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BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 – 7:00 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
The Reverend Manuela Kauer, of First Presbyterian Church,
offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to
1. ROLL CALL
President Eric R. Evans called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 7.
President Evans stated that the Citations honoring Charles L. Holmberg and Gregory C. Kaintz on the occasion of their retirement will be sent to them since they were unable to attend the Meeting this evening.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of April 3, 2012 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Certificate of Appropriateness – 418 High Street
Donald MacRae, 418 High Street, asked City Council to table Resolution 9 I, the denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness for his proposal to re-roof a property he owns at 236 East Wall Street. Mr. MacRae affirmed that he disagrees with the recommendation of the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) to deny the proposal. Mr. MacRae explained the reasons given by HARB were that the Timberline oyster gray shingles that he is asking for have never been approved. Informing the Members that the present roof is black, Mr. MacRae explained he was told he should take the option of either reroofing with black 3 Tab or with Slateline shingles. Mr. MacRae stated he sees the Timberline shingles as being attractive and more durable than the 3 tab. Communicating that he considers the area on Wall Street between Linden Street and High Street one of the more diverse in this area, Mr. MacRae noted this has to do with the people who live in this area and the architecture itself. Mr. MacRae added that there are two sets of row homes on the south side of the street. One encompasses 234-248 Wall Street which includes the property in question. He said if one wants an education in textbook architecture with dormers these properties should be looked at since they are all unique. There is nothing remarkable about the roofs on the buildings and there are no slate roofs. Noting in the rear there is a roof that was redone and is a 3 Tab black, Mr. MacRae characterized it as an ugly roofing job that was put up in the past few weeks. The home next to that has the Timberline which is the same as he wants to use and is oyster gray. Mr. MacRae, referring to the painted homes of San Francisco which are the postcards of San Francisco, pointed out when they first came up people screamed about the Polychrome, as before that they were navy gray after the war. Mr. MacRae affirmed he is not asking for something like that but noted if the Polychrome were available when those homes were built around the turn of the century the builders would have used it. Explaining this is what he is suggesting, Mr. MacRae highlighted the fact that Timberline was not available at the turn of the century. If it had been the builder of that time would have had the opportunity to put it in place and have it as an option for construction. If you look at the diversity of the roofs you find out that almost everything is 3 Tab in the front and some are light and some are dark. Mr. MacRae is recommending that Council table this and take a walk down the alley and look at the roofs and also check out his property at 418 High Street that he considers one of the more beautiful homes in town due to the color scheme and garden in the front.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. City Solicitor – Supplemental Federal Aid – Lynn Avenue Bridge Replacement
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 9, 2012 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and associated Supplemental Federal Aid Bridge Project Agreement to allow for funding for the final design, utility and right-of-way phases of the Lynn Avenue Bridge Replacement project. The City will be reimbursed 95% of these costs and the maximum reimbursement will be increased from $285,000 to $1,281,550 for preliminary engineering, final design, utility relocation and right-of-way acquisition costs. This Agreement will be supplemented again as needed to include reimbursement costs for construction.
President Evans stated that Resolution 9 B is listed on the Agenda.
A. President of Council
C. Finance Committee
Chairman Reynolds presented an oral report of the Finance Committee of April 17, 2012 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall on the following subjects: Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau – Grants and Gifts; Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2012 Allocation; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget - ARLE Program, Fire Rescue Tools, Park/Playground Improvements, Pool Repairs, Monocacy Park, Skateplaza.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 12 – 2012 – Amending Article 107
– Police and Fire Commissioner to Police and Fire
The Clerk read Bill No. 12 – 2012 – Amending Article 107 – Police and Fire Commissioner to Police and Fire Chief, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 107 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 12 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Authorizing Lease Agreement – 60 West Broad Street, Suite 99a – Police Substation
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution No. 2012-65 that authorized the execution of a Lease Agreement between the City and DTC 60 W Broad, LLC and Werntz 60 W Broad, LLC for lease of 60 West Broad Street, Suite 99a, for one year for use as a Police Substation, according to the terms of the agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Supplemental Federal Aid Agreement – Lynn Avenue Bridge Replacement
Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2012-66 that authorized the execution of a Supplemental Federal Aid Bridge Project Agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the City of Bethlehem, for the Lynn Avenue Bridge over the Norfolk Southern/PB&NE Railroad, in accordance with the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 9 C through 9 H as a Group
Mr. Recchiuti made a motion, seconded by Mrs. Belinski, to consider Resolutions 9 C through 9 H as a group. Voting AYE: : Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 7. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 437 Main Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2012-67 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to place 12 tables with chairs for outdoor dining at 437 Main Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 569 Main Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2012-68 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to place 9 tables with 36 chairs for outdoor dining at 569 Main Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 247 East Market Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2012-69 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to use a revised color scheme as recommended by HARB previously for the exterior of the house at 247 East Market Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 85 West Broad Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2012-70 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to reuse outdoor furniture approved last year of three 36” tables with 12 chairs and three 26” tables with 6 chairs at 85 West Broad Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 403 Center Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-71 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace an existing 7 foot high cedar fence with a similar designed fence at 403 Center Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 57 East Wall Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2012-72 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to add a second floor over the garage at 57 East Wall Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 C through 9 H: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolutions passed.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 236 Wall Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2012-73 that denied a Certificate of Appropriateness to reroof the house at 236 Wall Street.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 6. Voting NAY: Mr. Reynolds, 1. The Resolution passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
Buffer Area – Residential Treatment Facilities
Stewart Early, 2277 Main Street, remarked that Council just received his letter of April 5 requesting consideration of a proposed Ordinance providing for a 1,000 foot buffer between residential treatment facilities for narcotic and alcoholic addicts and our schools, playgrounds and public parks. We believe that Council is generally in agreement with the content of the proposed Ordinance and should move to initiate an Amendment process in that direction. Mr. Early is asking Council to do this now unless they have a better idea. The question is why do it at all but it would send a strong message that locating a rehab facility close to our schools, playgrounds and parks is not in the best interest of Bethlehem. It will adversely affect public welfare; especially our children and young adults and it will not be a substantial improvement to the property in the immediate vicinity. It is also not in harmony with an appropriate appearance with the existing or intended character of the general vicinity. Mr. Early remarked that in such it is incompatible with adjacent uses. Within the past 40 days we have had 3 new applications for residential treatment centers filed. One on 2110 Center Street, which would be 28 beds next to the former Calvary Baptist Church and within a few feet from Bethlehem Catholic High School. A second application was filed at 2349 Linden Street for 47 beds at the former Moose and Bug Flower Shop within 1,000 feet of Spring Garden Elementary School and 238 West Goepp Street for 100 beds at the Silk Mill Apartments within 1,000 feet or so of the Lehigh Valley Children’s Center and William Penn Elementary School. Mr. Early thinks that more applications can be expected. The next question is why not wait until the revised Ordinance becomes law. The proposed revisions discussed recently to the Zoning Ordinance will reduce the likelihood of a residential treatment center in a residential district but a 500 foot buffer that is proposed does not really work. Once a treatment center is up and operating its target population segment could easily change and what if it began receiving patients requiring methadone treatment or who are required to be registered under Megan’s Law, will that facility be shut down. Mr. Early added that two other uses require buffers of 1,000 feet or more and there is a 2,000 foot buffer required between a substance abuse treatment center and a meal center. Should not our children be more important than a meal center. There is a 1,000 foot buffer between an adult oriented establishment and a school. Porn versus drugs and alcohol, which is worse for our children. There is a significant probability that the approval process required before these revisions are in effect will extend longer than Council and the City expect. Though the revisions simplify things, they contain many changes. These changes may prompt new questions from the public and other reviewers, may require further study and revision, and/or may precipitate litigation. Mr. Early pointed out that we should begin the process now with a much more limited scope of modifications. It will still take time to get through the process, the risk of delay is less and it deals with the issue in a simple, straightforward way. Mr. Early added that if we really want to address this issue constructively and we think we should we ask that specific locations be identified that would be appropriate for locating a drug and alcohol treatment center. We know that there are providers who would welcome the opportunity to address this heart wrenching need in the Lehigh Valley and would be open to locating the facility appropriately.
Residential Treatment Facilities
Greg Zebrowski, 23 Dewberry Avenue, wanted to thank Council for the prior support and position and the fine work of Attorney Christopher Spadoni in carrying out the opposition to the proposed drug facility on Dewberry Avenue. He also wanted to thank Mayor Callahan for his letter saying the same position in opposition to the drug treatment center on Dewberry Avenue in the former Calvary Baptist Church. We now have almost a theatre of the absurd taking place in the City of Bethlehem with three more proposals and two are going to be heard on April 30th at the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Zebrowski is requesting that Council monitors the Zoning Hearing Board meeting and the procedures. He respectfully asks Council and the Mayor’s office to again support the neighborhood, group and the community itself. Mr. Zebrowski is part of the North Bethlehem Action Committee and also a resident of the City and he comes from a background of 35 years in education and 10-15 years in counseling and behavior analyst work while working with drug addicts and families of abuse. We believe strongly in rehabilitation the only question is location. He believes it is incumbent upon elected officials to preserve and protect the character and quality of our neighborhoods. When you move forward with the deliberations we respectfully ask for support with the position that has been already stated, that rehabilitation is important but the location is important also. Mr. Zebrowski reiterated that drug rehabilitation centers in residential neighborhoods, next to playgrounds, churches and schools are absurd proposals.
Kirk Raup, 818 W. Union Boulevard, remarked that he wanted to bring up the issue of rail service to the Lehigh Valley. He has done an enormous amount of work and research on this subject and has compiled a data base of the facts. He added that Easton has done a great amount of work as has Lafayette College. They have established a good data base of the facts and realities in terms of bringing rail service back to the Lehigh Valley. The problem we have had over the years and it has been about two decades now is that there is no organization to take all this information to and present their case and start working toward bringing this form of transportation back. Mr. Raup wants to pursue having Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton to get together and form and create a Rails Transit Agency to follow through with a plan to establish rail transportation. Once we have established a legitimate agency we will be able to apply for small grants from PennDOT to get things rolling and more importantly across Lehigh and Northampton Counties get the election boards to present a referendum to provide the funding to pay for this. Mr. Raup added that it would cost us about a dime or so a day for those of us working in the Lehigh Valley to pull this off. It is not the impossible amount of money that was suggested by the study that had been done but again we do not have the way to follow through with this. Mr. Raup pointed out that he had a good talk with Easton City Council last Wednesday and things may actually be rolling in Easton. Mr. Raup noted that we all have major things going on but we all would benefit from rail service. It is a very efficient way to get large numbers of people to enjoy what we have to offer in our cities. This of course will not happen overnight, it we started tomorrow on this effort it would be at least another 8 to 10 years before the first train runs and because of that we need to get started soon. Mr. Raup added that he will be back again to speak to City Council about this.
Robert Delker, 315 E. Eighth Street, Northampton, remarked that he acquired a property on the 1000 block of Mechanic Street. His grandmother passed away and this property was given to him. Back in the early 1990’s when Mayor Marcincin and Charlie Brown were still in office a portion of the large retaining wall that was behind these properties was repaired and fixed. Now the upper part of the retaining wall is ready to collapse. Mr. Delker added that he met with Mayor Callahan and Joseph Kelly, Director of Community and Economic Development on this matter to try to come up with some type of plan to rectify this problem before this wall collapses. Mr. Delker pointed out that he put together the papers that state that the City of Bethlehem had hired an engineering company back in 2004. It states that on January 22, 2004 they met with the above referenced site to observe the existing retaining wall. The retaining wall is approximately 10 foot high located along the rear yards of abutting private properties between E. Fourth Street and Mechanics Street approximately a 70 foot portion of the wall between 1024 and 1030 Mechanic Street and also 1023 through 1031 E. Fourth Street. It is leaning and in a danger of collapsing. Mr. Delker continued to say that there are 5 properties within this and he owns the middle property and that 3 of the properties are being rented out. In the past year two of them were renovated and are being rented. Mr. Delker is asking that with this statement and comment that he just read how are we able to give out a CO to rent those properties with this wall in danger of falling. Mr. Delker noted that he could do the wrong thing and just rent his property out and get money in each month but that is not what he is at this meeting about. He has three children and it is about the life of a human being and if that wall collapses and a child is playing in that yard and they get killed what will happen then. Mr. Delker is at this meeting because he is frustrated and added that the Mayor has come up with some ideas. Mr. Delker has left numerous phone calls with Mr. Kelly and he also had some ideas but these ideas all led to a dead end. Mr. Delker hopes that City Council can work with him to do the right thing and work with him on this matter. Mayor Marcinicin and Charlie Brown had part of this wall fixed back in the early 1990’s but he does not know how much of an assumption would be of the responsibility of the City or of the homeowners. The City did do a third party survey and stated that the wall is on Mechanic Streets property and we do not only own the retaining wall but we own three foot behind the retaining wall. Mr. Delker is in construction and is a Union Iron Worker and their business agent had a proposal where they would be willing to do some community service and do the rod work of this project to try to keep the cost down. The bottom line is that he is concerned about human life. He would like to rent this property or sell it and has a letter from his insurance company who went out to look at this property and they will not put any insurance on that property to sell or rent with the condition of that wall. Mr. Delker remarked that he is stuck with a property and paying homeowners insurance and taxes and has no return coming back. He is willing to do the right thing and that is why he is at this meeting today. He is asking Council to please help him with this situation.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, related that he took a number of phone calls from Mr. Delker a few years ago about this situation. His grandmother was living in this property at the time and the resolution at that point in time was the City to go out and do some repairs to the wall. He thinks that in doing so the City has accepted some responsibility for addressing this issue. He would strongly suggest that Members of Council go out and take a look at that neighborhood. That retaining wall basically holds properties up against Fourth Street from sliding down to the properties on Mechanic Street. Mr. Grubb does remember this being in the 1990’s and over time these things do not get better, they get worse. He thinks that the City has a responsibility to step in and added that if there is a potential use of Community Development Block Grant money this could be looked at.
Residential Treatment Facilities
Mr. Grubb then spoke of the proposal for limiting where these drug and alcohol rehab centers can be located. It makes sense but the flip side of that is the City should be looking for areas where these kinds of facilities can be located. Mr. Grubb lives not far from the one proposed at the former Moose and Bug on Linden Street and he would suspect that we will be hearing from many parents of the students at Spring Garden Elementary School about that particular location. The developer who is involved with this seems to take an approach that he can throw as much as he can against the wall and sooner or later something may stick. Ultimately it comes down to the quality of life in these neighborhoods. There are probably locations in the City in which these treatment centers would fit and be allowed but when close to a school that raises serious issues. Mr. Grubb added that both the Administration and Council have been aware of this and he hopes that they continue to be. He hopes that the Administration and Council consider supporting what they are proposing. It is interesting that we do limit adult stores and check cashing businesses but this is a much higher quality of life issue for neighborhoods in the City.
Public Apology Request
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, recounted an issue that occurred during the hearings for the Controller position. Since the time that has transpired he has checked with some responsible citizens and was told that citizens have the right to be treated with dignity and any affronts against them should be addressed. These same few people told him that by subjectively addressing a person on Council that he has crossed the line and for that he apologizes for violating the Council rules. Mr. Antalics again reviewed the video of the hearings for the Controller appointment and reviewed the minutes of the subsequent meeting where another citizen felt they were affronted. Mr. Antalics was affronted because this was perceived by many as a public violation and the person he is mentioning civil rights of freedom of speech and association. Since they were affronted publicly and he is getting support that there should be recourse for that reason he feels that they deserve a public apology. Mr. Antalics added that he and this person are citizens who try to live a life with dignity and responsibility. He does not think that they acted in violation of those facets. Mr. Antalics is asking again that this affront be addressed publicly and he will wait for that apology.
Questions – Controller Vacancy
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, remarked that as far as the questioning that he received on the issue of the Controller position he spoke to two Council members on this and he actually invited the questions that were asked. He did not mind the questions and in fact he was pleased they were asked because it gave him a chance to respond to them in public.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 p.m.