City Council

Bethlehem Council MInutes

10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Monday, July 2, 2012 – 7:00 PM



Pastor Debra K. Hess, of St. Thomas United Church of Christ, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag.


President Eric R. Evans called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 5. David T. DiGiacinto and Karen Dolan were absent, 2.


Proposed New Zoning Ordinance

Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, President Evans called to order a Public Hearing to receive public comment on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, Part 13 of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, enacted by City Council on September 15, 1970 as Ordinance No. 2210, and as amended, known as the Zoning Code, consisting of Article 1301 through Article 1327, inclusive, and Tables and Zoning Map, to be re-enacted and replaced in its entirety with the new Zoning Ordinance of the City of Bethlehem.

A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Proposed New Zoning Ordinance

The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 15, 2012 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advising that at its June 14, 2012 meeting the Planning Commission voted 3-0 to recommend approval of the new draft Zoning Ordinance and accompanying map, last revised May 7, 2012.

B. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Proposed New Zoning Ordinance

The Clerk read a letter dated May 31, 2012 from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) stating they considered the proposed ordinance at the May 31, 2012 meeting pursuant to the requirements of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. The Commission voted to return the following comments for the City of Bethlehem’s use. The review focuses on the consistency or inconsistency of the proposed ordinance with the Comprehensive Plan – Lehigh Valley – 2030. Aspects of the proposed ordinance unrelated to the Comprehensive Plan are considered matters of local concern only and are not subject to comment. This review does not evaluate the consistency of the proposed ordinance with the provisions of State or Federal laws, including but not limited to the Fair Housing Act. In a letter dated April 29, 2011, LVPC issued comments about the draft of the ordinance last revised March 23, 2011. All of the comments contained in that letter are also relevant to the current draft. A copy of the review is attached. Bethlehem is urged to give renewed consideration to these comments. No additional comments are offered. The LVPC’s April 29, 2011 letter addressed the following issues: Housing Issues, Land Use Issues, Environmental Protection, and Transportation Issues.

Planning and Zoning Director Comments

Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, highlighted the fact that there were many public meetings and meetings with the Planning Commission on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Heller summarized the preparation and presentation of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance that spanned several years. The work originally started with the update of the 1991 Comprehensive Plan for which the City received State funding, and the Zoning Ordinance that had not been fully updated since 1970. A task force was assembled with community representatives, monthly meetings were held, interviews were held with key persons, a resident survey was conducted, information was posted on the City’s website, and a series of public meetings were held. The Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2009 at which time an outline of a proposed new Zoning Ordinance was developed, and meetings with the task force continued, and public meetings were held. Ms. Heller noted that some of the key points derived from the public during the Comprehensive Plan review process were maintaining the stability and current densities in the neighborhoods, protection of environmentally sensitive areas, encouraging more flexibility for development in the downtown core areas. The Bureau wanted to produce a zoning document that was more user friendly than the current Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Heller enumerated some of the larger changes in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. In the residential areas, planned unit developments are no longer allowed, and certain areas of the City were rezoned to reflect existing densities. In the RR Residential zone, an open space development component was created. For lots larger than three acres, there can be cluster development as long as more sensitive areas are retained and not impacted, and a small density bonus is allowed. In the RS Residential District, multi-family dwellings are no longer allowed. The RT and RM Districts are the two highest density residential zoning districts. The desire was to consolidate some of the zoning districts and eliminate some overlays, so the RT and RM Residential Districts were combined. There will no longer be an RM Residential District and those areas are rezoned to RT Residential. While affirming that some relief to commercial uses on corner lots is provided in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, Ms. Heller acknowledged the Bureau wants to take a closer look at the Section about which some questions have been raised. Ms. Heller noted that the provision does allow for more flexible parking provisions, and reuse of corner commercial uses as special exceptions rather than use variances. A chapter was created for workforce housing incentives to provide for more affordable units, and a density bonus if the development is greater than 20 units and if it is in specific zoning districts. Design guidelines have been created for denser areas, including CB in the downtown areas, CL – Limited Commercial District, and RT that is the most dense residential zoning district. The design guidelines provide for infill development to mirror the existing development on the corridor and in the block. Building needs to be to the average front lot line setback, pedestrian access needs to be created from the front lot line, no residential units can be located on the first floor unless it is a residential street in the RT zone, parking needs to be at the rear or to the side, and minimum building height is two stories. Ms. Heller explained the intent is to create infill development that would mirror the existing urban development. Flexible parking provisions were created in view of the many applications to the Zoning Hearing Board for parking. Ms. Heller noted that many of the requests have been granted because there is not a lot of opportunity to create additional parking in denser areas. Some areas do not have a rear alley where parking could be created. Provisions for shared parking were created, and joint use parking is allowed. Criteria for reduction of parking has been provided in certain instances, and can be handled administratively. Green components were created within the Zoning Ordinance, a density bonus is provided for LEED construction of non-residential buildings, flexibility was created for solar collection devices, and provisions were created for wind turbines but wind turbines are not allowed in residential districts. Focusing on environmental issues, Ms. Heller stated an open space development option was created in RR Residential, provisions for parking lot lighting to minimize impacts on abutting properties in residential areas, and tree conservation provisions were created requiring that larger trees removed in a development need to be replaced, and in some instances replacement with two trees is required. Steep slope provisions were enhanced, a maximum slope to finished grade provision was added, retention of a tree canopy is required, and tree cutting is restricted. Ms. Heller advised that some of the responses from the public concerned restrictive parking requirements, and a request for a buffer zone between residential and commercial was received that was addressed. A concern about the maximum heights permitted in commercial zones was addressed by creating a setback for the height in CB and CL Districts from rear property lines where development would abut a residential zone, and maximum height was reduced. Several map changes were made, and additional definitions were requested and included for auto body, auto repair, assisted living, gas stations, meal centers, roadside stands and trucks. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposal in May 2011, City Council held meetings during Fall 2011, and earlier this year. In response to discussions at those meetings, revisions were made to digital and electronic billboards, a separation distance was created for licensed gaming facilities, a 120 foot separation distance was created between night clubs or taverns in residential zones, and the separation distance between treatment centers and schools, parks, daycare centers, and universities was created. Broad Street between Long and Center Streets, and the former Bennett Toyota property on West Broad Street were rezoned. Pointing out that a lot of work was put into the proposal by the Administration, Council, and the public, Ms. Heller noted that many community groups also reviewed the proposal including the EAC, South Side Vision 2014, South Side Task Force, and neighborhood groups. Ms. Heller emphasized that the Bureau wanted to make sure the goals and objectives of the community were being met. Ms. Heller affirmed there are some provisions that her office and City Council agreed would be reviewed going forward, including recreational vehicles, a demolition ordinance, floodplain provisions, and corner commercial lots. Ms. Heller communicated that consensus has been reached on a lot of large ideas in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, and the Zoning Ordinance has been improved in many ways. She stated that while making the community more development-friendly, it protects the neighborhoods.

Council Comments

President Evans thanked the Mayor, the Administration, Ms. Heller, Joseph Kelly, Director of Community and Economic Development, the Planning staff, and everyone who worked on the Zoning Ordinance. Acknowledging it has been a long road, President Evans highlighted the fact that it is a critical document for the City to preserve the neighborhoods, and to allow for commercial development. President Evans also thanked the citizens who have been involved in the development of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. President Evans affirmed there were neighborhood meetings, City Council Meetings, Committee of the Whole meetings, and Planning and Zoning meetings at which the complex and lengthy document was reviewed, and a number of amendments were requested. Communicating that the document will probably not satisfy each of the residents in the City, President Evans stressed that a lot of work was done, and the document can be amended as has been done throughout the past years. President Evans emphasized that an excellent job was done on such a large document that is being updated in its entirety from the 1970 version. President Evans affirmed there are a few items that City Council would like to address, as denoted by Ms. Heller, and to revisit shortly after the proposed new Zoning Ordinance is adopted.

Mr. Donchez commended the Mayor, Administration, Mr. Kelly, Tony Hanna, former Director of Community and Economic Development, Ms. Heller and the whole Department who have worked on the document for almost 4 years. Mr. Donchez, confirming it is the first major review and update since 1970, commented that although it may not please every person overall it is a very good document, it was an awesome task, and a strong testament to the work done by many people. Mr. Donchez restated that several issues as listed by Ms. Heller need to be addressed including the demolition ordinance, recreational vehicles and corner lots. Mr. Donchez thought the proposed new Zoning Ordinance protects neighborhoods and quality of life, and agreed it is a document to which changes will be made in the future.

Mr. Recchiuti said he would echo some of the comments made by President Evans and Mr. Donchez in thanking the Administration and Ms. Heller for the hard work done on the document. Mr. Recchiuti also thanked the Administration for updating him on the process during his first year on City Council.

Mr. Reynolds, communicating that people have strong opinions about their neighborhoods and the City, noted there was a lot of input from residents, and from City Council Members. Mr. Reynolds commented that a lot of times people had to say no, and there was a lot of compromise among all the groups and people involved. Mr. Reynolds observed that each person if drafting a new Zoning Ordinance would probably change a few things, and probably not everyone is completely happy as has been said, but the Bureau did the best job they could and took into account the residents’ input at the many meetings that were held.

Public Comment

Beall Fowler, 443 Center Street, expressed his agreement with those who spoke about the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, and commended all of the work that has been done on the document. However, Mr. Fowler stressed there is a serious loophole in Section 1304.04 that allows certain commercial uses in RT and RG districts. He stated this section was proposed by those who recognize the potential value of certain limited commercial activities in residential neighborhoods, the prototype being the classic corner store that might have sold groceries or had some other local activity. Most of these have closed and have become residential, some are in commercial zones, but others are in residential areas. Mr. Fowler distributed a handout dated May 4, 2011 to the Members of Council that showed how this was presented at the Planning Commission meeting a year ago and apparently to other groups. Mr. Fowler pointed out that on page two in the upper left hand corner it states reuse of corner stores and shows an illustration of two buildings that are clearly corner stores. Noting that is basically how most pictured the Ordinance, Mr. Fowler said, unfortunately, Section 1304.04 did not carry these words within it yet instead used the term corner lot. It has a meaning which could put in jeopardy a number of residences that sometime in the past had some sort of business activity, however minor or short-lived. The draft code addresses a lot, and a portion of the proposed business space that had been occupied at one time by a business. Mr. Fowler explained one can imagine a situation 150 years ago when someone made trinkets which they then advertised for sale and maybe a month later stopped selling them. At the time, that was a lawful business, and therefore that home that has been a residence all that time would still be eligible for conversion. Mr. Fowler saw this as being an enormous loophole and was certain that was not what was intended since no zoning or planning professional would intentionally write such an absurd provision. Mr. Fowler thought it is important to correct this quickly because there are many corner residences and old buildings in Bethlehem that could fall under this loophole if people who seek loopholes choose to do this. Mr. Fowler stated it can be fixed easily by adding a sentence that says the lot shall be at the corner of two streets, and that the primary building shall be a corner storefront character that abuts the sidewalk, and shall have a current or former entrance at the corner defined by two streets. Mr. Fowler urged City Council to address this matter quickly. Mr. Fowler added that there are few other things to consider. Pointing out that the proposed Ordinance talks about the possibility that the Zoning Hearing Board could regulate the sale of alcohol, Mr. Fowler stressed that is worrisome because it implies that corner stores could sell alcohol. He did not think that people want to open bars in the residential neighborhoods. Mr. Fowler recommended the addition of a provision stating that no alcohol shall be sold in any such conversions. He reiterated that a sentence or clause should be added to indicate that these uses are to be small in scale and primarily a walk-in trade for the needs of the neighborhood. Mr. Fowler added this would help to provide clarification for the Zoning Hearing Board in considering cases. While acknowledging the City is eager to pass the new Zoning Ordinance, Mr. Fowler asked that City Council consider amending it as soon as possible. He added that passing a resolution of intent would be useful but perhaps not possible.

Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, remarked one word comes to him and that is variance. Expressing his thought that the proposed Zoning Ordinance has many variances in it, Mr. Nyul stated it has no beef to it. He remarked that at the end of the document there should be a sentence advising that all statements stay as is, there will be no variances, and it is the written law. Mr. Nyul thought if that can be done then the City will have a good document. Mr. Nyul said he is tired of the variances because there is always somebody saying that they want it their own way.

Meg Keil, Real Estate Manager for Lamar Advertising, Allentown, noted that Lamar is a national corporation celebrating their 110th birthday this year. Ms. Keil addressed the section of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance pertaining to electronic messaging signs and electronic billboards, and the 1,000 foot spacing between digital signs. Ms. Keil advised that, according to the Federal Highway Commission as well as PennDot, they have never been deemed any safer through the last three traffic studies since 2007. Ms. Keil pointed out that the Ordinance section makes Bethlehem exclusionary to other companies including Lamar to do business in the City of Bethlehem with electronic changing message signs by changing this section from 500 feet to 1,000 feet. In addition, Ms. Keil stated that some of the areas where billboards were able to be put have been eliminated with this new proposed Ordinance. Ms. Keil informed the Members that the company would like the 500 foot spacing retained since the Federal Highway Commission as well as PennDot deems it to be proper spacing in between billboards. Ms. Keil, advising these signs provide very valuable information, added that Lamar is the only company in the region affiliated with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, and is partnered with the FBI. The company has been running on the billboards the FBI most wanted of the very dangerous criminals. Ms. Keil then passed out a photo of the most recent one that is being published now and remarked no one knows if he is in the City or not. Ms. Keil pointed out that they also post Amber Alerts for missing children. Ms. Keil highlighted the fact that if a bridge collapsed, or if there is a traffic accident those messages could go out instantaneously to the public. Addressing the 100 square foot sign provision on Route 378, Ms. Keil said this is also an exclusionary provision. She explained that 100 square feet, whether digital or standard, would not be a readable message, drivers would slow down, and it would overturn all of the research done to prove that these digital billboards are safe. Ms. Keil advised that the Federal Highway Commission has concluded the most recent study and found there are no safety issues with digital billboards. The majority of people look at digital billboards for less than a second. A traffic study was done in the Berks County area with over 25 digital faces and accidents actually decreased slightly. Virginia Tech also did a traffic study and traffic accidents also decreased in that study. Ms. Keil asked City Council not to impose exclusionary Ordinances that would not allow companies, including Lamar, to do business in the City of Bethlehem.

Bruce Haines, 63 W. Church Street, stated he was not satisfied with the conclusion everyone talked about with not getting everything they wanted. Mr. Haines informed the Members that at the first meeting in the Historic District when residents presented the petitions regarding the buffer zone or the separation distance they appreciated that taverns and nightclubs were put in. They felt that they were really looking for the liquor license establishments or sports bars. It really did not address the issue and provide the kind of protection and buffer that they believed was necessary. Mr. Haines remarked that more recently as Mr. Fowler outlined earlier it came to light that with the corner lot provisions they actually opened the door for intrusive businesses to be throughout the Historic District in corner homes. Therefore, in effect, the City introduced into the Historic District and the other residential districts the option of a sports bar open until 2:00 a.m. on corner lots. Mr. Haines stressed that, instead of preserving the neighborhood, the corner lot provision is destroying it and providing opportunity to destroy one of the most unique characteristics of the City. Mr. Haines communicated that, with the provisions on the corner lots, and noting there are many of them including Herron Funeral Home, for example, those locations could become a sports bar. Mr. Haines asserted there are no restrictions other than adult entertainment and fried foods. Mr. Haines pointed out that the corner lots within the residential districts have more pervasive uses than does the commercial business district. Mr. Haines thought this is one of those unintended consequences of wording that started out with a good idea, which is to preserve the concept of a corner store for the neighborhood. Mr. Haines remarked the way the Ordinance is written provides only two restrictive uses that are adult entertainment and fried foods. Observing no one was aware of this until recently when it was brought up, Mr. Haines said he would like to think that City Council would change it before it is taken back to the Planning Commission.

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, mentioned that dating back to the Sasaki study on the South Side it was determined that the stability of the South Side is best served by single families owning the property. At that time, Mr. Antalics did a study and the ratio of rented properties to family owned was almost 5 to 1. For rental properties owned by non-resident landlords almost 90% were student housing, and one owner owned 68 properties on the South Side rented to students. Mr. Antalics remarked that the definition of family in Zoning was very broad in the past so there could have been a family of students. Mr. Antalics pointed out that, recently, there has been new construction on the South Side designed for student housing, and the signs state for student housing only which is contradictory to the studies the City has done and paid for about stabilizing the welfare of the South Side by maintaining single family residential owned properties. Mr. Antalics wondered when these permits to build are issued does one determine what the purpose is of that building, and can the City restrict building designed for student housing. Mr. Antalics stressed if a single family wished to move to the South Side and rent a property they could not because the landlord would not rent to them because he only rents to students. Mr. Antalics thought there are a number of loopholes in the Zoning system in terms of definitions. He wondered whether the City considers student housing to be multi-family housing. Mr. Antalics communicated that, if the City wishes to improve the welfare of the South Side, the issue of student housing and future building should be looked at carefully, and the Zoning codes should be amended to promote stability of single family housing on the South Side.

Robert Romeril, 26 W. Market Street, pointed out that many people worked hard on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Focusing on Section 1304.04, Mr. Romeril observed that the Historic District is too small to support stores. He continued on to point out that the streets are too small to support trucks, and already have many school buses. Mr. Romeril stated that, if this corner store provision cannot be changed, it should certainly be amended and Mr. Fowler’s amendment is a way to do this. Mr. Romeril remarked that the Historic District is a residential district and is defined as such, and mixed use was never used. Mr. Romeril emphasized that residents do not want their district to turn into a commercial district. Mr. Romeril suggested focusing on ensuring that the Historic District be residential.

Craig Liles, 1051 Delaware Avenue, Fountain Hill, related that in the past these corner properties have been, for example, neighborhood groceries, convenience stores, or hair salons. Typically, there is a different layout that is not conducive to residential use. Mr. Liles said in his experience he has seen investors buy these properties at deeply discounted prices and convert them into multi-unit apartment buildings, or even a rooming house. They are almost never owner-occupied and are not maintained well. On the contrary, the commercial properties that are small businesses are owned by the occupant and who generally takes pride in their storefront and cares about the reputation and the will of the neighborhood. Mr. Liles continued on to say that investment property and commercial buyers are looking to make money, but the commercial use commands a higher price than multi-unit investment properties. This is important because property values are based on comparable sales and when a property sells for less it impacts the value of the rest of the neighborhood negatively. He added that lenders use these comparable sales to qualify the amounts of a loan. The buyer’s ability to borrow would become a limiting factor, and how much they can pay the seller, thus driving the neighborhood values down further. Mr. Liles felt that it is in everyone’s interest to support the proposed Ordinance allowing for the highest and best use of these corner properties.

Christine Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, advised she is on the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Historic District and the Bethlehem Historic Partnership Association. Noting she would reiterate what Mr. Fowler, Mr. Romeril, and Mr. Haines has said, Ms. Stevens stated she is at this meeting to voice her concern and objection to the simple wording of Section 1304.04 and specifically subsection (a) (1) which states that the lot shall be on the corner of two streets. Ms. Stevens highlighted the fact that these words are not consistent with power point images that were distributed at the previous hearings and meetings on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. The images show a building with a truncated corner and the wording states that the building must be on a corner. Ms. Stevens related that as an elected official of her neighborhood organization she must speak out for her special residential Historic neighborhood. Ms. Stevens informed the Members there is an intense urgency for further clarification of a corner property in that an individual is interested in purchasing 476 N. New Street, currently The Bethlehem Inn, a bed and breakfast owned by a husband and wife since 1987. During their 25 years of ownership, they have raised their three children there, so it was an owner-occupied residence, which is granted a variance to do so. Ms. Stevens pointed out that the man interested in purchasing this property intends on using the entire residential building for his financial consulting firm for community banking, as his application for a special exception indicates, and it cites Section 1304.04. Ms. Stevens noted the individual does not offer a product which residents can use, as his clients are commercial community banks. Ms. Stevens remarked that commercial products belong in a commercial district, not in a residential one. Under the new proposed Zoning Ordinance, specifically Section 1304.04, he is able to convert this once owner-occupied residence into a 100% commercial, non-owner occupied building simply because the structure exists on a lot on a corner of two streets and was previously used as commercial in nature. Ms. Stevens stressed that, by not further clarifying the wording in Section 1304.04, a dangerous precedent will be set in regards to the residential Historic District. This would be the first non-owner-occupied 100% commercial business serving a commercial industry in a residential neighborhood. Ms. Stevens, affirming her understanding that a lot of energy has gone into the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, asked City Council to be lawfully creative in incorporating the new clarification into the existing document either through an addendum or through a motion indicating that further clarification is needed and is being worked on. Ms. Stevens informed the Members that the party interested in 476 N. New Street has asked for a continuance until the August 22, 2012 Zoning Hearing Board meeting that occurs after City Council would approve the new Zoning Ordinance.

Jeff Chandler, of Adams Outdoor Advertising, noted that the company has been located in the City of Bethlehem for 18 years. They are the largest billboard company in the Lehigh Valley with 1,007 billboard displays and 13 digital displays. Mr. Chandler stated the company’s position that they would like to have the digital spacing remain at 1,000 feet. Mr. Chandler advised that the PennDot digital spacing is indeed 500 feet for different reasons. He continued on to advise that Hanover Township is at 1,500 feet and Allentown is 1,000 feet spacing. Mr. Chandler, informing the Members there are no digital displays on Route 22 or I-78 that are 500 feet, said they are all 1,000 feet or greater. Mr. Chandler pointed out that City planners have researched this significantly and agree with the 1,000 foot spacing.

John Brew, 262 E. Market Street, commented that along Market Street there are a number of big buildings that have been turned into apartment buildings or condominiums. Noting it has been said that he is just a businessman coming in and taking a building, Mr. Brew explained the reason he wants to purchase 476 N. New Street is that he loves Historic Bethlehem and he wants to keep the building the way it is, in its historic beauty. Mr. Brew pointed out that at Market Street and Center Street there is a funeral home which is superbly kept, and on the other side of the street is a bed and breakfast that is also beautifully kept. Across the corner there is an apartment building that Mr. Brew did not think is kept at the historic level that people enjoy seeing. Mr. Brew continued on to say at High Street there is a dentist’s office with apartments above and well kept in an incredible way. But, across the street there is an old building with a widow’s peak at the top that is an apartment building, it is poorly kept and is withering away. Mr. Brew stated that he keeps his home at 262 E. Market Street in impeccable condition and that is what he is looking for in terms of moving his offices into Historic Bethlehem, and to keep 476 N. New Street at the level it was when it was built in 1840. Mr. Brew communicated that, in looking at the proposed new Zoning Ordinance and the fact that it is preserving Bethlehem, it might not be the perfect residential situation that one thinks of in the past, but the past has a commercial use that has been indigenous to the community. In thinking about how Bethlehem has evolved, Mr. Brew said it is really the people in Bethlehem who have kept the historic integrity. However, he pointed out it costs money to keep up these historic homes so when he looks at the Ordinance and the opportunity to move his offices into the property on New Street he looks at this in that it will protect this property from being an apartment building. He remarked it is a perfect group home because it has many bathrooms. Stating that these are homes that had a different use at different times, Mr. Brew commented he is just offering his own support in terms of keeping that house in the way it should be, restoring its historic integrity to the community, and tourists can enjoy Historic Bethlehem as what it was.

Peter Pullman, Sales Manager with Lamar Outdoor Advertising, handed out a report of multiple traffic studies. Mr. Pullman asked for consideration of one other modification to the digital sign Ordinance. Noting it states a 10 second dwell time between changes of messages, Mr. Pullman asked that on the interstate highways, whether U.S. 22 or Route 378, an 8 second dwell time be considered. Mr. Pullman stated this is due to the rate of flow and speed of the traffic on those routes. Mr. Pullman said the time frame of 8 seconds would be more suitable for that change. The City of Allentown allows an 8 second dwell time on the interstate and limited access highways, and for the secondary roadways it stayed at 10 seconds. Mr. Pullman reiterated the company’s thoughts on asking for consideration of the 500 foot spacing between the digital signs as it is with the traditional signs.

Mary Pongracz, 321 W. 4th Street, relating that she attended many of the meetings about the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, said there are several things that came to her attention. One is that people keep saying North Side and South Side. Ms. Pongracz recalled she has said continuously that the West Side has an identity of its own. It should be North and South in Northampton County, and a West Side of Bethlehem with a distinct culture and identity in Lehigh County. She stressed this has not been addressed. Ms. Pongracz observed the proposed new Zoning Ordinance is a working document, it is not the law of the land, and it is a code that seems to cover most of the things that need to be done. Ms. Pongracz explained a reason she is not happy is because of something that looks like it is from outer space on top of the Wells Fargo building, by architect A. W. Leh, on the South Side. She further highlighted the fact that Broughal Middle School which also was an A. W. Leh building was taken down and she is not happy with that either. Ms. Pongracz pointed out there is more than one Historic District in the City of Bethlehem that is the North Side Historic District and the South Side Historic District where she lives and of which she is proud. Ms. Pongracz stressed there needs to be an adjustment in some of the thinking to reflect the fact that people live in the City of Bethlehem and need to work together. She emphasized there are some wonderful examples of adaptive reuse of land such as on the former Bethlehem Steel property where there is now a casino and SteelStacks. Ms. Pongracz observed when there are creative people in the community there are creative solutions.

Tim Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, addressed provisions of Section 1304.04. Expressing his support for what has been said, Mr. Stevens added that he is a member of the Bethlehem Historic District, he acknowledged the fact that there are other historic districts in Bethlehem, and he said the way the section is worded causes a significant problem. Mr. Stevens asked City Council to amend the section. Mr. Stevens stated his support for what has been proposed in that either there is an exemption for the historic districts, and if not he proposes a clear inserted definition of a corner store lot provision and define that with a truncated corner. Mr. Stevens expressed that definition will go a long way in addressing what the initial intent was when presented to the public. Mr. Stevens explained there is urgency to this because there is a property on the corner of New and Market Street that is a concern of turning into a commercial property. Mr. Stevens explained in order to prevent that it is being suggested that there be a motion by Council to at least consider an amendment at this point in that there is a legal question with respect to the pending Ordinance and to properly address the matter. Mr. Stevens asked that a motion be considered so there is not a concern with a situation where a commercial use of a property is granted and slips through the cracks with that particular wording in this particular time frame. Mr. Stevens stressed this needs to be done right away, otherwise there will be problems, and there will be a legal challenge if the zoning goes forward with respect to the New and Market Street property. He continued on to say there will be a further legal challenge with respect to the language of Section 1304.04 because it simply is too broad. Mr. Stevens informed the assembly that he and his wife moved into this area of downtown Bethlehem because it was such a beautiful residential neighborhood. Observing there are certain special exceptions and there could be other uses, Mr. Stevens stressed what this proposed Section does is eviscerates a residential zoning district. He remarked someone could put in a nail salon, tailor, bar, or whatever the commercial enterprise is and in particular in their neighborhood where there have been various commercial uses. Mr. Stevens urged Council to take this seriously and address the concerns of neighbors.

Robert Virgilio, 476 N. New Street, affirmed that he and his wife Suzanne own the property at 476 N. New Street, also known as the Bethlehem Inn. They also own 522-518 Long Street which is the Granola Factory. He denoted that both properties are in the Historic District. Mr. Virgilio handed out a photograph to City Council from 1987 when they bought the property that was a dentist’s office and apartments. Mr. Virgilio said, at the time, a bed and breakfast concept was the best use for the building. He pointed out that when someone purchases a large building in the Historic District, which many are, the person has to be able to afford to buy it. Advising he owns two small businesses with his wife, one of which is a small bakery and a corner store, Mr. Virgilio stressed he does not believe there is one shop owner in Bethlehem who could survive in the Historic District buying a building. Mr. Virgilio said he does not quite grasp the idea that everyone will have a corner grocery store since it is just not economical. Mr. Virgilio thought in some cases this Ordinance is good when it addresses corner properties and believed there still needs to be a special exception granted. Expressing it would not be easy, Mr. Virgilio recalled in 1988 when he opened The Bethlehem Inn it was said there would be a bed and breakfast on every corner. Mr. Virgilio pointed out that he and his wife raised their children at this bed and breakfast because they chose to change it from apartments. Mr. Virgilio emphasized that they raised their children and maintained their home in the Historic District because that was economical and gave them the lifestyle they wanted. Mr. Virgilio thought that the proposed new Zoning Ordinance has merit. Mr. Virgilio stated that some of his neighbors on the other side of Market Street live between four offices, and he has a neighbor who runs his building as an office but is not approved. Mr. Virgilio remarked this is a lot better than having rental properties, and they are well maintained. Mr. Virgilio pointed out that the bed and breakfast idea and offices have not been a detriment to the historic district, and provide an alternative to maintain and operate large old buildings in the historic district. Commending Mr. Brew for going through this legally and doing things the proper way, Mr. Virgilio commented there are people in the historic district who are not officially operating offices but choose to use that as a means to write off tax deductions. Mr. Virgilio thought it is a good Ordinance with some fine tuning. Mr. Virgilio added it is not so easy to be opening a tattoo parlor or a coffee shop, but when something comes around that is good, it should be considered.

President Evans, affirming there will be no vote on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance tonight, stated that the Ordinance will be placed on the July 17 Council Agenda for First Reading.

The Public Hearing was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.


The Minutes of June 19, 2012 were approved.


Amendments to Use Permit Agreements for Musikfest

Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, addressed Resolution 9 B, Authorizing Amendments to Use Permit Agreements for Musikfest. Mr. Nyul wondered whether is it correct that Musikfest wants to save money and use some of their own policing. President Evans stated that is correct, it will be in the overnight hours, and will include watching their equipment and property. Mr. Nyul expressed his disagreement and said he does not see Musikfest putting anything into the City tax fund and the school tax fund. He continued on to express that the streets are maintained by tax money, including the City’s Police and Fire, but Musikfest wants to use their own security on the streets. Mr. Nyul remarked that Mayfair did the same thing in Allentown last year; however, they put chain link fence around Cedar Crest Park and collected money to go in. Mr. Nyul said if Musikfest wants to put a chain link fence all around the property he has no problem with that, but as long as it is in the City of Bethlehem the tax money is taking care of the property in the City and that is where it should stay.


A. Old Business – Members of Council

B. Tabled Items


C. Unfinished Business



C. City Controller – Proposed Amendment – Article 111 – City Controller

The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 18, 2012 from Robert A. Pfenning, City Controller, to which was attached a proposed amendment to Article 111 – City Controller, Section 111.01 – Powers and Duties, and Section 111.02 – To Review and Approve Warrants for Payment.

President Evans stated the Ordinance can be placed on the July 17 Agenda for First Reading, unless the Finance Committee wishes to review the matter.

D. City Clerk – Liquor License Transfer Request – Updated Resolution

The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 27, 2012 to the Members of City Council to which was attached a proposed Resolution that encompasses the procedures and requirements in connection with Liquor License Transfer requests, including legal advertisement. The proposed Resolution consolidates Resolutions 15,083 and 2009-98 adopted previously.

President Evans stated the Resolution will be placed on the July 17 Agenda.

E. Director of Planning and Zoning – Zoning Board Hearing Appeals – Fees

The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 27, 2012 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, to which was attached a proposed Resolution outlining an updated fee schedule for zoning appeals, continuances, additional hearings, curative amendments/validity challenges and zoning certifications. Section 1324.03, Fees, of the pending new Zoning Ordinance does not specifically list filing fees, but refers to a “fee schedule enacted by City Council, which was adopted by Resolution and which may be revised from time to time”. It is requested that the Resolution be reviewed and considered so that it can be acted upon simultaneously with the action on the new Zoning Ordinance. Also attached was a chart for comparison of fees in other nearby communities.

President Evans stated the Resolution will be placed on the August 7 Agenda.

F. City Clerk – Liquor License Transfer Resolution – Steel Pub – Correction

The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 29, 2012 stating that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board advised there is an error on Resolution 2012-100 that approved the Intermunicipal Transfer of Retail Restaurant Liquor License No. R-6660 to Steel Pub at 320 East First Street. Resolution 2012-100 incorrectly states “Steel Pub, Inc.”. The Resolution should be changed to “Steel Pub, LLC”.

President Evans stated that Resolution 9 H is listed on the Agenda.


A. President of Council

President Evans re-announced that the time of City Council’s First Meeting in August on Tuesday, August 7 is rescheduled to 5:30 PM.

B. Mayor


C. Finance Committee

Mr. Reynolds, Chairman of the Finance Committee, gave an oral report of the Finance Committee Meeting held on Monday, June 25, 2012 at 6:15 PM in Town Hall on the following subjects:
Transfer of Funds – Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – Equipment; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget - Lynn Avenue Bridge, Northampton County Gaming Grant – Fire Pumper, FEMA/PEMA Grants – Parks Projects, Tree Work – Dewberry Avenue, Street Paving – Genoa Street, HUD Sustainable Communities Grant – Eastern Gateway Study; Amending CDBG Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs; Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau Grants; Transfer of Funds – Tax Bureau; Use Permit Agreements – Musikfest.


A. Bill No. 18 – 2012 – Amending Article 1325.08 – Residential Treatment Facilities – 1,000 Foot Buffer

The Clerk read Bill No. 18 – 2012 – Amending Article 1325.08 – Residential Treatment Facilities – 1,000 Foot Buffer, on Final Reading.

Mr. Reynolds stated he will be voting no on Bill No. 18 – 2012. He pointed out that the proposed new Zoning Ordinance has a 500 foot buffer provision that is less exclusionary. Mr. Reynolds thought the 1,000 foot buffer is too exclusionary and added that it grew out of support for a group of residents who attempted to stop a treatment facility proposed on Dewberry Avenue that he also supported. However, Mr. Reynolds thought for a 1,000 foot buffer the negatives outweigh the positives, and it could lead to litigation. Mr. Reynolds highlighted the fact that a 500 foot buffer is in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, and commented that Council’s job is to think about the future as well.

President Evans advised he will continue to support the idea of a buffer to send a clear message that residential treatment facilities while needed are needed in locations that are away from important and protected areas that are playgrounds and schools where there are youth who are the most vulnerable. President Evans, expressing that the 1,000 buffer is important, noted while there could be a grey area, 500 or 1,000 feet would not automatically mean winning or losing a lawsuit. President Evans, affirming that the Bill passed on First Reading by a 6 to 0 vote, observed there was strong support for it at that time, although tonight two Members of Council are not at the Meeting. President Evans stated it is important to have the final vote on the Bill tonight in the affirmative, in view of the fact that the proposed new Zoning Ordinance is still in process, and residential treatment facilities could still be requested.

Mrs. Belinski expressed her agreement with President Evans’ comments.

Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 4. Voting NAY: Mr. Reynolds, 1. Bill No. 18 – 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-18, was declared adopted.


A. Bill No. 19 – 2012 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Lynn Avenue Bridge, Northampton County Gaming Grant – Fire Pumper, FEMA/PEMA Grants – Parks Projects, Tree Work – Dewberry Avenue, Street Paving – Genoa Street, HUD Sustainable Communities Grant – Eastern Gateway Study

The Clerk read Bill No. 19 – 2012 - Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Lynn Avenue Bridge, Northampton County Gaming Grant – Fire Pumper, FEMA/PEMA Grants – Parks Projects, Tree Work – Dewberry Avenue, Street Paving – Genoa Street, HUD Sustainable Communities Grant – Eastern Gateway Study, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5.
Bill No. 19 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.

B. Bill No. 20 – 2012 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau Grants

The Clerk read Bill No. 20 – 2012 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau Grants, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5.
Bill No. 20 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.


A. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Touchstone Theatre – Touchstone Theatre Fundraiser

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-106 that authorized a Use Permit Agreement between Touchstone Theatre and the City for use of Parham Park on East Fourth Street for the Touchstone Theatre Fundraiser to be held on July 21, 2012, according to the Agreement.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5.
The Resolution passed.

B. Authorizing Amendments to Use Permit Agreements for Musikfest – Streets and Festival Sites

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-107 that authorized Amendment No. 1 to Use Permit Agreements between ArtsQuest and the City for use of certain Streets and Festival Sites for Musikfest, according to the Agreements.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5.
The Resolution passed.

C. Transfer of Funds – Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – Equipment

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-108 that transferred $600 in the Liquid Fuels Fund Budget from the Hand Tools Account to the Equipment Account to cover the increased cost for the already budgeted 2012 Chevy Silverado pickup truck.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5.
The Resolution passed.

D. Transfer of Funds – Tax Bureau

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-109 that transferred $13,125 in the General Fund Budget from the Professional Services Account to the Temporary Help Account for a three month extension for a contract employee in the Tax Bureau.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5.
The Resolution passed.

E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 335-337 Vine Street

Mr. Recchiuti and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-110 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the existing garage doors and asphalt siding at 335-337 Vine Street.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5. The Resolution passed.

F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 1220 Prospect Avenue

Mr. Recchiuti and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-111 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install an emergency generator at 1220 Prospect Avenue.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5. The Resolution passed.

G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 409 and 441 Wyandotte Street and 301 Broadway

Mr. Recchiuti and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-112 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install temporary murals to the buildings at 409 and 441 Wyandotte Street and 301 Broadway.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5. The Resolution passed.

H. Correcting Resolution 2012-100 – Liquor License Transfer – Steel Pub, LLC

Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 2012-113 that corrected the Intermunicipal Transfer of Retail Restaurant Liquor License approved by City Council by Resolution No. 2012-100 on June 19, 2012 by changing Steel Pub, Inc. to Steel Pub, LLC, 320 East First Street, Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.

Voting AYE: Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Evans, 5. The Resolution passed.


Committee Announcement

Chairman Donchez announced a Public Safety Committee meeting to be held on July 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM on Operational Assessment – Dewberry Avenue EMS Facility, and Updates on Police, Fire, and EMS Departments.


Former Jack Jones Building - West Broad Street and Third Avenue

Evelyn Beckman, 310 W. Broad Street, asked City Council what the differences would be with the former Jack Jones building on West Broad Street and Third Avenue and the current Ordinances. Mayor Callahan replied there have been extensive conversations about the former Jack Jones Buick building and the new project that has been proposed for that corner. Mayor Callahan noted nothing in any of those discussions has come up with any change. Ms. Beckman said she understands that the present zoning will be the same as the new zoning. Mayor Callahan replied that is correct. Ms. Beckman advised that she worked on the Preservation Task Force and they talked about demolition permits, what the City can do to help preserve certain buildings, what not to do, and what requirements there are, but nothing has happened yet as far as she knows. President Evans explained that the demolition ordinance will be reviewed at a Community Development Committee meeting by Chairman David DiGiacinto who is not at the Meeting this evening. President Evans affirmed that is not part of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Beckman asked if there is any timeframe. President Evans, confirming there are a few amendments that will be worked on, noted that City Council would like to review them in the Fall. Ms. Beckman commented that, as it stands now, just the appropriate Historic Districts are protected somewhat.

Five Year Financial Plan; Treatment Centers

Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, held up a copy of the Five Year plan issued by Mayor Callahan in 2008. Mr. Nyul said it is now the 4th year, and the City spent $35 million worth of City host fund money without the taxpayers getting a dime of it. Mr. Nyul said there have been better pensions and better salaries, and coming into the 5th year this year the City will get about $10 million more. Mr. Nyul stated he is looking for a tax deduction of some kind so he will come back week after week with the 5 year plan until the City gets to the budget and has to set aside $10 million dollars of the host fee. Mr. Nyul said he wants to see what is done with this money and if Council will be the people the residents voted for, who are not afraid to stand up and say enough is enough and do something for the citizens of Bethlehem. Mr. Nyul commented on the rehabilitation treatment center that was approved by the Zoning Hearing Board. Affirming that he is an alcoholic, Mr. Nyul said if he did not stop 22 years ago he would not be standing here. While advising he did a lot of soul searching, Mr. Nyul stated that putting this rehabilitation center in the City is a mistake. Mr. Nyul pointed out there are many empty warehouses in the Airport area with plenty of space for something like that.

Parking Petition – Merchants

Brian Tallarico, owner of Tallarico’s Chocolates at 26 E. Third Street, submitted a petition to City Council that he noted was signed by many but not all merchants in Bethlehem. Mr. Tallarico read the petition, as follows: We the merchants of Bethlehem hereby petition the City and the Bethlehem Parking Authority to change the daily parking meter time of enforcement from the current 8:00 am until 9:00 pm hours to be 8:00 am until 6:00 pm. The current enforcement until 9:00 pm is negatively affecting our businesses, our customers, and their experiences in perception of this City. This late enforcement is also hindering economic development. Meanwhile our competition, the Promenade Shops, Lehigh Valley Mall, The Sands and Steel Stacks have free parking. The Bethlehem Parking Authority is aggressive, and certainly late enforcement has and continues to deter and chase the patrons from our downtowns in this still struggling economy.

Illick’s Mill; Mercantile Tax; Human Relations Commission

Tom Carroll, 248 E. Union Boulevard, noted that for a long time the City has been owed an amount of money in excess of $100,000 from the Illick’s Mill project and no one has said a word. He remarked it has not been collected, and no one is saying anything about it although it should show up on an audit. Mr. Carroll wanted to know why the City has allowed that to happen while at the same time it has now aggressively gone after so called merchants who allegedly owe Mercantile Tax. Mr. Carroll noted the City hired a firm from Bridgeport, Pennsylvania to send out letters to people who owe Mercantile Tax saying they did not pay it and they better pay or they will be in trouble. Mr. Carroll said many of the people who got those letters had paid the taxes, and how those names got on that list is questionable. Mr. Carroll, pointing out that a Human Relations Commission Ordinance was adopted last year and it was said how vital it was, remarked today a year later there are no meetings and it is left not completely filled.

Parking Meters – Time; Conditional Use

Al Bernotas, 1004 Johnston Drive, expressed his support for changing the time of the parking meters from 9:00 pm to 6:00 pm. He commented that small business owners always supported Bethlehem, and there are some towns across the United States in commercial districts that do not charge for parking. They have a one hour limit and the people move in and out. Mr. Bernotas, turning to the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, stated a tool that City Council can use is called Conditional Use. Mr. Bernotas pointed out there are certain things that happen in the City that he gets precluded from talking about because he does not live within 300 feet. He added there is no one from Council at Zoning meetings. Mr. Bernotas advised he cannot speak about billboards because there are none within 300 feet from his home. Mr. Bernotas thought that for issues like that which are broader in scope than the 300 feet, City Council should have someone involved and he said conditional use will do that.

Commercial Uses – Residential Neighborhoods; Parking Petition – Merchants

Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, thought that in Council chambers it happens quite a bit that people do not get answers. Focusing on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance and the corner lot provisions, Mr. Grubb said he is sure many of the residents along Easton Avenue at one time were concerned about commercial uses being injected into their neighborhood. Mr. Grubb highlighted the fact that now there is a commercial strip on Easton Avenue that is going to be changed from residential to commercial so that needs to be kept in mind. Mr. Grubb, referring to the petition brought by Brian Tallarico to the Meeting this evening, remarked people read in the newspapers that everyone is on board with everything that has been happening with the changes in parking in Bethlehem. However, Mr. Grubb pointed out that not everyone is on board. Mr. Grubb observed that with the aggressive enforcement, increased hours, and increased fees people are losing business. He queried would it not make more sense to shrink the hours, drop the fees, and encourage people to come and shop so the City can increase the Mercantile and EIT taxes that are collected.

Alarm Fee Ordinance

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, expressed his concern about having to pay a fee to have a burglar alarm in his home and also having to pay a fee for a false alarm. Mr. Antalics pointed out that a burglar alarm assists the Police force. He thought if criminals see a sign for a burglar alarm, they would not go to that residence. In some cases, Mr. Antalics remarked that criminals could be captured simply with the systems that have a silent alarm, again helping the Police. Mr. Antalics pointed out that someone who does not have an alarm calls the Police who would have to come out anyway and there would be no charge. Mr. Antalics remarked this logic defies him. Mr. Antalics asked City Council to look at the Ordinance from the perspective that burglar alarms are a Police assist rather than a nuisance to the community.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:55 p.m.