The City of Bethlehem uses an independent third party tool to provide automated language translation. As with any machine translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not fully translate text into its intended meaning. Therefore, the City of Bethlehem does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text and it should not be relied upon for anything other than informational purposes. We recommend that if you experience difficulty, or doubt the accuracy of the translation, you contact the proper City of Bethlehem department for the information you seek. Please note that some applications and or services may not work as expected when translated.
March 3, 2009
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. Edward Buckvitz, of First Church of Christ, Scientist, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., J. William Reynolds, J. Michael Schweder and Robert J. Donchez, 6. Gordon B. Mowrer was absent, 1.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of February 17, 2009 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed his surprise that the Resolution to adopt the Comprehensive Plan was on the Agenda because numerous concerns were raised by Members of Council and the public at the Committee of the Whole meeting on February 25, 2009 at which the Public Hearing on the Comprehensive Plan was held. Mr. Scheirer thought the issues raised should be further discussed and deliberated and the Resolution for the Comprehensive Plan considered at the next City Council Meeting. Mr. Scheirer raised the issue of adaptive reuse of historic buildings. Observing that while everyone would like to see adaptive reuse of four churches on the South Side that are being closed, Mr. Scheirer stressed that Broughal Middle School is in greater peril and is scheduled for destruction in August. Mr. Scheirer highlighted the fact that this architectural resource that was designed by one of the premier architects who worked in Bethlehem has window sills that people can sit on, an auditorium with some of the best acoustics in the Lehigh Valley, and French doors in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. Mr. Scheirer said if Lehigh University has no use for the building, it could be an elementary school or exceptional community center. Mr. Scheirer pointed out there is enough room for physical education outside the school building, but during construction the athletic teams would have to travel elsewhere as they have been doing for the past 2-3 years. He continued on to point out that Broughal will have a new planetarium, is located near a library, and whatever the cost would be to modify drainage patterns would be far less that demolition costs. Mr. Scheirer said if the Resolution is to be voted on this evening, he would ask that a Member of Council offer the following amendment: The City of Bethlehem strongly supports the adaptive reuse of the four churches recently abandoned in South Bethlehem, and the adaptive reuse of Broughal Middle School. Requesting that this issue not be deferred until the demolition ordinance proposal is considered, Mr. Scheirer asserted when that occurs there will be questions on who has the authority to put buildings on the list to be reviewed and by that time it will likely be too late. Mr. Scheirer stressed if the demolition of Broughal Middle School is not stopped future historians will write that City Council was complicit with the School District in allowing politicial overcorrectness to cause an egregious act of architectural and historical vandalism.
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, concurred with Mr. Scheirer that action on the Comprehensive Plan should be deferred and another hearing held. He added that the demolition proposal is not considered in the Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Crownfield advised his concern is the transportation section of the Plan, and stressed that it fails to address the serious health issues from existing traffic in the City and from future traffic given the casino development and planned parking facilities. Mr. Crownfield advised both Lehigh and Northampton Counties are among the worst in the United States for diesel particulate pollution, are in violation of the Clean Air Act provisions announced in December, and Bethlehem is the 7th worst metropolitan area for the incidence of asthma. Mr. Crownfield highlighted the fact that accommodations are being made for more traffic instead of addressing the health issues. He pointed out that the solutions are anti-idling restrictions, and high efficiency motors. The other main problem is that bicycle and pedestrian issues are not addressed in any meaningful way, and rates of accidents in the City involving these are not addressed. Mr. Crownfield stressed that existing bicycle laws are not enforced, and related issues will get worse.
Breena Holland, 379 Carver Drive, stated the Comprehensive Plan does not address the problem of air quality in South Bethlehem, and the City is out of compliance with the current Clean Air Act standards. Ms. Holland pointed out the American Lung Association recently won a lawsuit challenging the EPA to set the standards more stringently. Turning to the ozone standard, Ms. Holland advised the City was out of compliance for a number of years, and then the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection got compliance standards under the old standards. Ms. Holland pointed out that both of these issues are related to asthma and respiratory problems, particularly with school children. Highlighting the fact that the plans are for more cars and parking garages in the City, Ms. Holland stressed these plans lead to more pollution. Ms. Holland observed some of the more innovative practices are to keep cars out of urban areas and use non-polluting transportation systems. Ms. Holland observed this is the area in which the Comprehensive Plan needs more work. Ms. Holland wondered whether some of the money for the parking lots would be coming from the Federal government, and whether environmental impact statements were required. She pointed out that would be a perfect opportunity to study some of these problems.
Lawrence Krauter, Chairman of the Planning Commission, recommended that Council adopt the Comprehensive Plan, and highlighted the fact that an updated plan has not been adopted since 1991. Mr. Krauter thought a way to address some of the concerns raised by citizens is not to delay action on the Plan but to adopt the Plan so that the staff can move forward with dealing specifically with some of these issues and important Zoning Ordinance amendments that will flow out of the Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Krauter communicated he does not see the Comprehensive Plan as an impediment to achieving some of the things that people are concerned about but rather as a stepping stone. Mr. Krauter advised the Comprehensive Plan was very widely informed, and was constructed from a great variety of public input, and a great deal of effort went into soliciting public input. Mr. Krauter pointed out the Plan involved hundreds of hours of work by many thoughtful people living and working in the City, the City staff and officials. Mr. Krauter stated the public participation was very good, particularly with regard to the use of the Comprehensive Plan Task Force, Bethlehem Area School District, Lehigh University, Moravian College, Northampton County Community College, City Council, Zoning Hearing Board, CACLV, LVEDC, St. Luke’s Hospital, and so on. Mr. Krauter thought there was a significant effort to get the best thoughts from a diverse number of people and constituencies in the City. The Planning Bureau held a Public Hearing on November 6, 2008 and received input from citizens. In addition, there was an internet survey to which there were 520 responses, and good press coverage. Mr. Krauter pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan was preceded by several other important planning documents; i.e., Stefko Boulevard plan, South Side Vision 2012, residential and South Bethlehem master plans, Five Points Gateway Area study, Bethlehem Greenway plan, Elm Street plan, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission 2030 plan, and Brookings Institute Report. He added all these documents can be found on the City’s or other websites. Mr. Krauter explained it is believed that planning can do something to positively influence nearly every aspect of City life and commerce. The essential step is to define the goals, and commit to the task of seeing them carried out. Mr. Krauter observed the Comprehensive Plan is going to lack some of the detail that some people would like to see, but the Plan represents the broader view. Mr. Krauter stated that the Planning Commission and the Administration will have the task of moving forward with the Zoning Ordinance amendments as a result of the Comprehensive Plan process.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, suggested that the Comprehensive Plan be tabled until a new vision of the Zoning Ordinance is complete. Mr. Antalics stated the Comprehensive Plan of 1991 addressed various issues while the priority of issues in the new Comprehensive Plan is residential, commercial, and land use, and other issues were secondary. Mr. Antalics remarked that the issues that existed as problems in 1991 again appear in the current Comprehensive Plan. Consequently, Mr. Antalics stressed the issues in 1991 would have been corrected by a proper Zoning Ordinance. By adopting the new Zoning Ordinance first, Mr. Antalics said a lot of the problems that have existed since 1991 would be precluded and would be addressed in the Zoning Ordinance rather than in the Comprehensive Plan. Turning to Broughal School, Mr. Antalics informed the assembly that the Pennsylvania Education Department does not require extra curricular activities after school and as a result playing fields are not required. Mr. Antalics stressed to use that as an excuse to demolish the building is a very inferior reason and destructive in terms of the face of the South Side by depriving it of its historic monuments such as the marketplace at Third and Adams. Mr. Antalics remarked on the one hand preservation is being discussed but yet the face of the South Side is being destroyed. Mr. Antalics asked if Council could look into whether Broughal Middle School really needs to be demolished. Mr. Antalics advised he brought up the matter with the School Board but is was basically a done deal.
Salaries – Elected Official; Grant for Sand Island West
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said he agrees with holding the line on the salaries of Council Members and the Controller, and agrees with increasing the Mayor’s salary but not at this time in view of the recession. Mr. Grubb thought elected officials should be showing more leadership and respect for their constituents who are already struggling. Mr. Grubb suggested the Mayor’s salary be frozen at $80,000 for the first year, increase it in 2011, and increase it by $4,250 in 2012 and in 2013. Mr. Grubb encouraged Council’s approval of the grant application for completing work on the western end of Sand Island that he said is long overdue. He noted the pavilion construction was reviewed and favorably received by the Recreation Commission in January. Mr. Grubb questioned whether there are matching requirements for the Grant and does the City have the match in hand.
Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, affirmed the Grant does require matching funds from the City or services in kind, and the City has the match in place.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, said he would like to see something included in the Comprehensive Plan to address activities for youth to keep them involved and out of trouble. He asserted it is a problem in the City that needs to be dealt with, and that the Skate Park is not enough. Mr. Rodriquez suggested a recreational center at Broughal School and thought that revenues could be drawn from such a program that could include educational and technology aspects, and indicated that many families cannot afford computers. Mr. Rodriquez said if nothing is done then he will get petitions to gather enough interest and to use Broughal School or other empty church buildings.
Terry Meixell, 56 E. Goepp Street, stated he is totally
against the 5 Points One Way Pairing in which he found numerous
flaws. Mr. Meixell thought that if the Comprehensive Plan
surveys are as flawed as the Five Points traffic plan surveys
then Council should reconsider taking a vote on the Comprehensive
Plan this evening, and that it is in the wrong direction.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, asserted that the Comprehensive Plan is full of holes, and so much of the information contained in it is a regurgitation of the plans from 1976 and 1991. Ms. Pongracz enumerated three things that should be done. One, bring the information up to date. Two, set a priority, do the things that can be done now, and focus on what the City needs. Three, if the salaries of elected officials are going to be frozen, then taxes should be frozen. Ms. Pongracz stressed the problem with the Comprehensive Plan is that it has been put together by people who do not know the City of Bethlehem. Ms. Pongracz, emphasizing that she resents anyone saying that Broughal Middle School should be torn down, said it is akin to tearing down the Statue of Liberty. She communicated that education goes far beyond having a football field. Ms. Pongracz stated that spot zoning in the City needs to be addressed, and the Zoning Ordinance needs to be redone properly. Ms. Pongracz noted that by adopting the Comprehensive Plan a working document is being adopted that may or may not work. Ms. Pongracz, highlighting the fact that parts of South Bethlehem were torn down for redevelopment, affirmed the Victorian house in which she lived was also torn down. Ms. Pongracz pointed out that the residents of South Bethlehem do not have to be told what they need because they already know what they need; i.e., the services that others in the City get, and an Administration that will work to keep the City what it should be. Ms. Pongracz said to adopt the Comprehensive Plan is incomprehensible to her because it is inadequate and not ready to be adopted. She further pointed out the ignorance in not including West Bethlehem in the Plan, and added there are many residents of South Bethlehem who can explain what that section of the City is all about.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras
2. Gift of Real Estate – LVIP
3. Bill No. 28 - 2008 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections
4. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
C. Old Business – Members of Council
Demolition of Historic Buildings
Mrs. Belinski advised that last May she began the process of a proposed Ordinance to require demolition of historic buildings to first come before City Council for review. Mrs. Belinski noted she was told that, when the permit to build the new Broughal School was obtained, permission was also given at the same time to demolish the old Broughal Middle School. Mrs. Belinski wondered whether the permit is still valid, and expressed there may still be hope.
Mayor Callahan affirmed when the construction permit for the new Broughal School was obtained a demolition permit for the old Broughal School was given but he does not know the answer to the time limit.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, while advising that the permit department should be contacted, stated when a permit is obtained there is a certain time limit within which to start the project and as long as the project is ongoing it is not an issue. Ms. Heller, noting that the work must be continuous, said to her knowledge the work has been continuous.
President Donchez asked that the matter be checked and a memorandum sent to City Council regarding whether or not there is an expiration date.
A. Fire Commissioner – Fire Department - Personnel
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 18, 2009 from George Barkanic, Fire Commissioner, requesting the scheduling of a Human Resources and Environment Committee Meeting to discuss the promotion of four firefighters to the rank of Lieutenant and the temporary addition of a Captain.
President Donchez forwarded the matter to the Human Resources and Environment Committee.
B. Director of Parks and Public Property – Resolution Authorizing DCNR Grant Application for Sand Island
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 20, 2009 from Ralph E. Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, to which was attached a proposed Resolution authorizing the application for a DCNR grant in the amount of $200,000 to enable the City to move forward to complete the Sand Island West renovation project.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be listed on the March 17Agenda.
C. Director of Planning and Zoning - Comprehensive Plan – Follow Up to February 25 Public Hearing
The Clerk read a memorandum dated February 26, 2009 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, to which was attached comments from the February 25 Public Hearing which could be incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan draft. The Clerk read two additional memorandums from Ms. Heller dated March 3, 2009 that were also submitted to further amend the Comprehensive Plan Revisions to add item 9 pertaining to bicycle travel, and item 10 concerning preservation of built resources in the parks.
President Donchez stated that authorizing Resolution 11 D is on the Agenda.
A. President of Council
1. Councilmanic Appointment – Loretta M. Leeson – Recreation Commission
President Donchez reappointed Loretta M. Leeson to membership on the Recreation Commission effective until January 2014. Mr. Reynolds and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution No. 2009-50 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Abstaining: Mr. Leeson, 1. The Resolution passed.
C. Finance Committee
Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Chairman of the Finance Committee, gave an oral report of the meeting that was held on Tuesday, February 10, 2009 on the following subjects: Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau; Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – 2008 General Obligation Note; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget: A. Fire Department – FEMA Grant – Rescue Tools, B. Year End Adjustments; Recreation Fees – Proposed Increases; Amending Article 1120 – Emergency Medical Services – Fees; Amending Article 129 – Municipal Bond Issues – Subject Matter Restrictions; Elected Officials – Salaries: Mayor, Controller, Treasurer, City Council.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 1 – 2009 - Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau
The Clerk read Bill No. 1 – 2009 – Amending the General Fund Budget – Health Bureau, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Bill No. 1 - 2009, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-3, was declared adopted.
B. Bill No. 2 – 2009 - Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – 2008 General Obligation Note
The Clerk read Bill No. 2 – 2009 – Amending Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget – 2008 General Obligation Note, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Voting NAY: Mr. Schweder, 1. Bill No. 2 - 2009, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-4, was declared adopted.
C. Bill No. 3 – 2009 - Amending Non-Utility Capital
Budget - FEMA Grant for Fire Department and Year End Adjustments
The Clerk read Bill No. 3 – 2009 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – FEMA Grant for Fire Department and Year End Adjustments, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Bill No. 3 - 2009, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-5, was declared adopted.
D. Bill No. 4 – 2009 - Amending Article 129 – Municipal Bond Issues – Subject Matter Restrictions
The Clerk read Bill No. 4 – 2009 – Amending Article 129 – Municipal Bond Issues – Subject Matter Restrictions, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Schweder, 4. Voting NAY: Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Donchez, 2. Bill No. 4 – 2009, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-6, was declared adopted.
E. Bill No. 5 – 2009 - Establishing Salary of Mayor – 2010 through 2013
The Clerk read Bill No. 5 – 2009 – Establishing Salary of Mayor – 2010 through 2013, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 4. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Schweder, 2. Bill No. 5 – 2009, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-7, was declared adopted.
F. Bill No. 6 – 2009 - Establishing Salary of Controller – 2010 through 2013
The Clerk read Bill No. 6 – 2009 – Establishing Salary of Controller – 2010 through 2013, on Final Reading.
President Donchez stated that, as Members of Council are aware, Bill No. 6 was amended on First Reading at the February 17 City Council Meeting to set the Controller’s salary at $49,000 for the next four year period that is the same amount as was set for the current year 2009.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Bill No. 6 - 2009 hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-8, was declared adopted.
G. Bill No. 7 – 2009 - Establishing Salary of Treasurer – 2010 through 2013
The Clerk read Bill No. 7 – 2009 – Establishing Salary of Treasurer – 2010 through 2013, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Voting NAY: Mr. Schweder, 1. Bill No. 7 - 2009 hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-9, was declared adopted.
H. Bill No. 8 – 2009 - Establishing Salary of Members of Council and President of Council – 2010 through 2013
The Clerk read Bill No. 8 – 2009 – Establishing Salary of Members of Council and President of Council – 2010 through 2013, on Final Reading.
President Donchez stated that Bill No. 8 was amended on
First Reading at the February 17 City Council Meeting to set
the salary of the Members of Council at $7,100 for the next
four year period that is the same amount as was set for the
current year 2009; and, to set the salary of the President
of Council at $7,600 for the next four year period that is
the same amount as was set for the current year 2009.
Ms. Dolan, stating she will be voting yes on the Bill, said she does not feel Council is really done with the issue of unequal compensation for those who take the benefit of health care from the City and those who do not. Ms. Dolan hoped that President Donchez would consider having the matter reviewed in Committee, and added there is more to look at than what other cities do. Ms. Dolan did not think because other cities give benefits or does otherwise that Bethlehem should do exactly the same.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Bill No. 8 - 2009 hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2009-10, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network – 2009 Boutique at the Rink
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution No. 2009-51 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between St. Luke’s Hospital and Health Network and the City for use of the Municipal Ice Rink for the 2009 Boutique at the Rink for the time period April 28, 2009 to June 1, 2009, according to the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Records Destruction – Controller’s Office
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution No. 2009-52 that authorized the disposition of the public records from the Controller’s Office as listed in Exhibit A, according to schedules and procedures for the disposition of records as set forth in the Municipal Records Manual approved on July 16, 1993 and Resolution 13,076.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 217 Broadway
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution No. 2009-53 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct an addition on the side and rear of the building and to install two flags at 217 Broadway.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The Resolution passed.
D. Adopting City of Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan 2008 and Revisions
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Leeson sponsored Resolution 2009-54 that adopted the City of Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan 2008 and Summary of Recommended Revisions dated November 13, 2008 and February 25, 2009, containing Introduction, City Profile, Future Land Use, Housing and Neighborhoods, Downtown Revitalization and Economic Development, Environmental Conservation, Parks and Recreation, Historic Preservation, Transportation, Community Facilities and Services, Arts and Cultural Amenities, and Action Program, and including maps, charts, and textual matter.
Amendment 1 to Resolution 11 D
Ms. Dolan clarified that, as stated earlier, there was an additional item regarding historic preservation in the City’s parks to be added. President Donchez read item 10, as follows: The Historic Preservation Chapter should recognize the need to protect and preserve the built resources in the City’s many historic parks.
Ms. Dolan asked whether it would be the appropriate time to propose additional points to the Recommended Revisions to the Comprehensive Plan based on new information raised this evening by citizens. President Donchez replied in the affirmative. Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, affirmed amendments would need to be made by motion, second, and then a vote on the amendment. Attorney Spadoni informed Ms. Dolan that additions to the listing need to be made by motion, second, and vote.
Ms. Dolan, turning to the Comprehensive Plan, Historic Preservation Strategies, page 8-9, communicated that in support of Mrs. Belinski’s efforts to regulate the demolition of buildings beyond the City’s Historic Districts, and Mr. Reynolds’ efforts to revise some of the verbiage in the Plan Revisions she would offer an amendment. In the Comprehensive Plan, Historic Preservation Strategies, page 8-9, item 3, Ms. Dolan moved to strike the word “consider” at the beginning of the sentence and add the word “strengthen” in place of the word “strengthening”, so that Item 3 would be amended to read as follows: Strengthen the City’s regulations on the demolition of older buildings beyond the three City historic districts to include historic resources in other parts of the City. Mr. Reynolds seconded the motion.
Ms. Dolan, commenting that the Strategies are the real strength of the Comprehensive Plan, thought that given the current process underway to solidly address demolition of historic structures beyond the three City historic districts it ought to be stated in the Comprehensive Plan that it is not something that is being considered but rather it is something the City is determining to do. Ms. Dolan added that Chris Ussler, the City’s Historic Officer, supports the efforts as well.
Voting AYE on the amendment: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr.
Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Voting NAY: Mr.
Leeson, 1. The amendment passed.
Amendment 2 to Resolution 11 D
Ms. Dolan, referring to discussions about air quality issues, turned to the Comprehensive Plan, Public Transit Service, page 9-26, items 18 and 19, and pointed out these items address such issues. Ms. Dolan asked whether the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement addresses air quality and might enhance this section of the Comprehensive Plan.
Mayor John Callahan affirmed he would have no objection
to referencing the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement
in the Comprehensive Plan where appropriate. Mayor Callahan
explained that given the City’s resources and the ability
to measure such things as the City’s carbon footprint
a decision was made to lead by example as a City in the way
its operations are done, and to try to put policies in place
in the Comprehensive Plan that would encourage others to do
the same. Mayor Callahan observed the 12 points in the Mayor’s
Climate Protection Agreement are probably addressed in various
sections of the Comprehensive Plan. Mayor Callahan added the
issues related to the Greenway, walkability and bikeability
are part of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, affirmed that the reference to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement is in the Comprehensive Plan, Environmental Conservation, page 6-3. Ms. Heller continued on to note that in the Housing and Neighborhood section walkability and quality of life are addressed. In the Transportation section much of the public response concentrated on pedestrian and bicycle safety as opposed to new roads and traffic calming, and all highlight different components of the overall Climate Protection Agreement.
Ms. Dolan highlighted the fact that although the reference to the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement is in the Comprehensive Plan, Environmental Conservation section, it is not in the Strategies that she stated was important. Ms. Dolan moved that the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement be referenced in the Environmental Conservation Strategies in the Comprehensive Plan as a document that represents the overall goals of the City and improving its environment. Mr. Leeson seconded the motion.
Voting AYE on the amendment: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The amendment passed.
Mr. Reynolds communicated the Comprehensive Plan document is a plan for which there are some limitations, and it is a working document. As far as issues raised by Ms. Dolan and citizens, Mr. Reynolds said policies need to be implemented to reflect preferences in the Comprehensive Plan. Focusing on comments that what is contained in the Comprehensive Plan is a regurgitation of what had been in earlier plans, Mr. Reynolds indicated to a certain extent that is why it is Bethlehem; i.e., because the City continues to do things well over the years that have led it to be the place it is today. Turning to Mr. Krauter’s earlier comments, Mr. Reynolds said what needs to be done is to look at what is in the Comprehensive Plan and moving forward with strategies and policies that reflect the priorities. As far as pollution and transportation, etc., Mr. Reynolds said he knows this Administration is very committed to looking at those things. While some might want stronger language in the Comprehensive Plan in the coming months and beyond, Mr. Reynolds observed that policies and strategies will be implemented to reflect those priorities. Mr. Reynolds stated he does not have a problem voting for the Comprehensive Plan knowing that Council, the Administration and the citizens will move forward in a way that will reflect environmental priorities.
Mr. Schweder, noting he will vote in favor of the Comprehensive Plan, thought very legitimate concerns were raised by citizens. However, Mr. Schweder observed the reality is that the Comprehensive Plan document does not commit the City to do anything. About ten years ago when there was a zoning issue before Council, he inquired of the former Planning Director how often the Director referred back to the Comprehensive Plan. The response was very little if ever. Mr. Schweder stressed the real proof of how serious the Comprehensive Plan will be taken is what will be done in the months ahead to change the Zoning Ordinance to protect neighborhoods that have been under siege for a long time.
Mrs. Belinski recalled the former Planning Director had said the Comprehensive Plan represents the position of the Administration.
President Donchez, noting he will support the Comprehensive Plan, expressed he views it as a working document that addresses many issues including quality of life, strong neighborhoods, public safety, and recreation. However, President Donchez commented he has some concerns related to pollution, transportation, and demolition of historical buildings. President Donchez agreed that, as Mr. Schweder stated, the key point and challenge will be the revision of the Zoning Ordinance to guide the City in the coming years.
Voting AYE on Resolution 11 D, as Amended: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Resolution 2009-54 passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
New State Law – County-Wide Earned Income Tax Collection
President Donchez, referring to the memorandum he sent regarding the new State law for the collection of Earned Income Taxes (EIT), asked whether the City is going to pursue collection of taxes for Northampton County, and observed it would require more resources and personnel. However, if the City does not collect for the County then the reverse would be true.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, confirmed the City will pursue it and added he and other staff members will be attending a seminar on the matter.
President Donchez inquired whether any other municipalities
in Northampton County have an interest in being the collection
agency for taxes. Mr. Reichard responded no other municipalities
have expressed an interest, but there is interest from Berkheimer
Mayor Callahan noted that County-wide collection of EIT taxes is an issue that has been followed very closely by the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities and the group worked with the State to make sure that municipalities that currently collect EIT would be considered as an entity and are consulted on implementation. There will be the ability to collect some of the taxes that have been lost, the process will be more streamlined for taxpayers, and it is hoped that more revenue will be generated. In the formulation of the board, Bethlehem will be given the opportunity to be the collection agency. In response to President Donchez, Mayor Callahan noted it would start in 2012.
Mr. Reynolds observed that currently the City relies on the Townships to pay the City for EIT taxes. Mr. Reichard replied the City looks at the State revenue records, and there are quarterly reports between the City and the Townships to make sure the City gives the money to the Townships and vice versa. Mr. Reichard, in further response to Mr. Reynolds, noted there are sometimes delays. Mr. Reynolds asked in the event the City were to be the collection agency whether the delays would be diminished. Mr. Reichard replied the delays should no longer exist. Mr. Reynolds queried what is the reason the Townships would sometimes delay paying the City. Mr. Reichard explained there may be uncertainty as to where the money should go.
Ms. Dolan asked if the City would collect the EIT for the City and for the School District whether there is an efficiency factor. Mr. Reichard advised that EIT is based on where people live and the School District would already have it coded as to where people live. Mayor Callahan pointed out there are some economies of scale by moving to the new system. Mayor Callahan exemplified that, currently, if someone works in Bethlehem and lives in Lower Saucon Township the City would collect the EIT and then turn it over to Lower Saucon Township and vice versa. Under the new system that exchange would be eliminated. If the City were selected, the City would collect for the entire County of Northampton. Explaining the rationale for County-wide collection, Mayor Callahan observed that the majority of citizens may live and work in the same County so it would be less often that the reciprocation would have to take place of one municipality forwarding the funds to another municipality and vice versa.
Ms. Dolan, focusing on the Local Services Tax, expressed the hope that system would be improved to make it more efficient and less egregious for those who do not make a lot of money, and for those to hold more than one job.
Mr. Schweder asked if someone lived in the City of Bethlehem and worked in Hanover Township when the EIT revenue came back to the City from the Township would it have the individual’s name and their employer. Mr. Reichard advised that the information is coded so that Hanover Township would code it for the City of Bethlehem, and it would have the employer with the name and the code. Mr. Reichard noted that sometimes it will be coded for the City of Bethlehem since it is a Bethlehem address but the location is actually in Fountain Hill. Mr. Reichard exemplified that for Lehigh University, it would state Lehigh University and then hundreds of names with the codes. Then, the City would check the codes and return the money to the appropriate Township.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Noise and Air Pollution from Industrial Businesses – Yeates Street Area
James Kovacs, 716 Yeates Street, expressed that the City seems to be giving companies carte blanche to do whatever they want because the Zoning Ordinances and the codes are not being followed. Mr. Kovacs informed the assembly that where he resides behind the former Krick’s Bakery off Stefko Boulevard there is air pollution from Bethlehem Precast from the concrete dust but there is also noise pollution from Airco Products now called Lindy. Mr. Kovacs stressed that the company is venting fumes, gas and air, and there is excessive noise beyond the allowable levels. Mr. Kovacs, notifying the Members that he has written the dates and the occurrences on several occasions, enumerated the dates, times, and Police Officers who responded to his calls. Mr. Kovacs questioned why an Officer refused to respond to one of his calls about a noise complaint. One of the Officers called Airco and was informed the company was transferring from one tank to another. Mr. Kovacs queried who should he go to if the City is not enforcing the laws. Mr. Kovacs asked if the City gave Airco/Linny permission to make loud, excessive noise.
President Donchez asked Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, and Randall Miller, Police Commissioner, to meet with Mr. Kovacs after the Meeting.
Five Points – One Way Pairs; Loans to Businesses
Terry Meixell, 56 E. Goepp Street, affirmed he distributed to the Members of Council a list of his concerns about the Five Points One Way Pairing traffic plan, and awaits the answers. Mr. Meixell, focusing on low interest loans to businesses, noted Four Star Construction Company went bankrupt and received approximately $100,000 in low interest loans, and Mr. Pektor who received low interest loans is close to foreclosure on two of his properties. Mr. Meixell asked if the City is protected so that the taxpayers will not have to foot the bills if the loans go into default.
Mayor Callahan replied that over the years there have been defaults but surprisingly few. Mayor Callahan advised that typically the City would provide gap financing after a business owner has obtained a bank loan but is not the primary financing entity for a project. Mayor Callahan observed that businesses such as restaurants or others who may be starting out with no track record would take advantage of the City’s program. Consequently, in an effort to promote more business and small entrepreneurship, the City will extend itself more than a bank would. Mayor Callahan continued on to say the City has strong downtowns on both the North and South Sides. Mayor Callahan, explaining that each loan is different, exemplified that if a restaurant went bankrupt then the City could sell the restaurant equipment. The City has partnered with six area banks that each contribute $100,000 annually into a revolving loan pool into which the City also puts $100,000 through the CDBG or other programs, and all the banks would share the risk of a default. The applicants must appear before the loan committee to be approved for financing.
Noise and Air Pollution from Industrial Businesses – Yeates Street Area
Bruce Kovacs, 703 Yeates Street, expressed he wants a place for his family to live where it is healthy and they can at least sleep. Mr. Kovacs informed the assembly that in the 1930’s-1940’s his father built their house at the southeast corner of Stefko Boulevard and Pembroke Road where there are about 30 homes. Afterwards, no more homes were built, and the City zoned the area Light Industrial, so that the homes were surrounded by light industrial companies. Mr. Kovacs, affirming there is noise in the area, pointed out the Police are called but when they show up they explain they cannot do anything about it. Mr. Kovacs, continuing on to say numerous messages have been left at the Mayor’s office, said at one point he left a message at 4:00 a.m. after he had been woken up by a blast. Referring to Zoning Ordinance Article 1316, Mr. Kovacs pointed out that 24 uses are listed for the Light Industrial area, and at the end it states that the uses will be conducted without creating nuisance conditions beyond the limits of its lots by reason of emission of smoke, dust, odor, and other air pollutants, noise, vibration, and so on. Mr. Kovacs notified the Members that another concrete business was permitted behind Andy’s Auto Body, and concrete and asphalt are ground up in the middle of a field and go into the air. He read further from the Zoning Ordinance that manufacture, storage or distribution of asphalt or cement is not allowed. He noted that in a residential area 60 decibels of noise is allowed during the day and in Light Industrial 75 decibels is allowed. Mr. Kovacs also read from Codified Ordinance Article 717, Noise, and questioned how many times and for how many years must he come before City officials concerning this matter, highlighting the City’s laws, and questioning when will the City start requiring the businesses to abide by the laws. Mr. Kovacs explained the blast is as loud as a 747 jet at the front door and the windows of his house, located 400 yards away from the business, vibrate.
President Donchez asked the Administration to review these matters that have gone back a number of years.
James Kovacs advised that a meter reading was taken and it was stated the amount of noise was illegal but no one is pursuing it any further. Mr. Kovacs communicated that a Police Officer suggested they come before City Council. Mr. Kovacs notified the Members that Bethlehem Precast put in footers before they received approval, they were restricted from manufacturing concrete but yet they are manufacturing concrete, and questioned who gave them permission. Mr. Kovacs highlighted the fact that there are a lot of residences in the area, but it seems that the businesses get more than the residents do.
Broughal School – Demolition; Comprehensive Plan
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said it sounds like there is a lack of enforcement in the situation related by the Kovacs. Mr. Scheirer expressed even though the demolition permit for Broughal Middle School is still valid he cannot believe there is no redress. Mr. Scheirer said that Council has refused to act on this matter, and thought that Council has the power to say this is not a good idea and not allow it to happen. Mr. Scheirer, pointing out that some have advised these are school matters, recalled that the School District has to follow the rules that everyone else follows. Mr. Scheirer highlighted the fact that the City of Hazleton took the school district to court and said that the high school should not be torn down and the City of Hazleton prevailed. Mr. Scheirer wondered if Broughal would be so vulnerable if it were on the North Side. Turning to the Comprehensive Plan, Mr. Scheirer said the action taken tonight has undermined the Plan. Mr. Scheirer thought the City will be in a similar situation as with the 1991 Plan since it was stated that the Plan is a working document.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, asks who makes the decision on who will be the EIT collection agency for the County. Mayor Callahan noted that a board will make the decision. Mr. Grubb said that generally Comprehensive Plans sit on shelves and are taken out when convenient. Mr. Grubb stated that the Zoning Ordinance amendments will be the key and will give the Comprehensive Plan teeth. Mr. Grubb expressed the hope that a number of the projects on the list of $95 million of shovel ready projects submitted by the City under the Federal economic stimulus plan are accomplished. Mr. Grubb thought that the Stefko Drainage Swale and Monocacy Creek Stabilization in Illick’s Mill Park should have been included.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, said he does not like to see children at the cardboard crusher area at the Recycling Center. Mr. Rodriquez thanked various City officials for their assistance at the Yosko Park and Illick’s Mill areas. Mr. Rodriquez stated that trash around the South Side is increasing and drug use is worse than ever. He asked that the Police be more responsive and respectful when taking calls. Mr. Rodriquez stressed that a community center is desperately needed for youth, with competitive sports, and education in the arts. Mr. Rodriquez highlighted the fact that approximately 200 people signed a petition in opposition to the Five Points One Way Pairs proposal and still the project is moving ahead. He advised that lights and trees are being damaged throughout the City that are located close to corners being damaged by trucks and the debris is in the streets. Mr. Rodriquez noted the Borderline restaurant bought trees that are being sold at a discount and asked that City officials contact the restaurant regarding the City’s purchase of some trees. Mr. Rodriquez said recycling containers are not being picked up on a timely basis.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commented that the Comprehensive Plan is a wish list that can be pulled off the shelf or ignored while the Zoning Ordinance has teeth because it can be enforced. Mr. Antalics did not understand how the Comprehensive Plan could have been approved before the Zoning Ordinance amendments, and thought that Council should not have approved the Comprehensive Plan before the revision of the Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Antalics asserted that problems will continue until the Zoning Ordinance is amended and enforced. He thought there is a tremendous problem with chronology and priorities to have an old Zoning Ordinance that allows variances and misuse of properties, and yet pass the Comprehensive Plan first.
Mr. Schweder, recounting the matter has been discussed for years and that he has pushed for the updating of the Zoning Ordinance for years, highlighted the fact that the Department advised that changes in the Zoning laws would not be pursued until there was a new Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Schweder, while affirming to Mr. Antalics it did not make sense to him to proceed in that manner, explained he voted in favor of the Comprehensive Plan tonight because now the Zoning Ordinance can be reviewed. Mr. Schweder stated that he looks forward to the opportunity to review revisions to the Zoning Ordinance now that the Comprehensive Plan has been adopted. Mr. Schweder restated that Council was told the order in which the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance revisions would be taken up.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 p.m.