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BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 – 7:00 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
Father Patrick Lamb, of Notre Dame of Bethlehem Church, offered
the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag.
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.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of April 17, 2012 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Zoning Appeals – Residential Treatment Centers
Greg Zebrowski, 23 Dewberry Avenue, a member of the North Bethlehem Action Committee, stated he is speaking on their behalf and for himself. Noting that Council has already intervened and employed the services of Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, to represent the will of Council at the Zoning Hearing Board in the matter of the treatment facility at 111 Dewberry Avenue, Mr. Zebrowski suggested that Council follow and monitor the zoning applications as presented for other residential treatment facilities. Mr. Zebrowski stressed that Zoning Ordinances enacted by the City are one of the last lines of defense that a community has to protect its heritage and to protect its future viability as a community. Mr. Zebrowski expressed appreciation for the consideration of City Council and Mayor Callahan. In reexamining the Zoning Ordinance, Mr. Zebrowski communicated that all the residents ask for is a fair and appropriate hearing, and weighing of the mitigating factors. He expressed that the heritage of the community is the balance between economic interests, residential neighborhoods, and recreational interests. Mr. Zebrowski added that Zoning Ordinances and Ordinances per se do not mean much if there is not a responsive government enacting and enforcing those Ordinances. Mr. Zebrowski, restating his appreciation for the support up to this point, asked again that City Council continue to monitor the Zoning Hearing Board meetings and keep in mind the concerns of the residents of the City of Bethlehem.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. City Council – Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment –
Section 1325 – Buffer Area – Residential
The Clerk read a memorandum dated April 25, 2012 from Eric R. Evans, City Council President, to which was attached a proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment to amend the present Zoning Ordinance Section 1325 to provide for a 1,000 foot buffer between residential treatment facilities and schools, playgrounds, and public parks. Councilman DiGiacinto has proposed language to include daycare center, college or university campus.
President Evans referred the matter to the Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall.
President Evans asked that additional Communication 5 B be read into the record.
B. City Solicitor - Intermunicipal Cooperation Agreement
between Lower Nazareth Township,
Bethlehem Township, Bethlehem Township Municipal Authority, and City of Bethlehem -
The Clerk read a memorandum dated May 3, 2012 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed resolution and associated agreement for intermunicipal sewer services between the City of Bethlehem and Lower Nazareth Township, Bethlehem Township, and Bethlehem Township Municipal Authority.
President Evans stated the Resolution will be placed on the May 15 Agenda.
A. President of Council
Committee of the Whole – Proposed New Zoning Ordinance
President Evans announced that City Council will meet as
a Committee of the Whole on
Monday, May 7 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall to review the updated proposed new Zoning Ordinance
containing the revisions that were discussed at the April 9 Committee of the Whole Meeting.
1. Councilmanic Appointment – Jack Gambino – Environmental Advisory Council
President Evans appointed Jack Gambino to the Environmental Advisory Council to fill the unexpired term of LauraLynne Burtner effective until January 2013. Mr. Donchez and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2012-74 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolution passed.
1. Administrative Order – Arianne Schnalzer – Fire Arts Commission
Mayor Callahan appointed Arianne Schnalzer to the Fine Arts Commission effective through February 2015. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution No. 2012-75 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolution passed.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
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, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 12 – 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-14 was declared adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 13 – 2012 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau – Grants and Gifts
The Clerk read Bill No. 13 – 2012 – Amending
General Fund Budget – Health Bureau Grants
and Gifts, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE GENERAL FUND BUDGET FOR 2012.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 13 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 14 – 2012 – Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2012 Allocation
The Clerk read Bill No. 14 – 2012 – Amending
Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2012 Allocation,
sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE LIQUID FUELS FUND BUDGET FOR 2012.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 14 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 15 – 2012 – Amending Non-Utility
Capital Fund Budget – ARLE Program, Fire Rescue
Tools, Park/Playground Improvements, Pool Repairs, Monocacy Park, Skateplaza
The Clerk read Bill No. 15 – 2012 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Fund Budget – ARLE Program, Fire Rescue Tools, Park/Playground Improvements, Pool Repairs, Monocacy Park, Skateplaza, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE 2012 CAPITAL BUDGET FOR NON-UTILITIES.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. Bill No. 15 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 9 A through 9 D as a Group
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Recchiuti moved to consider Resolutions 9 A through 9 D as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The motion passed.
A. Certificate of Appropriateness – 306-308 Brodhead Avenue
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No.
2012-76 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install
a sign at 306-308 Brodhead Avenue.
B. Certificate of Appropriateness – 29 East Third Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2012-77 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the existing unstable brick on the east side of the building along Adams Street at 29 East Third Street.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 502 East Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2012-78 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign and fence in the vegetable garden at 502 East Fourth Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 11 West Fourth Street
Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution No. 2012-79 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a pass-thru window in the door at 11 West Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 A through 9 D: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The Resolutions passed.
Motion – Adding Resolution 9 E
Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto moved to add Resolution 9 E to the Agenda. Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 7. The motion passed.
E. Authorization to Intervene – Zoning Hearing Board – PennVenture Capital, LLC Appeals - Residential Treatment Facilities
Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto sponsored Resolution 9 E that authorized City Council Solicitor Christopher T. Spadoni, Esq., to enter his appearance for Bethlehem City Council, intervene and present any and all necessary testimony, filings, and/or documents as deemed necessary by Attorney Spadoni to oppose the Zoning Appeals currently pending before the Zoning Hearing Board as filed by Penn Venture Capital, LLC regarding construction and operation of Residential Treatment Facilities for premises at 2110 Center Street and 2349 Linden Street, and to object to the residential treatment facility applications of Penn Venture Capital, LLC, according to the Resolution.
Ms. Dolan asked whether there are more applications for residential treatment facilities. Joseph Kelly, Director of Community and Economic Development, noted that 2110 Center Street 2349 Linden Street, and 238 West Goepp Street are the existing applications at this time. In further response to Ms. Dolan, Mr. Kelly commented he did not know of a facility requested on the South Side. Mr. Kelly notified Ms. Dolan that land development approval was given for an assisted living facility on Center Street, after which a plan was filed for a residential treatment facility that was turned down by the Planning Commission, and the appeal is before Judge Smith. Mr. Kelly affirmed that the property on Linden Street is zoned Residential. Mr. Kelly stated that an easement exists to give access to the former Moose and Bug property on Linden Street. Mr. Kelly confirmed that the Silk Mill property on Goepp Street is zoned Residential, and indicated the number of beds proposed is about 100. Affirming it is next to Moravian College’s property, Mr. Kelly highlighted the fact that the plans were already filed and would not be subject to City Council’s proposal for a 1,000 ft. buffer.
Ms. Dolan did not think the Calvary Baptist Church at 111 Dewberry Avenue would have been allowed to be turned into a residential treatment facility because zoning would not have allowed it as it is essentially a hospital. Ms. Dolan expressed her opinion that by intervening Council is becoming the independent entities of the Zoning Hearing Board and Planning Commission and is not trusting them. Ms. Dolan did not think City Council should be superseding or usurping the power of the City’s independent entities, and could be setting a dangerous precedent by intervening. Ms. Dolan observed that any time a group of citizens are concerned about issues before the Zoning Hearing Board they could say that of course City Council’s Solicitor will support them, based on past issues. Ms. Dolan pointed out there is nothing in the laws stating that zoning decisions can be made because of fear of proximity between people who are getting help for alcohol or drugs and children, college students, or people who go to church. She added that property values cannot be considered in a situation like this. Ms. Dolan emphasized it is a zoning issue. Expressing that Council is reacting to the understandable concerns of citizens, Ms. Dolan questioned what happens if is there is something else that citizens do not like even though it is legal. She pointed out that Council could find itself in court. Ms. Dolan communicated there is no market for five residential treatment facilities requested by Mr. Atiyeh, and there is no possible way he could get approval for all five sites. Ms. Dolan commented that citizens are already represented by the Zoning Hearing Board and the Planning Commission. Pointing out there is a certain amount of time after a decision of the Zoning Hearing Board or Planning Commission to challenge a decision, Ms. Dolan remarked that instead Council is sending its Solicitor to intervene before a decision is made. She reiterated it sets a bad precedent and questions the purpose of fighting against these particular proposals.
Mr. Donchez, in response to Ms. Dolan’s comment, thought there is no extra cost to the City for City Council’s Solicitor to enter his appearance for intervention at Zoning Hearing Board meetings because his work is part of his salary as City Council’s Solicitor. Mr. Donchez asked is there any additional expense to the taxpayers in addition to his salary as City Council Solicitor. Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, replied no.
Ms. Dolan communicated that aside from the fact that there is no extra cost it is taking time away from Solicitor Spadoni’s access for Council’s needs. In response to Ms. Dolan, Attorney Spadoni noted that under the last case in which Council intervened in the matter of the treatment facility at the site of the former Calvary Baptist Church at 111 Dewberry Avenue, he attend at least five Zoning Hearing Board meetings, and spent a substantial amount of time on research and briefs. Attorney Spadoni notified Ms. Dolan that in the case of the last intervention it did not conflict with his work for other municipalities. Ms. Dolan, commenting that Attorney Spadoni is supposed to be representing City Council, observed the other entities in the City have their own representatives. She added that City Council’s interest is supposed to be the entire City, not adding a separate opinion from its Zoning Hearing Board.
Amendment to Resolution 9 E – Adding 238 W. Goepp Street – Silk Mill Property
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mr. Donchez moved to amend Resolution
9 E to authorize City Council Solicitor Christopher T. Spadoni,
Esq. to enter his appearance for Bethlehem City Council to
intervene in the following additional Zoning Appeal: Appeal
of equitable owner Penn Venture Capital, LLC on behalf of
Silk Mill Partners, LP for a Special Exception approval to
convert an existing building and operate a Residential Treatment
Facility for premises at 238 W. Goepp Street, and to object
to the residential treatment facility application of Penn
Venture Capital, LLC.
Ms. Dolan, noting that Moravian College is most closely located next to the 238 W. Goepp Street property, thought that Moravian College might have their solicitor added to this court case.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. Voting NAY: Ms. Dolan, 1. The motion passed.
Resolution 9 E – As Amended
President Evans, noting he has attended several Zoning Hearing Board meetings, indicated it would be helpful to have someone with legal expertise to stand up for residents in some cases since those filing the appeals have legal and other representation, much research and other documents in support of their appeals. President Evans observed this gives an unfair advantage to them, and it is an intimidating and difficult situation to those citizens who attend the Zoning Hearing Board meeting as they are not qualified or prepared, and may be inexperienced with such matters. President Evans stated that City Council does and has used discretion with its Solicitor. President Evans continued on to say that, as elected officials and representatives of the citizens, the Members do owe it to the residents or a neighborhood as a group when it comes to these specific cases that affect the City as a whole. President Evans thought it is important to engage Council Solicitor Spadoni and the resources that City Council has to stand up for what they believe is right. President Evans said it is his strong belief that City Council should be involved in this case. He observed the other two cases are strikingly similar to the last one, and thought that Council should remain consistent in its support. President Evans stated he will support the Resolution.
Ms. Dolan, expressing her agreement it often is true that citizens are not fairly represented at Zoning Hearing Board meetings, queried whether City Council should have its Solicitor available for all citizens, or only for those citizens who organize and come regularly to meetings. She continued on to comment what about citizens who do not have lifestyles to do so or who are not as knowledgeable or as aware of the law. Ms. Dolan asked how City Council will make those decisions to be consistent. She thought if the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board is not representing the citizens, then action should be taken to remove that Solicitor. Ms. Dolan remarked the issue is that there is not the trust in the Zoning Hearing Board to allow citizens to be heard. Stressing that City Council is responding to citizens who say they want to be heard because those citizens come to the City Council Meeting, Ms. Dolan said there are many situations where citizens did not feel empowered to do that. Ms. Dolan expressed the hope that Council will follow up with an analysis so that a decision does not have to be made case by case.
Voting AYE on Resolution 9 E, as Amended: Mr. DiGiacinto, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. Voting NAY: Ms. Dolan, 1. Resolution No. 2012-80 passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
Act 13 - Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Development – Zoning Laws
Mr. Reynolds affirmed that today the Members of City Council signed a letter that will be sent to the heads of the four State caucuses and to the Governor’s office in Harrisburg concerning recently passed Act 13, pertaining to Marcellus Shale natural gas development and fracking operations. Mr. Reynolds read the first paragraph of the letter, as follows: “Recently, the Pennsylvania State Legislature passed Act 13 which literally eliminates thousands of long-standing local zoning laws in Pennsylvania. As elected officials representing constituents in the City of Bethlehem, we view the law to be shortsighted and a major step back for the safety of the citizens of our City.” Mr. Reynolds, pointing out that Act 13 takes out of local control zoning laws having to do with Marcellus Shale development throughout Pennsylvania, advised that the letter shares the concerns of the Members of Council. Mr. Reynolds noted he was contacted several weeks ago by Dr. Joyce Hennefeld who, with other residents, is a member of the Lehigh Valley Social Concerns Committee. The group also contacted several other municipalities and asked if Bethlehem City Council and others could go on record stating they are opposed to the taking away of local control of these important zoning laws.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
Zoning Appeals – Residential Treatment Centers; Proposed Zoning Text Amendment – 1,000 Ft. Buffer
David Harte, 1177 N. 6th Street, Whitehall, supplied two handouts for Members of Council relative to the 1,000 foot buffer in the proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment. He affirmed his understanding that the Ordinance has not been amended and that Council voted to have a public hearing and to send the proposal to the Planning Commission. Mr. Harte cautioned Council that they will be extremely exclusionary by the interpretation of that Ordinance. He explained that in the first handout on the map and colored in yellow is all of the residential zoning districts in the City of Bethlehem. Colored in the two blue colors would be all of the parks, schools, playgrounds, colleges and universities. On this map, Mr. Harte hatched in a 1,000 foot buffer from all of those blue items which is what the Ordinance Amendment is for. He noted on this map one can see through the color to see the yellow and blue. On the second map Mr. Harte explained that he darkened up the hatched pattern. He pointed out that one can see if this Ordinance were to be enacted for the 1,000 foot buffer it would be exclusionary in allowing residential treatment centers that are allowed in the Zoning Ordinance. He stated everywhere that is dark on the map is within 1,000 feet of one of those items. Mr. Harte stressed that amending the current Zoning Ordinance to insert a 1,000 foot buffer leaves a very small portion of the City, perhaps 5% – 7% of the residential districts, where a residential treatment center could be proposed. He added that the current Zoning Ordinance does permit residential treatment facilities by special exception and there are criteria that must be met.
Attorney Mark Malkames, 509 W. Linden Street, Allentown, stated that Mr. Harte is an engineer and is employed by Mr. Atiyeh’s companies. Attorney Malkames advised he is at the Meeting on behalf of Mr. Atiyeh’s companies to address the proposed Zoning Text Amendment pertaining to a 1,000 ft. buffer as well. Attorney Malkames distributed to the Members of Council a case involving the City of Reading, Pennsylvania that has a statute that prohibits methadone clinics within 500 feet of an existing school, public playground, public park, residential housing area, child care facility, church, meeting house, or any other place of religious worship. Attorney Malkames highlighted the fact that the Reading Ordinance was declared unconstitutional because it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Attorney Malkames said just as methadone clinics and users of methadone clinics have a disability as defined by that Act so do people who are currently participating in a rehabilitation program but no longer engaging and dealing with use of drugs, which is what residential treatment facilities in this Ordinance is intended to provide for. Attorney Malkames continued on to say, as well as individuals who abuse alcohol, if the person is a recovering alcoholic the residential treatment facility as defined by the Ordinance is intended to treat people with alcoholism. Attorney Malkames remarked what happened in this case is that the City of Reading had an exclusion. He said if Reading liked the facility, someone could locate it within 500 feet of a school. He continued on to advise the Court said that is not good enough and the fact that they are prohibiting it they are discriminating against this type of treatment. Attorney Malkames pointed out that for the Ordinance to be valid all treatment facilities have to be treated the same. Attorney Malkames did not see anything in the Ordinance about hospitals, doctors offices, and other places where people get treatment. Attorney Malkames noted that, as he read in the language with the Reading case, there were very limited areas where treatment was permitted in the City of Reading. Attorney Malkames said he is bringing this to attention because he agrees with Mr. Harte, and, as a matter of zoning law, if a city so restricts the areas where a use is permitted the city is excluding that use and someone could file an application to put the use wherever they want to put it. Attorney Malkames, explaining that is what happens when there is exclusionary zoning, commented beyond that people say that if someone wins in Court then you can put it in. Attorney Malkames agreed with Mr. Harte in that this is a special exception for a use that is permitted in the zoning districts, provided that the criteria are met. Attorney Malkames communicated that if one looks at the case from Reading, it stands for the proposition that a city is exposing itself. While commenting he is reluctant to say this because he does not want to be threatening, Attorney Malkames said you are exposing yourselves to claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and you can see that this case was remanded by this Court down to a lower court to determine whether or not the City of Reading had to pay damages to the people who were deprived of those facilities. Attorney Malkames expressed the hope that this gets some serious thought before adopting the proposed Ordinance.
Residential Treatment Facilities; Assistant City Solicitor
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, remarking that the role of the Assistant City Solicitor originated in the 1970’s, recalled at that time her brother was Assistant Solicitor for City Council, and Attorney Thomas Butterfield was the Solicitor for the Mayor. Ms. Pongracz said she cannot understand why anyone would question the Solicitor for Council being involved in any issue that involves the citizens of this community. She added that is the job of the Solicitor for Council and it has been in existence for over 40 years. Ms. Pongracz thought that to make a statement that all treatment facilities are the same is not true. She exemplified that a treatment facility for psychotic people is not the same as treating someone being helped for depression. Ms. Pongracz stressed that every child is worth more than any building. Ms. Pongracz stated that treatment facilities should be placed where they are the best suited for the person being treated and for the neighborhood in which it is being placed. Ms. Pongracz remarked a developer is not here to do good things for the community but to make money, and a community would be lucky to have a humanitarian developer. Ms. Pongracz reiterated that the City Council Solicitor is responsible for every citizen in the community.
Act 13; Zoning Hearing Board Matters
Greg Zebrowski, 23 Dewberry Avenue, commended Council Member Reynolds for his letter concerning Act 13. Mr. Zebrowski stressed that Act 13 is an example of the citizens being circumvented by authorities other than their own representatives. He asserted that Act 13 is an outrageous law that circumvents local zoning including if there is gas underneath a building. Pointing out that the arbiter in those disputes is the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Mr. Zebrowski stated the citizens would be at a disadvantage with that kind of power. Mr. Zebrowski suggested that the President of City Council in Pittsburgh be contacted because of that City’s experience, how it used its zoning and legal resources, and is fighting a difficult battle with the State of Pennsylvania concerning Act 13. Mr. Zebrowski noted that the proposals at Zoning Hearing Board meetings do require alert citizens, and he added that City Council does represent the City of Bethlehem and it is their paramount duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of all of the citizens of Bethlehem.
Residential Treatment Centers
Robert Jones, 607 Elmhurst Avenue, expressed the opinion that based on what he has seen in the press he does not have much trust in Mr. Atiyeh when it comes to development. Mr. Jones said he respectfully disagrees with Councilwoman Dolan in that if five treatment centers were allowed they would be instituted. Mr. Jones said he feels reassured that Council is going to act on fears and concerns of citizens like him.
Public Comments; Communications
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, recalled that City Council Meetings had a Courtesy of the Floor that was an unlimited time and an open dialogue. He continued on to denote that individuals who had a problem could express their concerns, and the President of Council would direct that request to a member of the Administration who would respond. The citizen came to the City Council Meeting to address their complaints. Mr. Antalics pointed out that over time, Courtesy of the Floor was cut down to 12 minutes and then to 5 minutes. Mr. Antalics remarked what disturbs him is that a citizen who comes to a City Council Meeting to express a complaint, who is upset to be here and to speak in public, will not even be answered and no one will speak to him. Mr. Antalics stated this is very intimidating to a person who comes to a City Council Meeting for the first time, and they probably will not come again. Stating he was told that any person within the Administration cannot speak to Council directly, Mr. Antalics communicated that, if the Mayor will be the voice for Council, to him that is suppression of the freedom of speech.
Act 13; Authorization to Intervene – Zoning Hearing Board – PennVenture Capital, LLC Appeals - Residential Treatment Facilities; Proposed New Zoning Ordinance
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, thanked Council Member Reynolds for his leadership with Act 13. Mr. Scheirer thanked the Members of Council for passing Resolution 9 E to intervene and oppose the Zoning Appeals currently pending before the Zoning Hearing Board filed by Penn Venture Capital, for residential treatment centers. Mr. Scheirer expressed his opinion that Council is obliged to express its opinions and not sit mutely by when the Zoning Hearing Board makes a decision. Mr. Scheirer addressed two items in the Proposed New Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Scheirer stated his understanding is that additional billboards will be allowed on Route 378. He said on the South Side it should not be a problem because there is a separation from residential areas. Continuing on to say the northern part of Route 378 in West Bethlehem is a parkway in effect, Mr. Scheirer questioned why billboards are needed in this area. He wondered who else besides Adams Outdoor Advertising benefits from those billboards. Mr. Scheirer, turning to ratifying commercial zoning on the two blocks of Easton Avenue as proposed for the new Zoning Ordinance, said this is a result of variances. Observing that the two blocks are much more commercial than residential, Mr. Scheirer said changing this would recognize what is there. However, Mr. Scheirer pointed out what was not addressed and how this came about was that the Zoning Hearing Board over the years granted one variance after another until it has effectively rezoned those two blocks. He asserted that the Zoning Hearing Board usurped the power of City Council since it is Council’s power to rezone, not the Zoning Hearing Board’s. Mr. Scheirer referred to the case of the eight homes at 215 Fifth Street at which location the owner said that the vacant lot at the end is useless to him so he wanted to add another house. The Zoning Hearing Board by a vote of 4-1 approved the request. Mr. Scheirer remarked that the only one who benefits from this is the owner since he can make some money. However, he highlighted the fact that the Ordinance states that making a profit is not a sufficient reason for a variance, just like putting up a billboard to make money. He felt that the Zoning Hearing Board just does what they think is the right thing to do and does not pay any attention to Ordinances. Mr. Scheirer asked that Council not encourage them any more in this direction and urged Council to reconsider their vote when it comes to Easton Avenue because this is a very important precedent.
Authorization to Intervene – Zoning Hearing Board – PennVenture Capital, LLC Appeals - Residential Treatment Facilities
Joann Kristofic, 474 Forrest Avenue, thanked City Council for enacting Resolution 9 E. Ms. Kristofic communicated that when we talk about the future of our neighborhood we talk about the current or present fear of our residents. Ms. Kristofic, remarking that Bethlehem Catholic High School which has been in existence since 1960 would be systematically destroyed, questioned what parent would send a student to any school that abuts a treatment facility. She further wondered what parent of young children would want to move into an area that would have a treatment center one block away from an elementary school, and what parent would want to spend $30,000 a year to send their child to Moravian College when there is a 100 bed treatment facility right next door to it. Mr. Kristofic stressed it is the job of City Council to safeguard the residents.
Streaming Video; Act 13; Residential Treatment Facilities;
Zoning Hearing Board
Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, noted that last year there was a request to put in streaming video at City Council, Zoning Hearing Board, and Planning Commission meetings. Pointing out it was not done because of the cost, Mr. Bernotas said there are websites that will record City Council Meetings for basically no cost by installing a webcam that goes to the web, is live streamed and recorded at no cost. Mr. Bernotas asked President Evans to review the matter. Mr. Bernotas thanked Council Member Reynolds for fighting Act 13. Focusing on drug treatment centers, Mr. Bernotas communicated they are not needed in neighborhoods. He expressed support for a 1,000 foot buffer, and stated there would still be some spots within Bethlehem that would not be exclusionary. Mr. Bernotas added that Mr. Thompson, the Solicitor for the Zoning Hearing Board, works for Mr. Atiyeh and that Mr. Thompson is an attorney for developers and would make him biased. Mr. Bernotas thought that a public defender is needed for the citizens when going to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Bernotas credited Council Member Dolan for pushing the amendment to have five Zoning Hearing Board members. Mr. Bernotas added that the neighbors are not done with the Elias Market case because the owners have taken a 1,000 square foot roadside stand to over 19,000 square feet.
Tom Carroll, 248 E. Union Boulevard, remarked he is shocked that the State legislature would try to put through Act 13, and thought the Act is just a tip of the iceberg. Mr. Carroll commended City Council for paying attention to it and responding to it. He is asking that Council keep paying attention to what is coming out of Harrisburg.
Brian Bond, 1758 W. Broad Street, communicated that he would like Mayor Callahan and City Council to explain how he can be terminated after working for the City for 14 years because he sent four text messages to an ex-girlfriend. President Evans notified Mr. Bond that is a personnel matter.
Buffer; Residential Treatment Facilities
Sue Glemser, 2132 Sycamore Street, expressed her support for the proposed 1,000 foot buffer zone for residential treatment centers. She added that citizens need Attorney Spadoni to represent them. Ms. Glemser remarked that the developer definitely wants these rehabilitation centers next to schools. Highlighting the fact that the developer’s engineer said with a 1,000 foot buffer they would only have 5%-7% of Bethlehem to place these centers, Ms. Glemser stated it is not known if this is true. Ms. Glemser said that residential treatment centers should not be near schools, parks, or playgrounds. Ms. Glemser, noting that she spoke with the Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent, said he agreed that drug rehab centers should not be located next to the schools. Ms. Glemser asserted that rehab centers should also not be near residential areas. Ms. Glemser commented that residents in the Pennridge School District where the Malvern Clinic is near them are concerned because in the morning they have seen needles on their lawns and residents of the treatment center outside on their lawns. Ms. Glemser remarked that clients at the treatment center can come and go as they please and they can sign in and sign out any time they want.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.