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September 21, 2010
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 – 7:50 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Richard D. Collins, of First Church of the Nazarene, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Eric R. Evans, Gordon B. Mowrer, J. William Reynolds, and Robert J. Donchez, 7.
CITATION – Honoring Charles C. Sabella, Jr.
President Donchez stated that the Citation honoring Charles C. Sabella, Jr. on the occasion of his retirement after 32 years of service with the Parks Department will be sent to him since he was not able to attend this evening’s City Council Meeting.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of September 7, 2010 were approved.
Committee of the Whole Meeting - SteelStacks Project at BethWorks - TIF Funds
President Donchez confirmed that City Council met as a Committee of the Whole at 5:45 PM this evening for a presentation on the SteelStacks Project at BethWorks and the application of TIF funds. Under Agenda Item 11 - Resolutions, President Donchez advised that he will ask the Members of Council if they desire to consider a Resolution authorizing execution of the TIF Rebate Agreement, and he will recognize public comment on this matter under the first Courtesy of the Floor.
Adding Resolution 11 G to the Agenda - TIF Rebate Agreement – Bethlehem Works
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds moved to add Resolution 11 G to the Agenda. Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The motion passed.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
SteelStacks Project at BethWorks - TIF Funds
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commending Jeff Parks, President of ArtsQuest, on a brilliant, creative plan for the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation site, questioned why is this happening now, and added that the Bethlehem Area School District and Northampton County have heard about the plan in the past. Mr. Antalics stressed that at the preceding Committee of the Whole meeting the Members of Council raised serious questions. Mr. Antalics suggested that a Resolution not be passed tonight in order to allow City Council to digest what they need to know. He continued on to say that to ask City Council to make a decision on something so serious in one meeting and on short notice is against the best interests of the taxpayers since the taxpayers will bear the brunt of what Council decides. Mr. Antalics thought that City Council should have another meeting on the TIF, and should put their questions in writing so that the public can see them. Mr. Antalics inquired if any TIF money will go to any private establishments within the TIF District at BethWorks. Mr. Antalics asked who owns the Stock House. Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, replied it will be owned by the City of Bethlehem, and could potentially be owned by the Redevelopment Authority. He stated that under the agreement with the Sands Casino the building will be owned by the City of Bethlehem. Mr. Antalics asked if ArtsQuest will be leasing property from the City, and asserted these things should be resolved before a vote is taken. In further response to Mr. Antalics, Mr. Hanna stated there would be a lease between the City of Bethlehem and ArtsQuest. Mr. Antalics queried, if the property is owned by the City, will the entire area be opened to freedom of speech. John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, responding in the affirmative, noted it is public space.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, asking if the revised Rebate Agreement has been made available to the public prior to this moment in time, said the public has not been able to see it prior to this instant. Mr. Pfenning added he received the agreement with schedules today at 5:45 p.m. Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, confirmed it is a public document. Attorney Spadoni informed Mr. Pfenning that the Members of Council received the Rebate Agreement with the schedules today at about 5:43 p.m. Mr. Pfenning asked what event will start the construction money flowing in terms of the bond issue approval and rebate agreement. Attorney William Rhodes, Special Counsel to the Redevelopment Authority, answered the funding of the closing settlement under the bond transaction would trigger the immediate funding of all of the proceeds of the bonds, or if structured as a draw-down the availability of the proceeds to be drawn through construction draws submitted by the Redevelopment Authority. Mr. Pfenning observed that Mr. Hanna said the Stock House will be owned by the City, but Schedule 1 says it will be owed by the Redevelopment Authority. Mr. Pfenning, indicating that for the middle section of the existing properties including the Sands Casino the 15% flows to the taxing authorities, asked about the $5.5 million. Darryl Peck, of Concord Public Finance, responded that the $5.5 million is the TIF revenues or the tax revenues generated from the improved properties. From that, the first $1.5 million is dedicated to the TIF with no sharing from that amount. The balance after the $1.5 million will be shared 15%-85%, and 85% of that is about $3.4 million. As a result, $4.9 million is available to the TIF. Mr. Pfenning remarked that when the 2011 Budget is reviewed and layoffs are considered the City will still be comfortable with the fact of how much money is going into the TIF project. Adding it is a great project, Mr. Pfenning said he would be in favor of it if it were being fully funded by private donations, but expressed his concern that taxpayers have to pay for some of it. Mr. Pfenning thought there were better alternatives. Mr. Pfenning stated that the Rebate Agreement is very complex.
Lee Schantz, 103 E. Washington Avenue, asked if Mr. Hanna is a member of the ArtsQuest board. President Donchez replied yes. Mr. Schantz asked if that is a conflict of interest. President Donchez advised that Attorney Spadoni has reviewed the matter. Mr. Schantz, noting another individual is a member of the Christkindlmarkt board, asked if that is a conflict of interest when people are on these boards making decisions to spend tax money. Mr. Schantz commented that Mr. Parks has not been a steward of Constitutional rights since people have a right to travel and carry their goods such as food and drink on public property. Mr. Schantz, referring to a lease agreement, read that the permittee shall comply with all City, State, and Federal laws, rules, and regulations, and questioned why the City has not been protecting citizens’ rights on public property. Mr. Schantz continued on to stress that citizens have the right to peaceably assemble, and have redress of grievances. Mr. Schantz remarked that the Greenway is costing the citizens almost $10 million for a three mile walking path.
Charles Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, thought that City Council and the various representatives are moving too fast with the project, the economy is moving too slow, and asserted that in five years the project will be going down if it is not done right. Mr. Nyul remarked that decisions are being made at the Northampton County level about the City that is also located in Lehigh County. Mr. Nyul pointed out that these decisions could affect his taxes, and added he is also trying to protect the lives of his children and grandchildren. Mr. Nyul asked that City Council not vote on the matter right away and set it aside.
President Donchez affirmed that Communication 7 C will be read into the record and a meeting will be scheduled on the request that is a TIF proposal for Martin Tower located in Lehigh County. President Donchez confirmed the entities that will be voting on that TIF will be the City, Bethlehem Area School District, and Lehigh County. President Donchez highlighted the fact that Northampton County will not be involved in that property since it is located in Lehigh County, just as Lehigh County will not be involved in the TIF at BethWorks because it is located in Northampton County.
Ron Angle, 52 Million Dollar Highway, Mt. Bethel, President of Northampton County Council, commented he is not aware that the TIF Rebate Agreement for the SteelStacks project is a done deal. While expressing he is not sure why City Council is voting tonight, Mr. Angle said he understands the dilemma of the time constraints. Mr. Angle noted he was informed by Attorney Spirk that Mrs. Leeson, President of the Bethlehem Area School Board, did get the documents. Mr. Angle added that eventually the City agreed to his proposal. Mr. Angle said, on his behalf and on behalf of John Stoffa, Northampton County Executive, they do not want to get involved with what the City does with its TIF. Mr. Angle, pointing out his concern had always been the breaking up of the dollars, observed that has now been resolved. However, Mr. Angle communicated that as of Friday there is some question that he and Mr. Mazzioti, Director of Finance for Northampton County, had about wording in the agreement and added he thought that is easy enough to do. Mr. Angle, commenting he is a little hard pressed to believe that the School District is on board as of this minute, asked if they are on board. President Donchez noted he thinks the School Board has its meeting next Monday on the matter. Mr. Angle wondered if they agree in concept, and whether the School Board President, who is the spokesperson, is agreeable as of today to the correct agreement to modify the TIF and will recommend it to the School Board.
Attorney Rhodes said the group has been working hard for many hours with the board and the finance officer to share ideas and negotiate. Attorney Rhodes stated they received the first proposal that outlined the structure and they came back with some counterproposals that have been largely accepted. Attorney Rhodes expressed the hope that the Rebate Agreement reflects their points. He added that they have been working with the finance officer and the proformas to make sure they agree.
Mr. Angle, remarking that while Mrs. Leeson’s scope
is to decide what is done at the site, and who owns what,
repeated that Northampton County is not concerned with those
issues since they believe the City is doing a good job with
it, and what the County wants is some dollars. Mr. Angle informed
the assembly that his Council has authorized him to sign the
agreement if in fact it meets the County’s approval
with those terms and, if not, they have authorized him to
have the Solicitor bring a suit but which is the last thing
they want to do. Mr. Angle added that the County worked with
the City on a good solution.
Dean Bruch, 555 Spring Street, communicated that in view of all the questions the Members of Council have regarding the TIF at BethWorks for the SteelStacks project he thought things should be toned down. Mr. Bruch did not believe that the representatives have all the answers.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, wondered how long a particular program can be studied before it becomes redundant to study. Ms. Pongracz stated she is in favor of the TIF for SteelStacks, and added that hundreds of hours have been spent on the project and many fund raisers have taken place. Ms. Pongracz noted that information about the plans for the SteelStacks project has been out for quite a long time, and is not something that just arrived. Ms. Pongracz queried what is the alternative to saying that the TIF should not be used. She highlighted the fact that millions of dollars have been invested at the BethWorks site and an immense Brownfields site has been resurrected that has become an attraction. Ms. Pongracz pointed out that the Sands Casino has been a cooperating agency in the City. Ms. Pongracz expressed the opinion that to deny a further development for SteelStacks is equivalent to treason. Ms. Pongracz communicated that the project will benefit the City in opportunities for employment, for older citizens to enjoy music, dancing, etc., and for all those in the community. In addition, there will be a new television station, and an adjunct of the Smithsonian Institute, a café, and entertainment. Ms. Pongracz questioned why there is such a discussion about whether to use the TIF. Ms. Pongracz emphasized that the City will lose completely if this opportunity is lost, and the citizens will not benefit if the TIF is denied.
Zoning Hearing Board Membership
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, said he is in favor of five voting Zoning Hearing Board members and his personal preference would be to have two alternates. Mr. Bernotas asked what is the quorum for a five member Zoning Hearing Board. President Donchez noted the answer is three members. Mr. Bernotas inquired if three yes votes would be needed to pass a variance. Attorney Spadoni commented he would need to check. Mr. Bernotas observed if that is not the case then the situation would revert to having three voting members and two of the three members would decide, and would not be any different than the current situation.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, seconded Mr. Bernotas’ comments about the membership of the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Scheirer said he does not think their decision on the Elias Farmers Market is what precipitated the Ordinance proposal because that predated the case of Elias Market. Mr. Scheirer pointed out that if there are five Zoning Hearing Board members and two are absent then two of the three remaining members could decide whether or not an appeal is granted and the situation with the Board would be back to square one. Mr. Scheirer agreed it would be good to have two alternates.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
(Assigned to Preservation Plan Task Force)
C. Old Business – Members of Council
A. Business Administrator – 2011 Preliminary Budget Estimates – Pension
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 16, 2010 from Dennis W. Reichard, Business Administrator, listing estimates of the financial requirements of the Police, Fire, Officers and Employees, and PMRS pension plans, and minimum municipal contribution to the plans for 2011 budget purposes, as required under Act 205.
President Donchez advised this is for information only at this time, and no action needs to be taken.
B. City Controller – Replacing Article 735 – Emergency Alarm System
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 15, 2010 from Meg Holland, City Controller, to which was attached a proposed Ordinance deleting existing Article 735, Emergency Alarm System, in its entirety and replacing it with a new Article 735.
President Donchez referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee.
C. TIF Proposal – Martin Tower
The Clerk read a letter dated September 20, 2010 from Attorney John F. Lushis, Jr., Solicitor to the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority (LCIDA), stating that LCIDA has been developing a TIF plan to finance a portion of a project through the establishment of a tax increment district created by the Board of Commissioners of the County of Lehigh known as the “City Central Tax Increment District”. This TIF District comprises the 53 acre parcel of property known as The Martin Tower Complex located at 1170 Eighth Avenue. LCIDA requests the TIF Plan be reviewed and considered by the Finance Committee.
President Donchez affirmed that Members of Council have received information from owners of the property, and a Committee of the Whole meeting will be scheduled.
A. President of Council
Live Feed – City Council Meetings
President Donchez noted that information regarding live
feed of City Council meetings was provided to the Members
of Council, and added there is a cost involved. He added that
members of the press and citizens on the email list should
have received a copy of the information today.
Canceling and Rescheduling Public Hearing - Police Officer John Nye
Attorney Spadoni advised there was communication today with his office concerning the public hearing on the matter of Police Officer John Nye that was scheduled for tomorrow, September 22, 2010 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall. Denoting that there was a telephone conversation this evening at 6:50 PM with Attorney Waldon, who represents Officer Nye, Attorney Spadoni said his understanding is that there is a joint application for a continuance by the office of John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, on behalf of the City, and Attorney Waldron, on behalf of Officer Nye. Attorney Spirk stated that is correct. Attorney Spirk informed the Members that counsel for the Officer called the Law Bureau today and indicated he needed more time to prepare some documents that were just recently obtained by both parties. Attorney Spirk indicated to Attorney Waldron that the City would not object and, in the interest of fairness, would make it a joint request for a postponement and continuance of the hearing. Attorney Spirk confirmed Attorney Spadoni’s comments about the discussions with Attorney Waldron at 6:50 PM this evening.
President Donchez affirmed that the public hearing scheduled for tomorrow, September 22, 2010 at 6:00 PM will be cancelled and will be rescheduled, and those involved will be notified.
Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, noted there are no reports for the Mayor.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 24 – 2010 – Authorizing Cooperative Memorandum of Agreement – Borough of Hellertown – State Route 412 Multi-Jurisdictional Traffic Signal
The Clerk read Bill No. 24 – 2010 – Authorizing Cooperative Memorandum of Agreement – Borough of Hellertown – SR 0412 Multi-Jurisdictional Signal, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 24 - 2010, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2010-24 was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 25 – 2010 – Amending Article 1325 – Increasing Zoning Board Membership
The Clerk read Bill No. 25 – 2010 – Amending Article 1325 – Increasing Zoning Board Membership, sponsored by Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
ARTICLE 1325, TITLED ZONING HEARING BOARD,
SECTION 1325.02, MEMBERSHIP, TERMS OF OFFICE,
Ms. Dolan, commenting that the Members of Council listen to the citizens under the Courtesy of the Floor, recalled not that long ago City Council decided informally to move forward with this change but it did not occur at that time. Ms. Dolan said when Mr. Bernotas addressed City Council things were put into motion and the proposal is now before City Council.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 25 - 2010 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Authorizing Lease Agreement – Police Substation – 745 Linden Street
Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-145 that authorized a Lease Agreement between the City of Bethlehem and Catherine A. Meila for lease of 400+/- square feet on the first floor of 745 Linden Street for a Police Substation for the duration of three years, according to the terms of the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 11 B through 11 F as a Group
Mr. Evans and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 B through 11 F as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 77 West Broad Street, Unit 17-C
Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-146 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove a fixed window and replace it with a sliding window at 77 West Broad Street, Unit 17-C.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 131 East Wall Street
Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-147 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to repair the slate roof and remove a non-functioning chimney at 131 East Wall Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 39 East Wall Street
Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-148 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install handrails at the front entry steps at 39 East Wall Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 452 North New Street
Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-149 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to add dormers and a deck with stairs and to replace the existing windows with new aluminum clad wood windows at the garage located at the rear of 452 North New Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 460 Main Street
Mr. Evans and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-150 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove the existing awning and install a bracket mounted projecting sign and two window signs at 460 Main Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 B through 11 F: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
G. TIF Rebate Agreement – Bethlehem Works
Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2010-151 that authorized execution of a TIF Rebate Agreement by the City of Bethlehem, Northampton County, Bethlehem Area School District, and Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority, for the purpose of rebating certain excess TIF revenues from the Bethlehem Works TIF to the three taxing bodies. (Resolution 11 G was added to the Agenda by earlier motion of Ms. Dolan and Mr. Reynolds.)
Mr. Reynolds thanked everyone for the presentation that was made at the Committee of the Whole meeting this evening at 5:45 PM on the TIF at BethWorks for the SteelStacks project. He commented it is a wonderful project, and remarked that 10-15 years ago people would have said that the development that has taken place at BethWorks would never happen. Mr. Reynolds credited Northampton County and the Administration for their work to obtain a better financial deal. Mr. Reynolds asked if there is a number associated with what the School District would be gaining under the new potential financial agreement for the TIF.
Mr. Peck explained that with the Rebate Agreement proposal the City would garner an additional $3.9 million over the remaining life of the TIF, and the School District will garner an additional $12 million over the remaining life.
Mr. Reynolds expressed the hope that the School District will look at the $12 million they would be gaining and offer their approval of the Agreement. Mr. Reynolds noted that Mark Sivak, Director of Budget and Finance, told him that the City currently gets from the assessed value of BethWorks tax revenues of $120,000. The potential in 2020 when the current deal runs out is over $1 million more that does not take into account any increases in assessed value or potential millage increases by any taxing bodies. Mr. Reynolds, turning to the Schedules that were brought into question, pointed out that those assessed values are all public information as is and are on file with Northampton County, although City Council did not have it all in one condensed version. Mr. Reynolds, focusing on the liability if the Casino were to shut down, said that is part of the bet he is willing to take. Mr. Reynolds communicated that a lot of money has been invested by the City into the South Side and Third and Fourth Streets, along with private development. He thought the potential to create more foot traffic, to have more people come to Bethlehem, and to try to do this in 2010 in this economy is a testament to all the parties involved, and the City has a lot to be proud of and to be excited about. Mr. Reynolds stated he will vote yes. Mr. Reynolds commented that hopefully, with City Council potentially passing the Resolution tonight, momentum will be added. He further expressed the hope that the School Board will listen to the taxpayers, realize the $12 million gain to the School District, and will vote for the Agreement.
Mr. Mowrer stated he will be voting for the Resolution.
Mr. Evans remarked that the project is one of tremendous vision, and added that he has toured the site, watched presentations, read updates, and asked questions. Communicating he is comfortable with the proposal, Mr. Evans noted the Rebate Agreement is not going to change the project but is allowing more money to be gained. Mr. Evans pointed out that the tax dollars are more than had been projected when the TIF was initially approved in 2000, the money is available at a time when it is needed the most, and the Rebate Agreement can be considered in order to obtain additional tax revenues. Mr. Evans stated there is the opportunity to fund the SteelStacks project being developed by credible groups that will transform the western side of the TIF District, create an anchor, and bring in much foot traffic. Mr. Evans stressed that the economic impact is undeniable, and the talents of Jeff Parks and the other groups need to be further leveraged. He continued on to point out that the festivals, performances, programming, and energy that will be brought to the City will pay off economically. Mr. Evans noted there will be 60 construction jobs, and 100 permanent jobs. He said the project will be an anchor that will spur development. Mr. Evans thought that private investment-wise there may not be anyone willing to step in right now given the economic environment and the condition of the property. Mr. Evans observed that the project estimates are for 800,000 visitors and will increase activity all along the corridor, and not just in the TIF district. Mr. Evans pointed out that if the Rebate Agreement were approved the City would collect $677,000 in 2010 and $505,000 annually for the next ten years. Mr. Evans, noting there is still enough money to comfortably pay the proposed debt service, highlighted the fact that the east and west side will be in position for private development. Commenting he likes all parts of this, Mr. Evans said he supports the project, the Resolution before Council tonight, and added it is a win on many fronts. Communicating that the transformation that will take place at the location within a year will be an amazing site, will be an exciting amenity, and family friendly, Mr. Evans thought it is an undeniable economic impact of which the City needs to take advantage.
Ms. Dolan thanked the team that put together the presentation that was very informative, and the candor with which they answered the questions. Ms. Dolan noted that Council has an understanding of the benefits and of the risks. Observing that the area has done well with the TIF, Ms. Dolan felt that moving forward this TIF will be successful. Turning to the question of whether Council needs more time, Ms. Dolan stated that Members of Council are provided on a regular and timely basis with detailed information about TIF agreements. Ms. Dolan showed to the assembly a copy of the booklet for the proposed TIF for Martin Tower, and commented there is another booklet for the TIF at BethWorks. Ms. Dolan further recounted that when the two new Members of Council began their terms this year, President Donchez provided for all Members of Council a document explaining TIFs. Ms. Dolan stated that with hearing the responses to the memorandum from Mr. DiGiacinto she feels prepared. Ms. Dolan also noted that she has been to previous slide presentations and events where she has been educated on the project. Communicating that she will plan her next family celebration at the SteelStacks site, Ms. Dolan expressed she is very proud of how the project will enhance the beauty that Bethlehem already has, how it will fit in, and enliven and grow the programming that is wonderful, especially for the youth. Ms. Dolan continued on to say it will add a huge injection of highly creative thinkers, jobs for local musicians, and provide educational opportunities. Ms. Dolan stated it is with enthusiasm that she will vote yes tonight.
Mrs. Belinski commented that the project meets with her approval.
Mr. DiGiacinto, affirming that he submitted a memo with 20 questions about the matter, indicated it is a positive project, it is needed, and it is an impressive project. Mr. DiGiacinto, advising that he attended the Bethlehem Area School Board meeting on the TIF, noted that he read the original TIF agreements. Communicating that the deal will get done and observing that Northampton County signed, Mr. DiGiacinto stated the School Board is negotiating their best financing deal, and wants to know what money will be spent, how it will be spent, and on what properties. Mr. DiGiacinto expressed disappointment with the short notice as the Members of Council were notified last Friday that the Administration would like City Council to vote at this evening’s September 21, 2010 City Council Meeting on a Resolution related to the TIF provisions approved on September 16, 2010 by Northampton County Council. He added it might give the impression of influence on the School Board when they meet next week. While observing it would be beneficial if all agree on how the TIF money is to be spent, Mr. DiGiacinto remarked it is a nine year bet on the Casino or its successor.
President Donchez highlighted the difficulty that was experienced prior to 1999 in trying to redevelop the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s site. Pointing out that many plans came before City Council, President Donchez affirmed that City Council approved the TIF in 2000 hoping to spur development on the 130 acre BethWorks site, an arts and cultural district that would be separate from the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII, and added it has been a long process. President Donchez highlighted the fact that when the TIF was created gaming and the Casino was not in existence. President Donchez expressed the key will be the continued existence of the Casino, as well as the complex at the eastern end. President Donchez expressed that the project, as presented by ArtsQuest and PBS 39 at this evening’s Committee of the Whole meeting is very impressive and will be a rebirth of vitality and life at the western end of BethWorks, will create more jobs, provide educational opportunities, bring in more people, and it will be a year-round facility. President Donchez, stating that the City has a responsibility to make some investment in the infrastructure at the western end, expressed the belief that it will lead to more investment at the center of the BethWorks area, and rebuilding of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation offices into a residential facility along with other plans. Pointing out it is a win-win for the School District, City, and Northampton County, President Donchez noted that the City will retain $677,000 this year and will receive $505,000 annually for the next 10 years. President Donchez said he has always viewed Jeff Parks, President of ArtsQuest, as a visionary, going back to his plans for Musikfest in 1984. President Donchez commented that the potential of seeing this project come to fruition next year with ArtsQuest and PBS 39 will bring more vitality, people, jobs, and education to the area, and will hopefully be the catalyst for and lead to more development. President Donchez stated he will support the Resolution.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Voting NAY: Mr. DiGiacinto, 1. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS.
Lecture Series – Town Hall
President Donchez announced that the first lecture series will be held in Town Hall on October 20 at 7:00 PM. President Donchez, affirming that he and Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, met with Professor Pettegrew of Lehigh University, noted that additional forums will be scheduled.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, said the TIF document on which City Council voted was not available until 4:30 PM in its entirety, and added there is a minor restriction on freedom of speech in the deed restrictions. Mr. Pfenning complimented the Bethlehem Authority and Attorney Rhodes on the presentation. Mr. Pfenning recalled that several months ago he asked questions about the former Lucky Duck Restaurant on Third Street but City Council never responded. Turning to the City’s Audit, Mr. Pfenning noted there are three types of accounting such as cash accounting, strict accrual accounting, and municipal fund accounting. He said one should look at the Statement of Net Assets if one wants to know the financial health of an organization. He pointed out that at the end of 2008, the City’s Net Assets were a negative $22 million and dipped further to a negative $27 million in 2009. Mr. Pfenning indicated that this week the August table game results will be issued by the State Gaming Board and there will be a better feel for where that budget hole will go. He communicated it is unlikely that the slots revenues will make up for the table games revenue shortfall. Mr. Pfenning stated he did not think the Casino will exist with the same owner in nine years, and there may be a downwards assessment under the new owner. Mr. Pfenning thought there was a real risk of a sale and a downwards assessment over the next nine years. Mr. Pfenning stressed he does not think the SteelStacks project should have any public financing other than putting in streets, sewers, street lights, and street signs. Mr. Pfenning, continuing on to say there is a lot that will be in the 100 year flood plain, pointed out that the builders of the Levitt Pavillion did recognize the fact of the flood plain and the Pavillion will be built above it.
TIF Rebate Agreement – BethWorks – SteelStacks Project
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, while observing no one is really against the SteelStacks project, said the question is how will taxpayer money be distributed. Mr. Antalics commented what is bothering the School District is they were not getting a clear picture of whether any monies would be distributed at the site where there is private ownership. Mr. Antalics remarked that to put TIF money into private ownership smacks in the very spirit of the TIF that is primarily designed for infrastructure. Mr. Antalics stressed that only tonight was it heard that the City will own the Stock House, and that was really bothering the School District. Mr. Antalics stated if this information were clearly delineated to the School District they would have answered some time ago. Observing all that School Board President Mrs. Leeson was doing was protecting the financial interests of the City, Mr. Antalics communicated she should be commended for that in doing her job.
Lee Schantz, 103 E. Washington Avenue, referring to the Zoning Ordinance, said the sign across the street from Town Hall fits the category and communicated that it should not have been cited by the Zoning Officer. Mr. Schantz quoted from a Federal Law and noted there is a fine or imprisonment if someone’s rights are interfered with in such matters. Mr. Schantz, further quoting from a Federal Law, questioned why the Zoning staff is forcing City rules on people. President Donchez explained that the matter is an Administrative issue. Mr. Schantz stressed that he could file a suit in Federal Court in Allentown.
Police Department Matters
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, expressed his concern about a matter taken out of context relative to a letter and his reporting drug activity in the 600 block of Dakotah Street. Mr. Rodriquez requested that something be done about what he can say and how he can say it, and stressed he has been denied a call and access to Police investigating incidents. Asserting that it safeguards the community, Mr. Rodriquez stated he will not stop making calls. Mr. Rodriquez asked the Police Commissioner to make sure the matter is taken care of.
TIF Rebate Agreement – BethWorks – SteelStacks Project; Taxes
Charles Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, questioning what has Jeff Parks done for the City, remarked that Mr. Parks’ organization is non-profit and is an approximately $35-39 million operation in the City. In addition, Mr. Nyul pointed out that PBS 39 is another non-profit organization that will be opening at BethWorks, and stressed these organizations are taking money out of his pocket, his children’s pockets, and everyone else. Mr. Nyul, referring to a Morning Call article from December 23, 2009, noted that City Council passed a no tax hike budget. Questioning whether another no tax increase budget will be passed, Mr. Nyul asked how can the City afford no tax increase budgets.
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, advised that the neighbors have not received any decision yet from the Court in the matter of Elias Farmers Market. Mr. Bernotas noted he received a copy of a letter written by Attorney Thompson, Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board, who highlighted the fact that there has been no decision and several negative comments have been directed at the Zoning Hearing Board, that the Zoning Hearing Board will be going to five members from three members, and that the Elias case is the nexus for the increase. Mr. Bernotas stated he does not think the Elias case is the nexus for increasing the Board to five members, in view of the fact that the Zoning Ordinance was going in the direction to have five members anyway. Mr. Bernotas noted he made a few comments about the Board membership and he appreciated the action that was taken. Mr. Bernotas thought that three members should be able to take a vote. Mr. Bernotas, informing the assembly that he did not contact Judge Smith and none of the residents he knows contacted Judge Smith, said the neighbors are just waiting for Judge Smith to make a decision. Mr. Bernotas, observing the letter said that Attorney Thompson was asked by the Zoning Hearing Board to contact Judge Smith, wondered why the Zoning Hearing Board was pressing for a decision from the Judge. Mr. Bernotas stated that on August 26, 2009 Attorney Thompson, as Solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board, heard an appeal of Abraham Atiyeh and Elias Farmers Market. Mr. Bernotas said evidently Mr. Thompson is on Mr. Atiyeh’s payroll, and questioned when he went on the payroll.
Lecture Series; Historic House
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, noted that the topic of the October 20 lecture series will be improving Bethlehem’s health and the next lecture will be in February 2011 on the topic of the mass media. Mr. Scheirer commented that plans have been filed to demolish a stone house constructed in approximately 1830 located at 1104 Applebutter Road in order to straighten the roadway and provide an entrance to a residential area.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, advised that the size of the sign across the street from Town Hall is dictated by the Secretary of Interior Standards because the sign is on a building located within a designated historic area, and has nothing to do with constitutional law.
Live Streaming; Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest; Blast Furnaces
Tony Simao, 1135 E. 3rd Street, encouraged City Council to look at live streaming and also archiving the Council Meetings. Mr. Simao asked the status of Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest. President Donchez advised that the final draft of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance is in process and there should be a clause dealing with historical buildings. He added that the proposed new Zoning Ordinance will be forwarded to City Council for review and public comment. Mr. Simao, noting he is a board member of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, said it has come to his attention that the blast furnaces have not been inspected in about 12-15 years. Mr. Simao, relating that similar blast furnaces in Ohio were to be preserved, informed the assembly that a piece of the blast furnace fell off during a storm, injured a security guard, and within few weeks the blast furnaces were demolished. Mr. Simao remarked it would be a shame to have the same thing possibly happen to the blast furnaces located at the BethWorks site. Mr. Simao requested that the blast furnaces be inspected and made somewhat of a priority to be preserved as quickly as possible.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:35 p.m.