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October 5, 2010
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, October 5, 2010 – 7:05 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Don Garrett, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lehigh Valley, 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 Joseph G. Gross
President Donchez presented a Citation to Joseph G. Gross on the occasion of his retirement after 23 years of service to the City in the Police Department. The Members of Council applauded Sergeant Gross and wished him well in his retirement.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of September 21, 2010 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Honoring Joseph G. Gross
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, recalled his friendship with Joseph Gross when he joined a baseball team, and commented that Sergeant Gross is a hardworking individual and his service to Bethlehem is very much appreciated.
Zoning Hearing Board Membership
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, noted that if the Zoning Hearing Board is increased to five members then three members will be needed for a quorum, and only two votes would be needed to grant an appeal that would not be much progress from the present situation where two of the current three members vote to grant an appeal. Mr. Bernotas expressed the hope that an amendment will be made to the Ordinance to require three votes to grant an appeal. Further expressing the hope that the two alternates will not automatically become the two additional Zoning Hearing Board members, Mr. Bernotas commented that new members are needed from different parts of the City, along with gender diversity, and added that there should be increased standards for membership. Mr. Bernotas communicated that the quality of neighborhoods may be upgraded with new Zoning Hearing Board members.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, expressed his concurrence with Mr. Bernotas’ comments.
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
TIF Rebate Agreement – BethWorks – SteelStacks Project
Mr. DiGiacinto confirmed that, in anticipation of the TIF Rebate Agreement for BethWorks being passed by the Bethlehem Area School District Board last evening, he forwarded a memorandum inquiring about any changes in the Agreement following City Council’s adoption of Resolution 2010-151 at the September 21, 2010 City Council Meeting. Advising that a copy of the TIF Rebate Agreement adopted by the School Board was forwarded late this afternoon, Mr. DiGiacinto noted that City Council voted on revision 6 of the Agreement while the School Board voted on revision 9. Mr. DiGiacinto questioned if City Council needs to review the Agreement again and asked if there are any material changes that need to be considered and voted on.
John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, stating there were minor language changes, said the authorizing Resolution that City Council passed was broad enough to encompass a signature with those types of minor revisions. Attorney Spirk advised he is comfortable there is no need for a second approval.
Mr. DiGiacinto queried whether the City Council Solicitor should provide his confirmation as well. President Donchez noted that Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, could review the matter and issue a response.
A. Public Hearing Date - Police Officer Michael Lenner
President Donchez reported that a letter from Attorney Lauer dated October 1, 2010 has been received requesting a continuance of the public hearing on Police Officer Lenner. Consequently, the public hearing that was scheduled on Wednesday, October 6 at 6:00 PM is cancelled and will be rescheduled.
B. Rescheduling Public Hearing Date - Police Officer John Nye
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 29, 2010 stating that the rescheduled date of the public hearing of the matter of Police Officer John Nye has been set for Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall.
C. Police Officer Joseph Ocasio – Request for Leave of Absence
The Clerk stated that an e-mail dated September 21, 2010 was received from Police Officer Joseph Ocasio requesting a leave of absence.
President Donchez stated that a Resolution can be placed on the October 19, 2010 City Council Agenda for consideration.
D. Director of Community and Economic Development - Renewal of LERTA
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 30, 2010 from Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, requesting renewal of the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Abatement (LERTA) program, and attached to which was a report on the administration of the LERTA program.
President Donchez referred the request to the Community Development Committee.
E. Housing and Community Development Planner - 2011 Action Plan – CDBG and HOME Programs
The Clerk read a letter dated October 30, 2010 from Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, attached to which was the proposed 2011 Action Plan that included funding under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Programs.
President Donchez referred the request to the Community Development Committee.
A. President of Council
Committee of the Whole – TIF – Martin Tower – City Central Development Project
President Donchez stated that City Council will meet as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the request for a TIF for the Martin Tower area.
C. Finance Committee
Chairman Reynolds, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held this evening at 6:00 PM, prior to the City Council Meeting, on the proposed Working Woodlands Program for the Bethlehem Authority. The Committee recommended that Council adopt a Resolution to approve a non-binding Term Sheet.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 25 – 2010 – Amending Article 1325 – Increasing Zoning Hearing Board Membership
The Clerk read Bill No. 25 – 2010 – Amending Article 1325 – Increasing Zoning Hearing Board Membership, on Final Reading.
Ms. Dolan noted that a response would be forwarded by the City Council Solicitor on requiring three votes for approval of matters before the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Reynolds, while agreeing it is a positive change, thought that in looking back, Council should have probably voted to expand the Zoning Hearing Board two years ago.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 25 - 2010, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2010-25 was declared adopted.
President Donchez mentioned that Council anticipates that the Mayor will be forwarding his recommended appointments as soon as possible.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
Motion – Considering Resolutions 11 A through 11 H as a Group
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Evans moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 H as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 330 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-152 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove and replace the concrete wall and wrought iron fence at 330 E. Fourth Street.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 301 Broadway
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-153 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove an existing sign and replace it with a new sign at 301 Broadway.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 702 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-154 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the existing facade at 702 E. Fourth Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 706 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-155 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the existing facade at 706 E. Fourth Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 708 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-156 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the existing facade at 708 E. Fourth Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 733 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-157 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the existing facade at 733 E. Fourth Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 735 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-158 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the existing facade at 735 E. Fourth Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness –807 E. Fourth Street
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution 2010-159 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the existing facade at 807 E. Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 H: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS.
Committee Meeting Announcement
Chairwoman Dolan announced a Community Development Committee meeting on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the proposed 2011 Action Plan that included funding under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Programs, and amending Council Rules for the duties of the Community Development Committee to include review of historical related matters.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, said the September
gross terminal revenue numbers from the Casino have been issued
by the State and the City received $26,000 over the slots
portion of the budget for the year but because of projected
table games revenues he estimated a cumulative deficit of
about $200,000. Mr. Pfenning thought it was the policy to
allow visiting governmental officials to speak without a time
limit, and was disappointed that Ron Angle, President of Northampton
County Council, was restricted to speaking for five minutes
under the time limits at the September 21, 2010 Committee
of the Whole Meeting. Referring to a lack of availability
to the public of the TIF Rebate Agreement for BethWorks adopted
under Resolution 2010-151 at the September 21, 2010 City Council
Meeting, Mr. Pfenning pointed out that the Pennsylvania Sunshine
Act clearly encourages public participation, and questioned
how can the public give meaningful input if they have not
seen the legislation on which Council will vote. Mr. Pfenning
thought the spirit of the Sunshine Act was violated, and added
there is a Senate Bill that may rectify that matter. Mr. Pfenning,
wondering if the Members of Council really read the TIF Rebate
Agreement, stated that Council had version 5 prior to the
September 21 City Council Meeting and was provided with version
6 prior to the Committee of the Whole Meeting that preceded
the September 21 Council Meeting. Mr. Pfenning observed that
Members of Council did not raise the issue of why the Northampton
County millage rate was shown at 10.8 on the Rebate Agreement
but it is 10.4, and he was informed by Mr. Mazzioti that it
would be reviewed. Mr. Pfenning stated that on Schedule 2
the assessments did not match the base amount and the difference
was not questioned, and advised the answer is in version 9.
Mr. Pfenning said Schedule 1 indicates the Bethlehem Redevelopment
Authority will own a lot of property. Mr. Pfenning wondered
whether anyone researched Resolution 4624 passed January 13,
1953 that created the Redevelopment Authority to see if they
are allowed to own this type of property. Mr. Pfenning stated
that the School District passed version 9 last night, version
10 is coming because they amended it, there are changes on
almost every page, and the most significant is Schedule 1
stating that the Bethlehem Landing Project will be owned by
the City. Mr. Pfenning, expressing his disappointment, hoped
that the next time City Council does not rush to a vote without
understanding and knowing on what they are voting.
Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, explained he was attacked as a community activist when he came out of the Rooney Building last April, and Officers came after the fact. Mr. Rodriquez said what should have been on the film was not the actual facts and someone did something to the tapes. Mr. Rodriquez, advising he was the innocent party, stated the judge was convinced that he was the guilty party and he was found guilty. Mr. Rodriquez, communicating this should not happen to anybody, remarked regardless of what happened he will still be out in the community no matter what. Mr. Rodriquez requested that cameras be moved to where they belong, commented that more should be added, and added that the eyes of the City are the cameras through which crime can be deterred. Mr. Rodriquez communicated it is important that his calls are received by the Police Department. Mr. Rodriquez indicated there is a high volume of drug activity coming into the City.
Budget Issues; Stefko Boulevard – Blighted Building
Thomas Carrell, 248 E. Union Boulevard, implored Council to consider sources of revenue such as mercantile tax in the review of the upcoming year’s Budget. Mr. Carrell pointed out that a business on Broad Street has moved to Bethlehem Township, a business on Main Street is closing due to the economy, and there will be less money for the City to count on. Mr. Carrell, stating that the effective unemployment rate in the Lehigh Valley is 9.9%, stressed the reality is that it is closer to 18% when considering those who may have stopped looking for work. Mr. Carrell highlighted the fact that these individuals cannot pay income tax because they are not making money. Turning to property taxes, Mr. Carrell observed that home values are down, and foreclosures are up. Mr. Carrell, noting that the Federal government is trillions of dollars in debt, pointed out that the Federal sources of grants will start to dry up, as will State government grants in view of unfunded State pension liabilities. Mr. Carrell advised that on Stefko Boulevard near the AAA Auto Club building there is a property that used to be a massage parlor that burned, demolition has stopped, there is graffiti all over it, the building is blighted and looks horrible. Mr. Carrell thought that the Administration should be able to direct the property owner to finish the demolition process.
Applebutter Road – Stone House
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, informed the assembly that there is a large stone house at 1104 Applebutter Road built in 1830. He has learned that the City’s planners and engineers have filed comments, and the developer is revising the plans. However, Mr. Scheirer stressed that the house still stands to be demolished if nothing is done.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, referring to a media article from July 24, 2010, noted the Finance Committee Chair cited outstanding revenue to the City from the Stakeholders Agreement, Parking Authority, and Illick’s Mill Partnership totaling over $1 million, and asked if the money has been received. Mr. Grubb asserted it is time that those who owe the City make their payments, particularly given the City’s budget situation. Mr. Grubb said it is very disturbing that the Bethlehem Public Library had to wait for its final 2009 disbursement from the City until February 2010. Remarking it is unconscionable that the City did not honor its commitment in a timely fashion, Mr. Grubb stated that at a Finance Committee meeting in August the President of Council questioned it during an audit review and was told it was because of State budget cuts. However, Mr. Grubb said the Library had already cut its services to reflect the State budget cuts. Stressing that the Library is a treasure and provides affordable entertainment for many families, Mr. Grubb enumerated that City obligations not being paid on time, State funding cuts, and the anticipated withdrawal of Lower Saucon Township from the Library’s municipal partners will severely impact library services. Referring to an August 23 op-ed column in which the Controller mentioned savings of $10 million due to cooperation with the Administration on the CI (Continuous Improvement) program, Mr. Grubb questioned where did $10 million in savings end up and why taxpayers did not receive a real estate tax reduction. Mr. Grubb mentioned there may be a Certificate of Appropriateness proposal to allow an awning across the sidewalk for a business on Main Street. He urged that Council reject it immediately so that a precedent is not established for businesses, it is not made more difficult for pedestrians to maneuver on City sidewalks, and to prevent the ambience of downtown from being ruined.
Illick’s Mill Partnership
Ms. Dolan, in response to the question about outstanding revenue to the City from the Illick’s Mill Partnership, informed Mr. Grubb that she met with Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, to discuss the matter. Ms. Dolan advised that $66,000 of the approximate $128,000 amount was pre-approved by Mr. Carp and the Business Administrator and taken from an existing account. Those funds were used by the City to meet code and safety issues, and ADA accessibility. Ms. Dolan further advised there is an agreement between the City and PHMC that binds the City to maintenance and ends this month. Ms. Dolan stated there will be a memorandum of understanding drafted between the City and the Illick’s Mill Partnership so that discrepancies do not occur in the future.
Regarding outstanding revenue to the City from the Stakeholders Agreement, Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, responded that the payment of approximately $400,000 is anticipated by the end of the year.
Proposed Awning Across Sidewalk - Main Street
Bruce Haines, 65 W. Market Street, asked for an update on
the status of the Main Street parking situation, in advance
of the next two months when business activity is usually at
Turning to a proposal to allow an awning across the sidewalk for a business on Main Street, Mr. Haines expressed his agreement with Mr. Grubb’s comments that this would be a dramatic change to Main Street. Observing that downtown businesses were not alerted to the fact that such a dramatic change was being proposed to be reviewed by the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB), Mr. Haines explained that fortunately this major item came to the attention of everyone at a DBA meeting this week. Mr. Haines questioned what has happened to the HARB over the last year in terms of the weakening of the HARB. Mr. Haines continued on to point out that he invested in the City because of the strong HARB that maintained the integrity of Main Street in the Historic District. However, Mr. Haines remarked he has seen many deteriorating things and matters that do not go to the HARB for review. Mr. Haines communicated it is very discouraging that the business owner was encouraged to continue to pursue the awning or something that would go from the building to the street. Mentioning there is a petition concerning the proposal and the DBA is galvanized in being aware of this matter, Mr. Haines noted that people will be attending tomorrow’s HARB meeting and providing input.
Main Street Parking
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, advised that the design of the parking project for Main Street is advancing and indicated that a Public Works Committee meeting will be scheduled during which an update will be given.
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, noted that the Appeals Court has reached a decision in the matter of Elias Farmers Market. Mr. Bernotas advised that the matter was remanded back to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Bernotas, stating that the question is why the neighbors did not prevail 100% in this issue, felt the reason is because all the true facts of the case were not allowed before the Zoning Hearing Board when they first heard the case on August 26, 2009. Mr. Bernotas continued on to explain those true facts were shut out of the appeal because the Court only reads what is in the record. Mr. Bernotas said his concern going forward is that the Solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board is going to try to muzzle him and not let him bring out those facts. Mr. Bernotas communicated he will probably contact the Mayor. Mr. Bernotas further expressed concern about receiving kangaroo court treatment from the Zoning Hearing Board, and collusion by the engineer for Elias Market and the Zoning Officer. Mr. Bernotas, stating it was a complex issue of a use, recounted that the Chairman of the Zoning Hearing Board refused to let the meeting be continued. After the hearing, Mr. Bernotas stressed that he never received answers from the Zoning Officer on his questions of what was the size of the building in 1970 and what was the actual use permitted for the building in 1970, and asserted the Zoning Hearing Board was kept in the dark. Mr. Bernotas said he would like to see the Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor recuse himself from the next Zoning Hearing Board meeting, and would like to see the Chair recuse himself. Mr. Bernotas added that when he asked a question at the last meeting, the Zoning Hearing Board walked out of the room.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, confirmed that he was directed to participate in the appeal in front of Judge Smith and it is his intent to continue in that regard, and that it is a fair and impartial hearing.
Citizen Evaluations of Council Members; Silvex Road - Renaming
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, read the results of citizen evaluations of Members of Council. Mr. Antalics informed the assembly that the Silvex Company was the Bethlehem Spark Plug Company on Silvex Road, the president was the brother of Charles Schwab, and made about almost one-half million high-quality spark plugs in 1915. The spark plugs were used in the Model T car, and by the Federal government for their airplanes. Mr. Antalics suggested that a historic sign be placed at Silvex Road denoting it was the birthplace of American spark plugs.
Citizen Evaluations of Council Member
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, pointed out it is not known how many people filled out forms for the rating of Council Members, given that there are about 72,000 residents, and added that Members of Council have varying years of experience.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 p.m.