter on the southbound lane entrance, and instead make a right into Dakotah Street and against traffic. Mr. Rodriquez stressed there is a problem with drugs in the City, and questioned why there are not more patrols. Mr. Rodriquez commented there are problems with police communication, and wondered whether information is shared. Mr. Rodriquez suggested that citizens be put into the citizens police academy so they can man the substations. Mr. Rodriquez remarked there are problems at the Rooney building and New Bethany Ministries with a lot of drugs.
Five Points; Compost Center; Bandshell and Banners
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, commented that if someone is given a job in the traffic department it does not guarantee the job is done properly. Ms. Pongracz took exception to some of the comments made this evening regarding the Five Points issue. Noting Mr. Alkhal was reported in the newspaper as saying there is no other possible plan for Five Points, Ms. Pongracz said she has not seen an alternate plan. Ms. Pongracz expressed that the people who spoke against removal of the left lane seemed to have an opinion of the South Side as if those who live there are not competent or educated. Ms. Pongracz stressed she does not need someone to tell her whether or not it is safe in her area. Ms. Pongracz wondered whether there is a South Side bias, and stressed that Members of Council were elected to serve all the citizens regardless of where they live, what they earn, and their educational level.
Ms. Pongracz advised that the car behind her at the City’s compost center got stuck.
Ms. Pongracz informed the Members that Holy Infancy Church was told without any notice they must now pay for the bandshell to be used at their block party, and they must pay for one overhead banner. Ms. Pongracz questioned why the nonprofits were not notified that there is a fee for the use of the bandshell and to hang a banner. Ms. Pongracz, affirming that the church will pay the fee, explained she is upset about the fact that they were not notified prior to making the application. Ms. Pongracz noted the information should have been sent to everyone. Ms. Pongracz highlighted the fact that if there is rain on the date of the event, a nonprofit could lose thousands of dollars.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, acknowledged the fact that, as the Comprehensive Plan nears completion, revision of the zoning regulations will take about another year, and then there will be recommendations on the zoning map. However, Mr. Scheirer stated there is a part of the City that needs immediate help called Elliot Heights located west of Thirteenth Avenue and south of Spring Street. At the southwest corner of Mt. Airy and Elliot Avenue there is a 19th century brick farmhouse and a steep slope going down to the railroad tracks. The plans are to demolish the farmhouse and build 24 condominiums. The issue before the Zoning Hearing Board was whether the slope was greater than 15 degrees, and the developer convinced the Zoning Hearing Board that if it was greater than 15 degrees it was due to human intervention and did not qualify as a steep slope. Observing there does not seem to be any process of discovery at the Zoning Hearing Board, Mr. Scheirer noted the members of the board looked at maps from the 19th century for the first time. Mr. Scheirer continued on to say the solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board ruled that a continuance was not possible, and added there needs to be changes in law to address the basic concept of discovery. Mr. Scheirer stressed that more attention must be devoted to preserving neighborhoods, and protecting the quality of life. Questioning why the Mt. Airy neighborhood area is zoned RG, Mr. Scherer highlighted the fact that it is comprised mostly of detached single family houses, and a few twins. Mr. Scheirer said he will be sending a request to Council to immediately rezone the area to RS.
Legislative Branch; Use of City Vehicles
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, thought it is important to remember that Council is an independent legislative body, and part of a system of checks and balances. Mr. Grubb commented that Council’s independent viewpoints on various issues are important, residents rely at times on Council to do the right things, and Members need to weigh the input they receive.
Mr. Grubb, remarking on the high price of gas that costs an average of $3.80 a gallon, stressed that taxpayers should not have to pay towards putting gas in publicly owned vehicles so City employees can commute back and forth to their jobs. Mr. Grubb thought it was time to seriously look at the issue of personal use of City vehicles.
Citizens and Council
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, said behind him there is an invisible, unelected council unofficially dedicated to the welfare of the community including Mr. Nyul, Mr. Grubb, Mr. Rodriquez, Mr. Scheirer, Mr. Pfenning, Ms. Pongracz, Mr. Bruch, Mr. Herrity, and others. Mr. Antalics said a faction has been noticed within the body of Council pro or against individuals, and it becomes a conflict of interest between what Council thinks is best for the City and what the citizens behind him think is best for the City. Mr. Antalics thought that allowing citizens to speak for five minutes is saying they are not that important to Council.
Five Points; Residency of City Employees
John Halleman, 637 Wyandotte Street, communicated that what some may consider an expert to be relied on may not be.
Mr. Halleman recalled that in the past City employees had to live within the City limits, and residents could talk to the police officers or other City employees in the neighborhoods. Mr. Halleman, acknowledging that years ago the rule was changed and City employees did not have to live in the City, thought the rapport with residents was eliminated. Mr. Halleman suggested that police officers live in some of the currently vacant homes, and in turn the police could learn about some of the neighborhood issues and some of the violence, drugs, and other problems could be stopped. He thought this might be a better solution than continuing to hire more police officers. Mr. Halleman observed that workers who do not live in the City have no communication with the residents.
Mr. Halleman expressed his appreciation for Council’s vote on the left turn lane.
Rules of Council
President Donchez affirmed that according to the Rules of Council Members of Council can speak twice on an issue.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.