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October 21, 2008
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Richard D. Collins, First Church of the Nazarene, 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.
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, City Council conducted two Public Hearings.
1. Public Hearing – Proposed 2009 CDBG and HOME Programs
President Donchez call to order the first Public Hearing
to consider the proposed 2009 CDBG and HOME Programs.
Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, affirmed the Public Hearing is part of the Citizen Participation Plan for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Housing Investment Partnership (HOME) Programs. The Action Plan is on display until November 3 in the City Clerk’s Office, the Bethlehem Area Public Library, and the Community and Economic Development Department, and written comments will be accepted. The proposed 2009 CDBG and HOME Programs were discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting on October 7, 2008 and no budget changes were made since that time. The proposed 2009 CDBG Program is projected at $1,535,000 in addition to $289,135 in reprogrammed funds, and $389,500 in program income. The 2009 HOME Program is estimated at $500,000 and $60,100 in program income. The specific activities contained in the Proposed 2009 CDBG Program are as follows: ADA Improvements - $15,000; Southside Parks and Playgrounds - $63,600; Public Works: Street Overlays - $60,000. Public Works Engineering - $20,000, Reconstruction - $280,000; Fire Aerial Truck - $250,000; Schweder Firehouse Improvements - $22,500; Southside Recreation Coordinator (SSRC) - $20,000; Police Drug Surveillance Overtime - $15,000; Community Police Officers - $153,000; CACLV – Financial Counseling - $20,000; CADCB – Micro Enterprise - $30,000; LVCIL – Disability/Accessibility Counseling - $20,000; Embrace Your Dreams - $5,000; ArtsQuest - $6,000; NHS of the LV – HOOP Delivery - $10,000; Health Bureau - $8,500; Historic Bethlehem Partnership - $17,500; Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority - $130,000; Housing Rehabilitation: Staff/Delivery Costs - $157,500 and Grants/Loans - $47,000; Economic Development: Staff/Delivery Costs - $270,000, FRED Program - $240,000, and Façade Program - $84,000; Elm Street - $20,000; Program Administration - $219,034.30; Community Development Consulting - $30,000; Total - $2,213,634.30. The specific activities contained in the Proposed 2009 HOME Program are as follows: Habitat for Humanity - $150,000; New Bethany Ministries - $100,000; Alliance for Building Communities - $150,000; Housing Rehabilitation - $160,100; Total - $560,100.
Mr. Schweder, referring to the draft language forwarded by the Community and Economic Development Department to amend the current CDBG Resolution that delineates requirements for funding non-profit organizations, communicated that the proposed language is not acceptable to him. Mr. Schweder explained the proposed language opens up the use of CDBG funding for almost anything. Noting he would be happy to work with the Department, Mr. Schweder commented that the provisions have to be more clearly defined and more narrow in scope.
Ms. Woodward stated the Department would welcome any comments and would work on the Resolution language.
In response to Ms. Dolan, Mr. Schweder affirmed his concern is not with the request of any specific non-profit organization. Expressing that the Resolution needs to be stronger in making sure that the majority of individuals who would benefit are residents of the City of Bethlehem, Mr. Schweder explained his interpretation of the proposed Resolution revisions is that it opens up the CDBG funding program to almost anything, which has never been the intent of City Council.
Ms. Dolan thought the Embrace Your Dreams request was somewhat vague and needed to be tightened up to state what Mr. Schweder is talking about, as well the ArtsQuest funding request.
Mr. Schweder, confirming that the review he is requesting is not focused on any individual funding submission contained in the 2009 CDBG proposal, pointed out that Council is being asked to change a Resolution that has been in effect for many years and the policy needs to be clearly defined as to limitations going forward.
President Donchez requested that the discussion take place in advance of the scheduled November 5 date of the Community Development Committee meeting.
No one from the Public spoke to the matter of the first Public Hearing.
President Donchez stated that the appropriate Resolution will be placed on the November 5, 2008 City Council Agenda.
The first Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:10 PM.
2. Public Hearing – Miscellaneous Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance
President Donchez called to order the second Public Hearing to consider an Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance to revise Section 1325 – Notice of Hearings, to require that notice of Zoning Hearing Board meetings be given to parties within a radius of 300 feet, instead of only to those whose properties adjoin or face on the same street as the property in question.
7A1. Planning Commission – Proposed Zoning Text Amendment – Article 1325 – Notice of Hearing
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 16, 2008 from Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that the Planning Commission reviewed the proposed revisions to Article 1325 – Notice of Hearings, at its October 9, 2008 meeting and recommended two minor revisions to the proposal. First, it was recommended that for existing single family homes that are owner occupied the notice of the Zoning Hearing Board meeting would continue to be forwarded to persons whose properties adjoin and face on the same street as the property in question, and the Planning Commission, because some zoning appeals can be extremely minor in nature and notice to people beyond abutters would be unnecessary. Second, it was recommended that fees for Zoning Hearing Board appeals be increased, as well as removed from the Ordinance and placed in a Resolution.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, advised that each revision or amendment needs to return to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Noting that a question regarding this matter was raised at the last City Council Meeting, Attorney Spadoni affirmed that he wrote a memorandum in that regard and each amendment needs to go back to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
7A2. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Proposed Zoning
Text Amendment – Article 1325 – Notice
The Clerk read a letter dated September 26, 2008 from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission advising that the Commission reviewed the amendments at its meeting on September 25, 2008. The amendments are a matter of local concern and no comments were offered.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advised the Planning Commission concurs with the proposed amendments to Article 1325 of the Zoning Ordinance, but had a few concerns. Ms. Heller explained that a substantial number of appeals are from single family property owners who might need a setback for a pool, or for an addition, or other minor appeal. It was felt that for those appeals notification to property owners within the proposed 300 ft. radius would not be necessary, and continuing to notify abutting property owners would be appropriate. As a result, that amendment to the proposal was forwarded. Ms. Heller also explained that, in view of the increased administrative work that will need to occur in order to send notification to those within a 300 ft. radius including researching property owners, preparation of mailings, etc., it was felt it would be reasonable to increase the fees related to Zoning Hearing Board appeals, and to place the fees in a Resolution. Affirming that appeal fees are to be related to the actual cost to the municipality, Ms. Heller highlighted the fact that zoning appeal fees have not been updated for quite some time. Ms. Heller further noted that fees are typically not stated in Ordinances and rather are placed in Resolutions so they can be updated from time to time. The Planning Commission proposed increasing the fees for Zoning Hearing Board appeals for dimensional variances for single family residences occupied by the owner from $75 to $125, and for all other appeals from $300 to $400. Ms. Heller added that a fee comparison with other nearby municipalities was forwarded to the Members of Council.
Ms. Dolan commented that the fees seem reasonable, the proposed increases take into account additional costs for the work involved, and keeps the fees in equilibrium.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, noted that the Planning Commission said 300 ft. would be onerous in certain circumstances, and adopted an exclusion for dimensional variances that apply for a single family detached dwelling. In addition to the notice required now, all parties who own premises within 300 ft. of the requested variance would be notified with the exception of applications for dimensional variances that apply only to an existing single family dwelling.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, said he was also at the Planning Commission meeting and they did do what Mr. Scheirer reported. The proposal pertained to existing single family owner occupied dwellings. Mr. Pfenning concurred with the exception and supported it.
The second Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:20 PM.
President Donchez stated that, since additional changes were received from the Planning Commission, the changes will be forwarded to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission before further action is taken on the proposal.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of October 7, 2008 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Bill No. 28 – 2008 - Proposed Miscellaneous Zoning Ordinance Amendments
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, stated that the Bethlehem Citizens Association has taken some positions on the Miscellaneous Zoning Ordinance amendments that were the subject of the Public Hearing at the October 7, 2008 City Council Meeting. In section 16 on page 4, new uses are proposed for the P-I Planned Industrial District, which has been explicitly defined as an industrial park. The only two P-I Districts the group found were in West Bethlehem south of Lehigh Street, and north of Route 22 and east of Airport Road in the westernmost two-thirds of LVIP-I. One of the 18 new uses that would be permitted by right is a compound use, the manufacture of another 18 different kinds of things, including the manufacture of machinery and the manufacture of transportation equipment. The group felt that, since there are office buildings in the P-I Districts, uses that involve significant noise should not be permitted by right. The group felt that the P-I District south of Lehigh Street should be completely excluded from the changes. In section 24 on page 7, the group supported the increase in the Zoning Hearing Board from three to five members. The group, referring to the WaWa debacle on Easton Avenue, felt the following language should be inserted: "Each decision of the Board shall be presented to a meeting of the Board within 40 days, so that the Board can correct any deviations from the motions that were actually made when the Board considered the decision." In section 27 on page 8, the group did not disagree with adding semi-detached dwellings to the R-G Residential District, but noted that the lot area per dwelling unit of 4,000 square feet is the same as for attached dwellings, that is, row houses or town houses, while the requirement for detached dwellings is 6,500 square feet. They thought that the requirement for semi-detached dwellings should be somewhere in between; e.g., 5,500 square feet. Since the minimum setback for both side yards combined is proposed at 12 feet, while the existing setbacks are 16 feet for detached houses and 50 feet for row houses, the group felt a setback of 35 feet would make more sense. The group liked the idea of six residential zones. The first would be the same as the present RR. The second would allow smaller lots but also would be restricted to detached homes. The third would add twin homes. The fourth would add town homes. The fifth would add garden apartments. The sixth zone would add apartment buildings. Each zone would allow the uses allowed in the zones with lesser density. Such a system would be simple, easily understood, and neighborhood friendly.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
2. Political Contributions and Expenditures – Proposed Ordinance
3. Gift of Real Estate – LVIP
C. Old Business – Members of Council
Cameras – Five Points
Mr. Mowrer advised that he went to the Five Points area to see the cameras that were set up there, and encouraged the Members to see it. Stating it is very impressive, Mr. Mowrer observed it could be spread out into some of the parks and areas that are questionable. Mr. Mowrer added it is amazing what the system can do and thought it would be very helpful in crime prevention.
B. Business Administrator – 2008 Pension State Aid
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 30, 2008 from Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, advising that a check for State Aid for Pension Funding was received September 29, 2008 in the amount of $2,848,578.84. The proceeds have been allocated as follows: Police - $991,883.80; Fire - $991,883.79; and Pension Bond Payment – April 24, 2008 - $864,811.25.
President Donchez stated that authorizing Resolution 11 C is listed on the Agenda.
C. Housing and Community Development Planner – CDBG Funding Revisions – Non-Profits
The Clerk read a letter dated October 9, 2008 from Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, to which was attached proposed amendments to Resolution 12,545 regarding the use of Community Development Block Grant funds for non-profit organizations. The proposed changes would resolve the discrepancies that were identified during the City Council Meeting of November 7, 2007 and the most current Community Development Committee Meeting on October 7, 2008.
President Donchez referred the matter to the Community Development Committee.
A. President of Council
President Donchez announced the 2009 Proposed Budget Hearing schedule as follows:
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
7:00 PM – Town Hall
First Budget Hearing:
Community and Economic Development Department
Community Development Block Grant Fund
Non-Utility Capital Fund
Parks and Public Property
Golf Course Enterprise Fund
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
7:00 PM – Town Hall
Second Budget Hearing:
Department of Water and Sewer Resources
Water Fund Revenue Estimates
Water General Expenses
Sewer Fund Revenue Estimates
Sewer General Expenses
Department of Public Works
Liquid Fuels Fund
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
7:00 PM – Town Hall
Third Budget Hearing:
Council, Mayor, Treasurer, Controller
Department of Administration
Department of Fire
Department of Police
General Fund Revenue
General Fund Expenditures
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
7:00 PM – Town Hall
Final Budget Meeting
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 28 – 2008 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections
The Clerk read Bill No. 28 – 2008 – Amending
Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections,
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 THE ZONING ORDINANCE IN
SECTIONS 1302, 1304, 1305, 1309, 1310, 1311, 1312, 1313, 1314A,
1314B, 1315, 1317A, 1318, 1319, 1320, 1325, THE TABLE OF AREA,
YARD AND BUILDING REGULATIONS AND FOOTNOTES.
Mr. Schweder, communicating he has spent more time reviewing the proposal since the time of the Public Hearing, commented he has some serious concerns with the proposal. Mr. Schweder wondered whether his colleagues are confident they understand all that is involved with the proposal. Mr. Schweder, pointing out that significant changes are proposed, recounted that a majority of Council for the last several years talked about the need for a comprehensive rewriting of the City’s zoning laws, and how amendments were being made as it went along. Mr. Schweder highlighted the fact that a comprehensive plan study was done on which considerable money was spent, and the Zoning Ordinance is in the process of being rewritten and will be forwarded to Council. Mr. Schweder queried why the Members would want to do anything with the proposal prior to the final product coming to Council. Mr. Schweder observed he is not sure how the proposal fits in with the Zoning Ordinance that is in process of being rewritten. Exemplifying there are residential areas being changed in the proposal, Mr. Schweder did not think it would be prudent for City Council at this point to take action on the proposal since it would not be done in a comprehensive way. He also cited the changes proposed to allow day care in the R-R Residential District, and changes in the P-I Planned Industrial District that would allow many different kinds of offices. Mr. Schweder, stressing that the zoning laws have been studied for over a year, communicated that is the direction that should be taken. Mr. Schweder said he will move to table Bill No. 28 – 2008 because there is a rational way to go about this that all have accepted as the process, and he thought Council should wait for the rewriting of the zoning laws to be forwarded and the proposal should wait so that the changes would be part of a comprehensive plan.
Ms. Dolan, expressing her agreement, explained her thought was probably to send the proposal to committee so it could be looked at in more detail. Ms. Dolan, noting she read the proposal much more closely before this evening’s meeting, observed it is a big change and to some degree there has been discouragement from making even some minor changes while waiting for the more comprehensive look at the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Dolan asked why is the proposal in front of Council now.
Ms. Heller pointed out that zoning amendments have been reserved and have not been brought before Council for some length of time versus the frequency of amendments that were forwarded previously. Ms. Heller denoted that some of the changes came from requests of Council Members, from discussions with the Comprehensive Planning Task Force, and others from the Zoning Hearing Board. Advising that a large portion of the amendments pertain to day care provisions for which requests have come before the Zoning Hearing Board repeatedly, Ms. Heller explained the time-consuming requests could simply be addressed by adding provisions to the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Heller confirmed that a memorandum was received from Council asking that the number of Zoning Hearing Board members be increased. Ms. Heller observed that the proposal can seem difficult to follow in that the sections being changed are not read as the full text. Ms. Heller affirmed it is understood there will be substantial changes to the Zoning Ordinance overall in the submission that will be coming to Council in the near future, and added there have been discussions about rearranging the Residential Zoning Districts. Ms. Heller restated the Bureau was trying to be responsive to some of the requests that have been received recently.
Ms. Dolan, inquiring how the present proposal differs in terms of urgency of other requests, exemplified she had been interested in a conservation district and the steep slope ordinance and was informed those things are being looked at on a comprehensive basis. Ms. Dolan added she would want to have a map to view in connection with the proposal. Ms. Dolan stated, however, she would prefer to have the proposed increase in Zoning Hearing Board membership considered immediately.
Ms. Heller confirmed that the proposal does not change any zoning districts, and it is not being proposed that adult day care occur in the RR Residential Zone. Ms. Heller continued on to say the proposal is to assist the Zoning Hearing Board in what they do in view of the volume of cases that come before them that would not necessarily need to go before the Board because the provisions could easily be addressed in the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Heller stated she does not see an urgency in that something unwitting would happen if there were not provisions for day cares now, but it is burdensome to the administrative process.
Mr. Mowrer asked when it is estimated the changes to the Zoning Ordinance will be completed. Ms. Heller replied that a rough draft should be ready by next summer. Mr. Mowrer asked if the proposal before Council this evening could be incorporated into the draft. Ms. Heller, while responding in the affirmative, explained the current proposal was before the Planning Commission earlier this year and there was some lag time in developing the revisions. Mr. Mowrer communicated it would make sense to him to have the proposal incorporated into what will be done next year and have it all presented at one time.
Mr. Schweder, expressing his agreement with Ms. Dolan, pointed out there are parts of the proposal that Council should proceed with while there are portions that are of significance and represent substantive changes to the Zoning Ordinance that need further examination. Mr. Schweder said he would move to refer the proposal to Committee and report out parts of it such as increasing the size of the Zoning Hearing Board from 3 to 5 members. Mr. Schweder, stating he does not think Council is in a position to have First Reading on the Bill, highlighted the fact that any changes would have to go back to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and added all Members of Council should have the opportunity to discuss changes.
Referring Bill No. 28 – 2008 to Community Development Committee
Mr. Schweder moved to refer the proposed Ordinance to the
Community Development Committee. Ms. Dolan seconded the motion.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer,
Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and, Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion
A. Authorizing Highway Safety Project Grant – Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – Highway Safety Issues
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 2008-184 that authorized the execution of grant documents from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for Highway Safety Project Grant No. CTSP-2009-Bethlehem City-00017 concerning highway safety issues.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Highway Safety Project Grant – Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – DUI Programs
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 2008-185 that authorized the execution of grant documents from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for Highway Safety Project Grant No. IDP-2009-Bethlehem City-00024 concerning DUI programs.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
C. Allocating 2008 State Aid – Pension Funding
Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2008-186 that authorized the appropriate City officials to allocate $2,848,578.84 of the 2008 General Municipal Pension System State Aid among the City's pension plans as follows: Police - $991,883.80; Fire - $991,883.79; and Pension Bond Payment – April 24, 2008 - $864,811.25.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Mowrer moved to consider Resolutions 11 D through 11 F 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 – 429 Heckewelder Place
Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2008-187 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to revise the restoration plans and extend the use of the temporary metal siding at 429 Heckewelder Place.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 509 Main Street
Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2008-188 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install new signage and menu box at 509 Main Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 404 High Street
Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2008-189 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to reconstruct the former side porch roof at 404 High Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 D through 11 F: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Rescheduling First City Council Meeting in November
Ms. Dolan and Mrs. Belinski moved to reschedule the First City Council Meeting in November to Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall instead of Tuesday, November 4 which is Election Day.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
Committee Meeting Announcements
Chairman Leeson announced a Finance Committee meeting on October 23, 2008 at 4:30 PM in the Mayor’s Conference Room on Transfers of Funds, Budget Adjustments, Recreation Fees, and 2008 Budget Review.
Chairman Schweder announced a Community Development Committee meeting on November 5, 2008 at 5:45 PM in Town Hall on the Proposed Resolution – CDBG Funding – Non-Profit Organizations.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Five Points Traffic Plan – One Way Pairs
Terry Meixell, 56 East Goepp Street, expressed his doubt that the proposed one way streets in the vicinity of Five Points will be an improvement, and did not see the need for it. Mr. Meixell thought turning Broadway into a four lane road would eliminate a lot of problems. Mr. Meixell said he talked to a lot of business people in the area about the proposed one way streets and all are against it except for a few people. Mr. Meixell remarked that employees of St. Luke’s Hospital and those who work in Center Valley already understand there are traffic backups in the Five Points area. Mr. Meixell suggested that, as a solution, as one travels North on Route 378 starting on Wyandotte Street the property to the left could be acquired by eminent domain and cut the swing off about 30-40 ft. back, and have one lane for making a left turn onto Broadway or Dakotah where parking would need to be removed from one side of that narrow street. Mr. Meixell pointed out this traffic pattern would take motorists directly to St. Luke’s Hospital, tractor trailers could turn onto Broadway, the center lane could be used for travel on Route 378, and the other lane could be used to make a right hand turn onto Broadway. At the next intersection at Fourth Street, Mr. Meixell suggested removing the left hand turn into McDonald’s and to Fourth Street which would create two lanes through the City. Mr. Meixell further suggested that, traveling South on Route 378 starting at the new Third Street ramp, build a Third Street ramp to the west of the Hill to Hill Bridge and go underneath it to Second Street, and so on. He added that the Third Street ramp could be the on ramp for Route 378 that would eliminate the stop light at the intersection which is a major backup and allow two lanes of traffic to Wyandotte Street. Mr. Meixell also suggested that perhaps a small portion of the Sayre Mansion property could be used as a right hand turn only to St. Luke’s Hospital or realign the road to decrease the sharp turn, create two lanes all the way through, and take away the question of who has the right of way when traveling from Fountain Hill.
Pennsylvania House Resolution 418 - Homeowners and Bank Protection Act
Philip Valenti, representative of the Lyndon LaRouche political action committee, recounted that he spoke at a City Council Meeting about a year ago to ask for support for Pennsylvania House Resolution 418 for enactment by Congress of a Homeowners and Bank Protection Act. Mr. Valenti explained this was based on the analysis of Mr. LaRouche at that time that the sub-prime mortgage crisis was really a systemic crisis of the whole banking and financial system, and disintegration of the financial system globally. Mr. Valenti pointed out at that time most people could not believe or fathom that was true, while now most people can understand what is being faced is a disintegration of the financial system. Mr. Valenti explained the Resolution proposes measures modeled on what Franklin Roosevelt did successfully in 1933 starting with the banking crisis that called for a moratorium on foreclosures, a payment structure to keep people in their homes until the financial climate could be stabilized, protection for banks and deposits, but no bail-out for the gambling losses of speculative financial paper held by Wall Street firms, hedge funds, and others throughout the world. Mr. Valenti stressed what is happening now in the financial markets means there is even more urgency for passage of House Resolution 418, still on the calendar of Harrisburg, in light of the bailout proposed in Washington, D.C. that is bottomless because of the existence of financial derivatives officially estimated at $675 trillion, and that could mean a $1-2 trillion Federal Budget deficit. Asserting the situation is worse than an economic depression, Mr. Valenti stated the protective measures being proposed are necessary as a first step and explained it would essentially put the system through a bankruptcy reorganization. It would protect checking and savings accounts, loans to the local community, and so on, and write off speculative financial paper, as was done in 1933 when there was a bank holiday declared. Internationally, a new Bretton Woods monetary system modeled on the option offered by Franklin Roosevelt at that time needs to be considered in order to stabilize the financial system internationally. He added that Mr. LaRouche was invited to address the European Parliament in Brussels. Mr. Valenti advised there are other resolutions pending in 13 States, there are about 50 co-sponsors in Harrisburg for Resolution 418, and about 38 municipalities have passed resolutions supporting it. Recalling that Council sent a letter last year, Mr. Valenti communicated that efforts need to be redoubled since there are 3-4 days left in the session to bring the Resolution up for a vote, and he asked Council to again send a letter.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, commented that the Health Bureau should deal with drug addictions, particularly heroin, that is affecting the entire City. Highlighting the fact that needles are being used over and over again, Mr. Rodriquez asserted there will be an open epidemic in the City. Mr. Rodriquez further advised there is a prostitution ring in the City. While commending the Police Department for what they are doing, Mr. Rodriquez pointed out that increased alertness is needed seven days a week because the problems are getting worse by the minute. Mr. Rodriquez stressed that public education is needed, addicts need to know where to go and what type of rehabilitation is available. Mr. Rodriquez emphasized the value of cameras, such as in robbery and other crime incidents. Mr. Rodriquez stated there are garbage issues all over the City. Mr. Rodriquez asked the status of the left turn lane removal at Five Points, and noted he had mentioned Second Street and Columbia Street as an alternative route.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, expressing he is glad to see the City got a grant for the Stockhouse visitors center at the BethWorks casino project site, said he has to be convinced that it is a good expenditure of taxpayer funds to buy or lease land that will partially be used to encourage people to leave the City and go to other Lehigh Valley attractions such as the Crayola Factory, Wildwater Kingdom, etc. Mr. Pfenning asked why City Council does not legally advertise its Committee meetings. The City Clerk responded that Committee meetings are advertised at the beginning of the year to state that they are held at various times throughout the year at the call of the Chair, and the Committee meetings are also on the City’s website. Mr. Pfenning stated that both Counties and the City of Allentown advertise their Committee meetings, and he sometimes misses reading the Committee meetings on the City’s website. In view of the current downturn in the economy and the fact that the School District had entered into swap bond agreements that turned out to be very costly, Mr. Pfenning asked what is the impact of the City’s swap bond. Mayor Callahan replied it is a Bethlehem Authority swap bond about which they are meeting with their financial advisors, and the City has very little exposure.
Funding for ArtsQuest – Free Speech
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, requested that any CDBG funding for ArtsQuest or other public funding towards the organization’s project at the BethWorks casino site carry the condition that there will be free speech at Musikfest, at the town square area at the BethWorks site, or any publicly owned property.
Sidewalks on Linden Street; Removal of Left Turn Lane – Five Points
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, observed that the sidewalks installed in the 2200 block of Linden Street are a great improvement, but highlighted the fact that a large hump has been created by the elevation of the new sidewalks and a descention into the driveways. Mr. Grubb pointed out that something needs to be done about the approach to the driveways, and he further remarked that spillover into the driveways from winter weather could lead to flooding of the properties. Mr. Grubb noted that two of the property owners who he knows are very unhappy with the results of the new installation. Mr. Grubb wondered whether there will be further movement on the issue of removal of the left turn lane in view of the action taken by passage of the Resolution by City Council.
Zoning Variances; Transportation
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, referring to Bill No. 28
– 2008, thought that a developer
would be able to obtain a variance from various provisions of the proposed Zoning laws with the assistance of a lawyer. Mr. Nyul highlighted the fact that, because the neighbors who reside on Kelchner Road took the matter of a variance to court, a developer revised his original request for 16 townhouses and built 5 individual homes instead based on the judge’s decision. However, Mr. Nyul pointed out that the Zoning Hearing Board allowed a variance to build 16 townhouses on another section of Kelchner Road, and those neighbors did not put up the money to fight it. Mr. Nyul questioned how traffic will flow throughout Bethlehem once the casino is built. Mr. Nyul informed the assembly that in his job he drives to many different communities and has the opportunity to see how their transportation services work. Mr. Nyul showed the Members an article from the November 1982 edition of the Morning Call with a picture of a trolley. Mr. Nyul advised that in New Jersey there are trolley cars with tires, and some that are run by electricity. Mr. Nyul stated he would like to see some trolley cars brought back into use in Bethlehem. Mr. Nyul thought the City is going downhill and further stated City Council is responsible since they pass laws, and stressed they must stand behind them. Mr. Nyul remarked that when the City of Bethlehem is mentioned it is no longer referred to as the Christmas City but is known as the City in which Musikfest is held.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.