City Council

Council MInutes

10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, May 3, 2011 – 7:00 PM


President Robert J. Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Derek French, of East Hills Moravian Church, 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.

President Donchez reported that City Council met in Executive Session this evening at 6:00 PM in the Mayor’s Conference to receive an update on Litigation Matters.


The Minutes of April 19, 2011 were approved.




A. Old Business – Members of Council


B. Tabled Items


C. Unfinished Business

1. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
(Assigned to Preservation Plan Task Force)


A. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreements for Public Property – ArtsQuest – Musikfest – 2011, Musikfest 2012 and Musikfest 2013

The Acting Clerk read a memorandum dated April 28, 2011 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution and associated Use Permit Agreements between ArtsQuest and the City for use of streets and various City property for Musikfest 2011, Musikfest 2012 and Musikfest 2013.

President Donchez stated the Resolution will be placed on the May 18 Agenda.

8. Reports.

A. President of Council

President Donchez asked for a consensus from the Members of Council if the Community Development Committee’s review of the matter of vendors in advance of the July license renewal date should be scheduled. Karen Dolan, Chairwoman of the Community Development Committee, stated she thought that would be a very good idea. President Donchez asked that a meeting be scheduled.

B. Mayor


C. Human Resources and Environment Committee

Gordon B. Mowrer, Chairman of the Human Resources and Environment Committee, reported that the Committee met on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall and considered the following: Human Relations Commission proposal. The Members of the Committee unanimously forwarded the proposed ordinance with amendments to City Council for consideration. The Ordinance will be listed for First Reading on the City Council agenda’s of its rescheduled meeting on Wednesday, May 18, 2011.




A. Bill No. 11 – 2011 – Amending Article 531 – Parking Generally – Section 531.04(f) – Penalty Reference

The Clerk read Bill No. 11 – 2011 – Amending Article 531 – Parking Generally – Section 531.04(f) – Penalty Reference, sponsored by Mr. Reynolds and Mr. DiGiacinto, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. Bill No. 11 – 2011 passed on First Reading.


A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 409-411 Wyandotte Street

Mr. Reynolds and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2011-72 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to modify the façade at 409-411 Wyandotte Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.

B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 310 East Third Street

Mr. Reynolds and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2011-73 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 310 East Third Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.

C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 24 East Third Street

Mr. Reynolds and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 2011-74 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 24 East Third Street.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.


Committee Meeting Announcements

Chairman Reynolds announced that a Finance Committee meeting is scheduled on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall prior to the City Council Meeting at 7:00 PM.

Chairman DiGiacinto announced that a Public Safety Committee meeting is scheduled on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on EMS, Police and Fire Updates.


Conflicts of Interest

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, addressed City Council concerning conflicts of interest and asked if there is or should be a resolution that would address elected officials receiving certain perks that private citizens do not have, specifically free lunch. He questioned whether an elected official should accept a free lunch or some other perk within the community and whether this would oblige the elected official to look upon the individual or establishment with some form of debt. Mr. Antalics asked if it is proper for an elected official to accept a gratuity above and beyond their call of duty. He stated that he knows and can confirm that this happens, and questioned whether this is acceptable behavior and policy within the City and if not, are there any regulations addressing this as a possible conflict of interest and should there be a resolution.

Christopher T. Spadoni, Council Solicitor, responded that preliminarily, without researching the issue, there is the State Ethics Act. He said appointees, employees and elected officials are required by May 1 to file an Ethics form and disclose all gratuities that are received whether they be gifts or other interests outside of employment. Mr. Antalics asked if there are records that would show that any official within the City of Bethlehem received a gratuity and then reported it. Attorney Spadoni replied that would have to be researched since there are thousands of those filings. He explained that the Mayor, Council, and himself, all file one every year. Mr. Antalics asked if there are any on record for officials, elected or appointed. Attorney Spadoni said Mr. Antalics may want to look.

Council President Donchez added that the State Ethics Commission requires that they are filed by May 1 and members of boards and commissions have to file Ethics forms also. He said as an employee for Representative Brennan he files a separate form and it is public information.

Elias Farm Market; Human Relations Commission

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, commented that he would like to repeat what he regards as a fundamental point about Elias Farm Market. He said all the variances and special exceptions that have been granted over decades amount to rezoning which is not the purview of the Zoning Hearing Board, it is the purview of the City Council upon the advice of the Planning Commission. He stated he thinks that since the site is only 1.82 acres it amounts to spot zoning, and if it had occurred all at one time it would have been patently illegal.

Mr. Scheirer stated his main purpose for addressing Council is to give additional thoughts on the Human Relations Commission that will be considered. Referring to the sunset, he said he thinks it is highly unlikely that the Commission would not be continued as was mentioned at the Committee meeting and said the need is not going to go away in three years. Mr. Scheirer said he thinks it is possible, but unlikely, but possible that the Commission could get out of hand. He said he thinks there is already one municipal body that, in his opinion, goes out of bounds and it is possible the Human Relations Commission could behave in the same way. He said if that were to happen that City Council could abolish the Commission and establish another one with more safeguards. Mr. Scheirer said it is unlikely but it is good to have the protection. Mr. Scheirer then stated that he thinks that the purview of the Commission is not broad enough, there is a long list of things that cannot be discriminated about and said he would like to add more. He proposed an amendment be added that stated there shall be no discrimination because of any addiction that doesn’t impair performance.

Gaming Revenue; Ethics Reports

Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, addressed Council concerning the gaming revenue being produced through the host fees and said there is very little growth left in the numbers with any significant value as the years go forward. Mr. Pfenning said he talked to Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, and said he thinks Mr. Reichard agreed. Mr. Pfenning commented that he did not think the City should float bond issues because they will be bailed out by the casino. He said that is not going to happen. Mr. Pfenning, referring to the webcast of the Las Vegas Sands first quarter results, mentioned that financial analysts do not care about Sands Bethlehem and said their primary focus was trying to find out why the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore margins went down. With regard to Sands Bethlehem, it was reported that the adjusted property EBITDA, the target number all the people are worried about, was $21.1 million for the first quarter. He said there are two goals that have been stated in the past publicly by Las Vegas Sands’ officials. One is the $80 million EBITDA to cover debt service and then $100 to $125 million per year EBITDA for making it worthwhile to be in business. Mr. Pfenning commented that he thought there is a chance they will go over the $100 million mark this year. He reported that Sheldon Adelson had made an interesting observation saying he feels that in the United States there are too many casinos in too many states and feels that the casino market is saturated in the United States with very little chance of growth. Looking at the first quarter results, Mr. Pfenning said he thinks the numbers are pretty impressive, gaming revenues went up 35.4% comparing first quarter of 2010 with first quarter of 2011, the adjusted EBITDA went up 100.9% from $11 million to $22.1 million, the margin went up from 16.3% to 24.3%, an 8 point rise, operating income went up 291% between the quarters year to year, slot handle went down 4.4%, although the whole percentage was up slightly from 6.9 to 7.4.

Mr. Pfenning noted that he did read the on-line ethics reports that were filed and there is nothing in there of any interest and with no detail. He said he was very concerned about Section 1512 in terms of what he could and could not do on the Northampton County Gambling Impact Committee. He said there is nothing in the ethics reports that addresses Section 1512 that would say whether any elected officials in the City of Bethlehem own even a share of the Las Vegas Sands. Mr. Pfenning said he thinks the reports are useless.

Elias Market

Sue Fang, 3218 Marchant Drive, thanked Members of Council for their support on behalf of her and her neighbors against Elias Market doing something to try to hurt their neighborhood. She stated that Attorney Spadoni worked very hard to help and bring up the truth and facts regarding the Zoning Hearing Board decision. She said she has come to Council many times to complain about the issue concerning Elias, but also to inform Council with regard to the City’s Zoning Hearing Board making a bias decision and to let Council know what they are doing to the ordinary citizen and how they are ignoring the facts. Ms. Fang asked for Council’s support in their appeal and felt that with Attorney Spadoni’s hard work and help they can bring forward more evidence so she and her neighborhood get a fair chance and a fair judgment can be made. She said she and her neighbors are going to continue to file the appeal because the Zoning Hearing Board is not doing the things they are supposed to do in following and enforcing the law. She said they are ignoring the facts. Ms. Fang thanked Council and Attorney Spadoni and said he did a wonderful job. She said Council has the power to enforce the law and do the job to make the City better.

Yong Hao, 3218 Marchant Drive, stated that they are grateful for Council’s support and for authorizing Attorney Spadoni to lead the way in their zoning appeal of Elias Market’s expansion. He said Attorney Spadoni may have already updated Council of the new evidence he had presented before the Zoning Hearing Board during their previous meeting. Mr. Hao said he felt this was good news in that along with other substantial evidence presented by their attorney, residents and witnesses, this will be the first time the new evidence will be admitted to the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County. He said they are expecting the Judge will look at this evidence carefully and compare it with previous testimony by Elias Market. He said he thinks the Judge will be shocked to find out how Elias Market and their attorney have manipulated the evidence and how the Zoning Hearing Board of the City of Bethlehem has been closing their eyes ignoring the existing zoning code and disregarding the residents’ plea for fair and balanced treatment. Mr. Hao said he feels they are making progress through this process so far. He then gave some examples of the attorneys’ accomplishments that have been presented. He pointed out what has been established with regard to the size of the market since 1984 and the percent of their expansion and how that relates to Article 1323.04 concerning non-conforming use and also information presented with regard to the existing loading dock and Elias’ claimed hardship. Mr. Hao added that with the help of Attorney Spadoni and their attorney information has been revealed that the market had operated a rental business for many years without notifying the City Zoning office. He said there was a landscaping business and self-storage rooms for many years on the property. He said there is also a contradiction as to what Elias Market has told the Zoning Hearing Board about another so-called hardship concerning their use of their other building for storage of their produce, which, he said, they never did. In summary, Mr. Hao thanked Council for their support and effort and hoped that no matter what the next step will be Council will continue to support them. He said they are very grateful and appreciative and Council is doing a good job for the City.

Armed Services Park Dedication

William Guth, 720 Hawthorn Road, informed Council about the Armed Services Park Dedication on June 14 at 3:00 PM on Hanoverville Road at State Route 512 in Hanover Township at which ceremony will be honored deceased, retired and active members of the United States Armed Forces.

Zoning Hearing Board

Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, saying he is very disheartened by the Zoning Hearing Board, remarked that he thinks they are a very biased group of people. He said he is against the Mayor appointing everybody to the boards and that Council should take a hand in that, especially with the anti-discrimination proposal. He asked how the Mayor is going to appoint one or two or 60% of the people to the anti-discrimination commission when the City is a large employer and there are going to be discrimination suits right here and yet the Mayor is going to appoint people who are going to judge whether or not the City was discriminate. He said that makes absolutely no sense and the Mayor should have nothing to do with appointing anyone to that commission. Mr. Bernotas, referring to the attitudes of the Zoning Hearing Board, remarked that it appears that members of the Zoning Hearing Board do not function as an impartial board. He said at the February 15, 2011 City Council Meeting each member of the Zoning Hearing Board along with the solicitor arose during Courtesy of the Floor to raise their opposition to a majority vote requirement. He said he thinks they are entitled to their opinion and then referred to his letter dated April 14, 2011 to Attorney Spadoni that was distributed earlier that contained a brief analysis of comments and quotes of Zoning Hearing Board members. Mr. Bernotas asked the Members of Council to decide from the quotes if the bias they expressed permitted the quoted member to be seen as an impartial member of the board. He then quoted and remarked about various members’ comments. Council President Donchez stated that he would permit Mr. Bernotas to make quotes from the record as long as the motives of the character of the individual were not attacked. Mr. Bernotas expressed his opinion is that they are biased and he is making a quote.

Various Issues

Eddie Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, requested that he get an update on what is happening with Martin Towers. He said he heard gunshots in the area behind Price Rite behind the railroad track area by the overpass. He mentioned there is a lot of graffiti in that area, a lot of homeless people, and thinks that should be investigated. Mr. Rodriquez also questioned what is happening with 409-411 Wyandotte Street stating that he believed 411 Wyandotte Street was associated with drug activity at one time. He also questioned the property owner of 409 versus 411 and stated that he thinks the Police know what is going on. Mr. Rodriquez advised that he spoke with Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, about the pedestrian crossings at Eighth and West Broad Street that he was informed about and would like to see what is needed, either cautionary lights or more painting. He reported that the police horses are traveling up and down Union Boulevard by the Moravian House area and have completely destroyed what was left of the grassy area there and there is a lot of debris from the horses on the sidewalk and in that area. Mr. Rodriquez said he appreciates what the Police do but thinks something should be done about this. He advised that he thinks Pawnee Street is even worse now than it ever was and there are new characters coming in. He said he believes 424 Pawnee Street and 513 Pawnee Street are working together and the neighborhood is being destroyed even more than it already is. Mr. Rodriquez remarked that this kind of thing is happening on the north side also and mentioned Center, Raspberry, and Broad Streets. He said he thought there should be more police officers patrolling the areas on the north side as well as south side. Mr. Rodriquez asked for periodic updates so that residents can be educated on dos and don’ts and to watch over their children. He said that the Administration and Council should meet with each other and see what can be done. Mr. Rodriquez stated he is still concerned why there never was an investigation on the threat on his life by a City employee. He said it was not investigated and that is the fault of the Police Department.

Police Officer Ocasio Leave of Absence

Joseph Ocasio, 307 Surrey Place, Macungie, expressed his hope that City Council would reconsider his leave of absence from the Police Department. He explained that he receives no pay during his leave of absence but he still continues to make his contributions to keep up his insurance. He said his insurance is necessary to pay his medical bills. With regard to him coming back to work, Officer Ocasio said he and his doctors plan that he should have a full recovery and should be able to complete his tour at the Bethlehem Police Department. He said he is only 42 and can retire next year and said he and his doctors believe he will be back to work. Again he commented that he is not earning any pay and is contributing to his insurance and other benefits and asked Council to consider that.

Wooden Door Fronts; Human Relations Commission

Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, commented that 409-411 Wyandotte Street are part of Palace Row, probably one of the last standing wooden door fronts in the area if not in the State. She said a development firm presented plans to the Conservation Commission and thinks that when it is completed it will be a wonderful remake of that particular area. She said they are not the only buildings in Palace Row that are being renovated and, hopefully, eventually all of the wooden door fronts will be restored to their original beauty. Ms. Pongracz, referring to the meeting on the Human Relations Commission, commented that she realizes how lucky most of us are after listening to some of the people who spoke. She said it was an eye opener for many people who were there who assume that everybody is accepted regardless of whatever. She said she compliments the Administration for the recommendation for a Human Relations Commission but finds it very sad that legislation has to be considered to require what people should do without being told that they must do it. Ms. Pongracz added that she feels it is everyone’s right as a human being to be treated with dignity and respect.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.