Bethlehem Council MInutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 – 7:00 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
Pastor Craig Weidman, of Hope Alliance Church, offered the
invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag.
1. ROLL CALL
Acting President of Council J. William Reynolds called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, and J. William Reynolds, 6. President Eric R. Evans was absent, 1.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of June 19, 2012 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Proposed New Zoning Ordinance – Bill No. 21 – 2012
Beall Fowler, 443 Center Street, stated that his concern is with the corner lot provision, Section 1304.04 of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Fowler affirmed he spoke at the last City Council Meeting about the matter, and he also spoke with Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning about the Section. Mr. Fowler hoped that the Members of Council have gotten the message that this is a serious problem and it is something that needs to be fixed. Mr. Fowler pointed out that he has made some suggestions as to how Section 1304.04 can be fixed. One suggestion is that with a few words put in about the corner lots it could define the type of lot as one that contains a corner store front with appropriate words. Noting there is also some wording that would eliminate alcohol sales in these converted buildings, Mr. Fowler stressed that the residents do not need new bars within the neighborhoods. Mr. Fowler, commenting he has a few other ideas including owner occupancy, hoped this can be considered as well. Mr. Fowler commented he realizes that Council has heard this before but he trusts they got the message and they will fix it. If that is the case, Mr. Fowler observed that the next question is when. Mr. Fowler, communicating he realizes that City Council has much interest in passing the proposed new Zoning Ordinance as is and then trying to fix it later, said he is concerned about this process. Mr. Fowler highlighted the fact that there will then be a period of time during which this flawed clause is in effect. He pointed out there is already one instance where a conversion has already been rejected as spot zoning but will come before the Zoning Hearing Board soon as a special exception using the clause in Section 1304.04. Commenting there could very well be others but it is unknown now, Mr. Fowler remarked there are people who like to leap through loopholes and who see a nice residence in a nice neighborhood that once had some commercial activity. He noted they may want to buy a residence and turn it into offices or maybe a bar. Mr. Fowler pointed out that residents do not want an Ordinance that is encouraging commercial incursions into residential neighborhoods. Mr. Fowler stressed the need to enhance the residential quality of neighborhoods. Mr. Fowler said he is afraid if this Ordinance is passed now and modified later it is kind of like playing Russian roulette with the residences. Stressing that the people of Bethlehem do not want this to happen, Mr. Fowler stated he is concerned about what could happen in the interim period. Mr. Fowler urged Council to seriously consider tabling the proposed new Zoning Ordinance or find other ways to somehow sidestep this Section of it until such time as it is fixed.
Acting President Reynolds affirmed that the Members of Council have received a letter from Tim Stevens dated July 16, 2012, and President Evans has sent a memo to Ms. Heller noting that the adoption of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance on the matter of corner lots and commercial uses is among the items remaining to be discussed.
Christine Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, pointed out that her property is located between New and Center Streets and added that she is on the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Historic District Association (BHDA). Ms. Stevens stated that she is at the Meeting to voice her concern and objection to the wording of Section 1304.04 which is the reuse of corner commercial uses, specifically subsection (a) (1). Pointing out that the Section simply states that the lot should be on the corner of two streets, Ms. Stevens expressed the need to mention again that these words are not consistent with the power point images that were distributed by the City at the previous proposed new Zoning Ordinance hearings and meetings. She highlighted the fact that the distributed images show a building with a truncated corner which is not consistent with the simple wording of the building being on the corner of two streets. Ms. Stevens explained that there is an intense urgency for the clarification of a corner property, specifically because there is an individual interested in purchasing 476 N. New Street located on the corner of New and Market Streets. It is currently the Bethlehem Inn and an owner/occupied residence with a granted variance to do so. The person interested in purchasing 476 N. New Street intends on using the entire building for his financial consulting firm for community banking. Ms. Stevens continued on to affirm that the application for special exception filed in the City Zoning Office indicates and sites solely Section 1304.04. Ms. Stevens denoted that the person does not offer a product which residents can use, as his clients are commercial community banks. Ms. Stevens stressed that, under the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, specifically Section 1304.04, he is able to convert this once owner/occupied residence into a 100% commercial non-owner/occupied building because the structure exists on a lot on a corner of two streets. She further advised that 476 N. New Street was previously at one time used as commercial in nature. Remarking it may be rationalized that these new City Zoning Ordinances are 90% correct, Ms. Stevens asserted this man has seized on the 10% that is incorrect even before its official vote and passage. She restated someone is capitalizing on the 10% error of the new Zoning Ordinance and it has not even been passed for a vote. Now that all know there is this error, Ms. Stevens stressed that this error does not only affect the Historic District. She pointed out that the Historic District just happens to be the first victim, and stated this error affects all of Bethlehem. Continuing on to emphasize that it governs all 19.1 square miles of the City, Ms. Stevens said this error will impact the areas recognized under the National Register of Historic Places such as the South Side, North Side and West Side. Reiterating that Section 1304.04 needs to be corrected, Ms. Stevens suggested two lawfully creative options. She said the first is to simply table the Section. It is a stand-alone section because other sections do not refer to it and it does not refer to other sections. This section could then be corrected and the error rectified. Observing it has been over 30 years since the City’s Zoning Ordinances have been updated, Ms. Stevens queried what impact would another few weeks have. The second option is to simply delete the entire Section by removing Section 1304.04 and this would not send the entire Ordinance back to the initial planning stages. The document would move along as planned but without Section 1304.04. Then, when time allots, reinsert the Section once it is corrected. Ms. Stevens pointed out that by not further clarifying the wording of Section 1304.04 a dangerous precedent is going to be set in regards to residential historic districts. Ms. Stevens advised that 476 N. New Street would be the first non-owner/occupied 100% commercial business serving a commercial industry in a residential neighborhood. Ms. Stevens highlighted the fact that Allentown was awarded an All-American City Award given by the National Civic League twice, once in 1962 and again in 1974. Due to poor leadership, poor government planning and absentee landlords they are now the third most violent crime city in Pennsylvania ranked under Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Ms. Stevens notified the Members as a side note that the interested party for 476 N. New Street has asked for a continuance until the August 22 Zoning Board Hearing which is after the approval of the new Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Stevens asked City Council to please consider the requests for the correction of Section 1304.04.
Tim Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, commented on the public process of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. He said the process should be to identify whether or not there are problems in the new ordinance. Mr. Stevens noted that City Council was given the letter he wrote, the assembly has heard from Mr. Fowler, and there is a very real and significant problem. Mr. Stevens stressed it is not just the residential zoning district in the Historic District but all of the residential districts in the City of Bethlehem that will be affected by this Section 1304.04. Mr. Stevens observed what Council is about to vote on tonight allows for alcohol to be served in residential districts. Highlighting the fact that there is a provision in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance that allows the Zoning Hearing Board to place a condition on the special exception that limits alcohol sales, Mr. Stevens emphasized that what Council is about to vote on contemplates the sale of alcohol in a residential district. Mr. Stevens noted that he does not want his young children to be exposed to a bar at any of the corners in the residential district. Mr. Stevens asserted that what Council is about to vote on is seriously flawed. He noted that, as he stated in his letter, if this continues and there is a passage of this act there will be a legal challenge to this particular provision. Expressing his appreciation of the efforts City Council has made to consider the new zoning laws and to make changes, Mr. Stevens questioned what is the rush and why does it need to be pushed through. Mr. Stevens stated that the nature of those legal challenges is the fact that the purpose of zoning is to designate particular districts within the City for special purposes, and with proper zoning ordinances certain uses can be excluded in a zoning district. Mr. Stevens continued on to state that the Section improperly does that in that in this particular provision there can be any commercial use other than adult oriented entertainment or fried foods. Other than that any other commercial use can be placed at any corner property in a residential district. Noting that the Section addresses about a lot with two streets, Mr. Stevens asked what about the structure and how it was represented earlier, which was a Mom and Pop store with a main entrance at the corner of two blocks. Mr. Stevens stated that the nature of the particular challenge will be that it is not fulfilling the essential purpose of a residential district. Mr. Stevens said, if one looks at the definition of the purposes of RT and RG zoning districts, it talks about residential purposes, and no commercial use is mentioned. Mr. Stevens thought if there has to be a challenge he has no problem convincing a Court of Common Pleas that this is a complete derogation of the stated zoning purposes of a residential zoning district. There would be a challenge on the basis that it is simply unreasonable and does not fulfill the essential purpose of a residential district. Mr. Stevens advised the second challenge would be that it is vague, indefinite, and therefore unconstitutional and will be overturned because of that.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, complimented the three previous speakers on their analysis and noted he seconds everything they said. Mr. Scheirer affirmed he was on the task force that reviewed the proposed new Zoning Ordinance and remembered when this language came up. He remembered thinking about the corner lot and corner stores and maybe a doctor’s office but went on to something else. Mr. Scheirer apologized because they should have done something but he is glad it is being brought up now. Noting an argument has been made that this needs to be passed immediately and be amended, otherwise it needs to go to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission again. Mr. Scheirer remarked that is not the end of the worst thing that can happen and the Planning Commission might have something interesting to say but he thinks that if this is deleted he doubts it would have to go to the Planning Commission. Mr. Scheirer thought that deleting the Section might be the best because as Mr. Stevens pointed out the more you analyze this particular language the more ludicrous it becomes. Mr. Scheirer said it does violate the basic concept of zoning and certainly would not stand a legal challenge. Mr. Scheirer commented why not just delete the Section and pass the Ordinance, and added there are a number of things that need to be addressed later.
Robert Romeril, 26 W. Market Street, pointed out that Section 1304.04 has to go some way or another. Mr. Romeril mentioned that Zoning Boards are not allowed to act on any section of the zoning code of which they are aware might be amended, and that is the law in the State of Pennsylvania. Mr. Romeril thought it is very important that City Council somehow block the use of Section 1304.04 before it can be used to the detriment of the Historic District. Mr. Romeril stated the residents are here to protect the Historic District not just for themselves but the entire City.
Meg Keil, Real Estate Manager for Lamar Outdoor Advertising,
7350 William Avenue, Allentown, asked City Council to please
consider not passing Section 1320.07 (s) dealing with the
spacing between electronic billboards. Acknowledging the comments
tonight by the person who was not looking forward to seeing
digital signs on Route 378, Ms. Keil said she can appreciate
that but she is asking not just on behalf of Lamar but the
industry. Ms. Keil pointed out that Lamar is the only outdoor
company in the entire region affiliated with the Outdoor Advertising
Association of America. They change thousands of digital billboards
across the country to get important alerts out, including
pictures of fugitives. Ms. Keil advised the City of Allentown
allows digital billboards and embraces this. Ms. Keil related
that the digital billboards are used to help law enforcement.
Asserting it is crucial to not pass the 1,000 foot provision,
Ms. Kiel stressed not only is it exclusionary but it shows
favoritism for the City of Bethlehem. Ms. Kiel pointed out
that neither of the two companies currently doing business
in the City can provide the FBI most wanted information on
their billboards. Ms. Keil added that Lamar also turned their
billboards over to catch a man that was unable to be caught
for four years, and when he saw his face on the billboard
he knew his days were numbered. Ms. Keil, advising the company
wants to bring this to the City of Bethlehem, said the company
does not want to put billboards in the middle of the City
beside someone’s home, and does not want to battle to
get variances. Ms. Keil asked that City Council please not
pass the 1,000 foot provision. Ms. Keil said the company would
like to see the eight second hang time remain, especially
on the highways. Eight seconds is the standard for Allentown
on the highways, and ten seconds within the City limits. Ms.
Keil reiterated her request that City Council not pass the
1,000 foot provision, and keep the distance at 500 feet as
the State and Federal Highway Commission deem to be appropriate.
She also again asked Council to please consider the eight
second hang time, as well as the 100 square foot sign on 378.
Ms. Keil informed the Members that no company including Adams
Outdoor Advertising would post a sign that size because it
would create a distraction and undo all of the valuable research
that has been done to prove that digital billboards are a
necessity. She noted it would show that Bethlehem is ahead
of the curve, and it brings technology to information that
no other form of advertising is able to bring instantaneously.
Robert Virgilio, 476 N. New Street, owner of the Bethlehem Inn, addressed Section 1304.04 of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Virgilio, affirming that he supports this ordinance, said he thinks it offers flexibility to the City and to the present urban environment. Mr. Virgilio related that he has two corner properties, both small businesses. Mr. Virgilio informed the Members he has been a resident of the Historic District for 25 years, and has lived in other cities, including Philadelphia and Allentown. His observation over time has been that the biggest detriment to an urban area in tough economic times is the over saturation of apartments. Offices have offered the flexibility to afford and to maintain properties, especially in the Historic District. Mr. Virgilio handed out to the Members of Council a memo showing there are 35 properties on Market Street between Heckewelder Place and Center Street, 19 of them are commercial properties, 3 are apartments with residents, and 13 are strictly residences. Mr. Virgilio highlighted the fact that it has been this way for over 20 years. Pointing out that it has provided balance and has been good for the City, Mr. Virgilio asked that Council support this Section of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance to keep the flexibility in the Historic District, as well as throughout the City.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. Police Chief –Special Condition – Parking Fines – Musikfest 2012
The Clerk read a memorandum dated June 29, 2012 from Jason D. Schiffer, Chief of Police, requesting that a Resolution be passed covering Special Event Parking during Musikfest 2012 for the time period 12:00 PM on Friday, August 3, 2012 through 11:59 PM on Sunday, August 12, 2012. The Special Events Parking Districts are to remain the same as last year, including the extension into the South Side, according to the map attached.
Acting President Reynolds stated that Resolution 9 B is listed on the Agenda.
A. President of Council
Acting President Reynolds re-announced that the time of City Council’s First Meeting in August on Tuesday, August 7 is rescheduled to 5:30 PM.
Proposed Amendments – Article 111 – City Controller
Robert Pfenning, Controller, reviewed the proposed amendments to Article 111 – City Controller, that was Bill No. 22 – 2012 listed on the Agenda. Mr. Pfenning affirmed that the amendments were prepared by the City Solicitor’s Office. Mr. Pfenning, referring to Section 420 of the Optional Third Class City Charter Law, explained that the language in Section 420 is reflected in the proposed Amendment to Section 111.01 (a). Mr. Pfenning commented that the Amendment brings the City in compliance with the Optional Third Class City Charter Law. Mr. Pfenning observed that City spending is done through the encumbrance system. The most significant change in the proposed Amendment to Section 111.01 (b) is the elimination of the maintenance of the accounting system by the Controller and its placement under the Business Administrator where it actually takes place. The proposed Amendment Section 111.01 (c) addresses reports to be provided by the Controller. Mr. Pfenning pointed out that the proposed Amendment to Section 111.02 uses the word “checks” instead of the former word “warrants”. He added that the new legislation in Harrisburg will have the same language change. Mr. Pfenning informed the Members that he suggested, and the Solicitor’s Office agreed, to delete the phrase: “Council may by resolution authorize the execution of such contract.” Mr. Pfenning stated the issue was raised a few months ago in conjunction with a multi-year lease in the fact that the word “may” is contained in the sentence. Mr. Pfenning, confirming he did discuss the matter with Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, noted Attorney Spadoni said it is the Controller’s option. Mr. Pfenning continued on to state he thought it was more appropriate to reside in Article 121 that deals with financial controls over the City’s operations. Further advising he met with President Evans and talked about possible changes in Article 121, Mr. Pfenning expressed the hope that Article 121 would be reviewed soon. Mr. Pfenning commented the reason for the proposal is to update the Sections.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
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, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 19 – 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-19, was declared adopted.
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, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 20 – 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-20, was declared adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 21 – 2012 – Re-enacting and Replacing Zoning Ordinance – Articles 1301 through 1327
The Clerk read Bill No. 21 – 2012 – Re-enacting and Replacing Zoning Ordinance – Articles 1301 through 1327, sponsored by Mr. Recchiuti and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE ADOPTING A NEW ZONING ORDINANCE
OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA, BY
RE-ENACTING AND REPLACING IN ITS ENTIRETY
PART 13 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES OF THE CITY
OF BETHLEHEM, PENNSYLVANIA, ENACTED BY CITY
COUNCIL ON SEPTEMBER 15, 1970 AS ORDINANCE NO. 2210,
AS AMENDED, KNOWN AS THE ZONING CODE
Mr. DiGiacinto noted he was unable to attend the July 2,
2012 City Council Meeting at which the Public Hearing was
held. Mr. DiGiacinto, observing that a previous appeal at
the Zoning Hearing Board meeting of May 23, 2012 for 476 N.
New Street was turned down, affirmed he is aware of the concerns
about Section 1304.04 of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance
and has had several discussions about it with various residents,
Members of Council, and the Administration. Mr. DiGiacinto,
stating he thinks it is worded incorrectly and is not written
properly for what it was meant to be, affirmed he has sent
memos requesting a Community Development Committee meeting
in September on the topic and other issues including ordinances
related to demolition, recreational vehicles, and floodplains.
He added that some of the amendments were initiated by City
Council. Mr. DiGiacinto communicated there has been some confusion
during the process relating to the Zoning Hearing Board, and
what ordinances are applicable. Mr. DiGiacinto stated that,
aside from the legal challenge comments made tonight, there
were some questions asked and perhaps some of the suggestions
made could be looked at with regard to Section 1304.04. Mr.
DiGiacinto noted he would be in a position to postpone the
vote on the Bill this evening if further discussion is necessary,
or to go forward and see how the vote comes out. However,
Mr. DiGiacinto felt that Section 1304.04 has to be amended.
Mr. DiGiacinto stated that the process has been fair, and
there has been a lot of public discussion over the past year.
Mr. DiGiacinto commended all those involved in preparing the
proposed new Zoning Ordinance. However, Mr. DiGiacinto observed
that apparently Section 1304.04 slipped through the cracks
and it took a negative vote on the Zoning Hearing Board to
raise awareness on it. Mr. DiGiacinto, affirming he has made
his thoughts known to the Administration, expressed his belief
that Section 1304.04 has to be changed. He added that President
Evans has requested that the matter be expedited. Mr. DiGiacinto
stated if Council is unsure and felt there was enough that
had to be changed in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance he
would not be opposed to postponing the vote.
Ms. Dolan, referring to a memo from Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, about the process that needs to take place if amendments were to be made to the proposed Zoning Ordinance, thought that Council’s options are limited. Ms. Dolan asked Attorney Kevin Kelleher, who was in attendance in place of Attorney Spadoni, if deleting Section 1304.04 now and then revising it later to match what was intended; i.e., to address corner stores, would not require the process to start over in view of the fact that a section is being deleted versus being amended that would require the process to start over again. Attorney Kelleher, advising that he reviewed Attorney Spadoni’s memorandum of June 20, 2012 and the letter from Attorney Stevens of July 16, 2012, stated his understanding is that to proceed now to adopt the proposed new Zoning Ordinance would be permissible under Council’s Rules and the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, and the amendment process could take place later. In terms of deleting portions tonight, Attorney Kelleher stated his understanding is that those portions that would be deleted and sought to be resubmitted would need to start from the beginning and submitted to the Planning Commission and to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. In further response to Ms. Dolan, Attorney Kelleher explained that if it were deleted from what is passed at this time there would be no provision at all in the pending new Zoning Ordinance for those districts or for that use. Ms. Dolan asked if the Department could advise on the ideas being put forth.
Acting President Reynolds stated if the Members of Council decide to take out or delete something that was not what went before the Planning Commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission it would take them out of the process.
Mr. DiGiacinto, expressing his agreement with Vice President Reynolds, noted he had asked Attorney Spadoni whether, if City Council changed even a word, would it require that the matter go back again to the Planning Commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and Attorney Spadoni said absolutely it would. Mr. DiGiacinto continued on to communicate that the deletion of a Section and/or the amendment process post-approval both require the matter going back to the Planning Commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, and then to City Council.
John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, advised that each amendment would have to go back to the Planning Commission and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Attorney Spirk continued on to say that if City Council deleted a word tonight then that is an amendment because it is a change from what it was, or if a word was added or changed that is also an amendment.
Ms. Dolan asked if there is a deletion and it is a change would the City be back to the current Zoning Ordinance until the entire process is done. Attorney Spirk stated that is true. Ms. Dolan observed that is different than what was expressed by Mr. Stevens, who is an attorney and resides in the neighborhood in question, who indicated that it is separate and could be pulled out. Ms. Dolan observed that even one change means waiting on the whole new proposed Zoning Ordinance again, and a deletion is no different than amending. Attorney Spirk affirmed that each amendment is a change.
Mr. Recchiuti pointed out that the entire proposed new Zoning Ordinance is an amendment so if one change is made it all has to go back.
Ms. Dolan inquired if City Council votes on the Bill and it is approved whether City Council still plans on going back and making changes on several matters and what was passed would stay intact until those changes have gone through the process.
Acting President Reynolds affirmed President Evans sent a memo to Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, that included four different zoning issues to be reviewed: corner store/lots, recreational vehicles parked in residential areas, demolition ordinance/historic building structures, and floodplain ordinance. Vice President Reynolds continued on to state that, while President Evans had not necessarily said there was uniform support on all of those issues, they were all issues that had come up at one of the meetings on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Vice President Reynolds noted President Evans had been planning on having Ms. Heller review the matters, to schedule a Committee meeting in September, or find a time to address and discuss the issues. Vice President Reynolds said maybe City Council and the Administration would agree on sending them to the Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission or maybe they would not.
Mr. DiGiacinto confirmed that, prior to President Evans’ memo to Ms. Heller, Mr. DiGiacinto had asked for a Community Development Committee meeting in September to talk about at least three of those issues, as well as other topics. He added that Joseph Kelly, Director of Community and Economic Development, responded affirmatively last week. However, Mr. DiGiacinto observed, as Vice President Reynolds said, that perhaps there will not be agreement with the amendments.
Mr. Recchiuti pointed out that there is a fear if City Council passes the Bill tonight on First Reading something will sneak in the back door. Mr. Recchiuti highlighted the fact that over the last year City Council has voted to authorize City Council’s Solicitor to intervene in zoning matters. Mr. Recchiuti thought this is a case where residents have to trust City Council to do the right thing, as they did over the last year, and to protect residents if there is something grossly inappropriate about a plan.
Ms. Dolan asked if the Zoning Hearing Board is presently operating under the Pending Ordinance doctrine and referencing what will be the case when the proposed new Zoning Ordinance is adopted. Ms. Dolan further asked if the same would be true with possible amendments to Section 1304.04.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, advised it is not a pending ordinance until it is advertised in the newspaper. Ms. Heller, affirming there are advertising requirements, noted there needs to be a certain amount of time before a hearing or before Council could act on it. Ms. Heller stated that changes could not be advertised until the changes are ready to be made, and the process of going to the Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has to occur before the advertisement is placed.
Acting President Reynolds restated there will be discussion among Members of Council about what to include and did not think it will be a simple fix.
Mr. DiGiacinto observed one of the goals noted during the process of reviewing the proposed new Zoning Ordinance was to protect residential areas. Mr. DiGiacinto thought the way that Section 1304.04 is written currently does not measure up to that goal. Mr. DiGiacinto stated there has to be some change to the Section. Mr. DiGiacinto, referring to earlier comments that it may be rationalized that these new City Zoning Ordinances are 90% correct, noted he used the number of 99% this morning in the conversation, and added that a good job has been done on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. He continued on to say that City Council listened to the people when they brought concerns forward. Noting the Bill would be voted on Final Reading at the August 7 City Council Meeting, Mr. DiGiacinto communicated the reason that the vote on the Bill would be postponed tonight would be to make a change. He said if it is going to be changed then that could be decided tonight. Mr. DiGiacinto acknowledged that everything will not be perfect, and there is an interpretation by the Zoning Hearing Board on zoning matters. Mr. DiGiacinto strongly suggested that Section 1304.04 has to be changed, and the changes need to be brought forward immediately.
Mr. Donchez asked if Ms. Heller is in agreement with the comments made by residents that Section 1304.04 has to be revised or if she is satisfied with the current language.
Ms. Heller said she would agree that what the Bureau initially wanted to do was to address very specific provisions for commercial storefronts in residential areas. Ms. Heller pointed out that many are difficult to reuse, it is difficult to find tenants for them, and some turn into residential units. Ms. Heller continued on to say the Bureau was trying to find some flexibility so that commercial uses could be able to occupy those commercial spaces in a viable way in today’s economy. Some provisions were made for flexibility in parking, and so on. Ms. Heller noted it is not that different than what other communities are doing to try to create some ways to occupy vacant spaces so they do not become blighted in residential areas that is the bottom line intent. Ms. Heller stated the word storefront is not in proposed Section 1304.04 and it ends up to be more flexible than what was originally intended. Ms. Heller thought that with some minor revisions the Section can be changed to something with which the residents and the Planning Bureau would be comfortable. Ms. Heller pointed out that the way the Section is worded now does not allow a bar on every corner, for example. It is very specific and there are provisions. Ms. Heller added that the Zoning Hearing Board can put conditions on any variance or special exception, and said that is why some very specific examples are called out in the provisions. Ms. Heller, agreeing there should be some minor revision of the Section, stated it is not felt it will be a problem if it takes a few months to finalize the change.
Acting President Reynolds noted he has had many conversations with Ms. Heller and Members of Council about the issue, and that City Council has heard from the residents. Vice President Reynolds said people’s ideas about language changes in the Section are not uniform, and there will be discussions on the matter.
Mrs. Belinski, highlighting the fact that there has been much discussion about the matter, expressed she does not think City Council should go ahead with the Bill tonight. Mrs. Belinski thought that Council should delay it until there is more certainty as to what to do.
Motion – Postpone Vote on Bill No. 21 – 2012 - Fails
Mrs. Belinski moved to postpone voting on Bill No. 21 – 2012 until the next City Council Meeting on August 7, 2012. Mr. DiGiacinto seconded the motion.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto, 2. Voting NAY: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 4. The motion failed.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 21 – 2012: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 5. Voting NAY: Mr. DiGiacinto, 1. Bill No. 21 – 2012 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 22 – 2012 – Amending Article 111 – City Controller – Sections 111.01 and 111.02
The Clerk read Bill No. 22 – 2012 – Amending Article 111 – City Controller – Sections 111.01 and 111.02, sponsored by Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 111 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
ENTITLED CITY CONTROLLER.
Ms. Dolan observed that the Bill updates the language in the current Codified Ordinance Article 111, and makes the language more clear. Mr. DiGiacinto expressed agreement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 22 – 2012, was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Approving Liquor License Transfer Request Requirements – Updated Resolution
Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution No. 2012-114
that updated Resolution Nos. 15,083 and 2009-98 regarding
requirements for a liquor license transfer that the applicant
upon submission of the proposed liquor license transfer to
City Council shall submit the amount of $200 to the City of
Bethlehem for the legal advertisement.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Declaring Special Condition – Parking Fines – Musikfest 2012
Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution No. 2012-115 that declared a Special Condition under Article 531 of the Codified Ordinances for increased parking fines during Musikfest 2012 for the period from 12:00 Noon, Friday, August 3, 2012 through 12:00 Midnight at the end of Sunday, August 13, 2012, with the areas to be affected on the North Side and South Side shown on attached Exhibit A.
Ms. Dolan commented that next year consideration should be given to increasing the fines for handicapped parking violations. Ms. Dolan stressed that, when there is a lot of pressure on parking, unauthorized people are more likely to use handicapped parking spaces. Emphasizing that the stated fines for handicapped parking violations are not enough, Ms. Dolan said she would like to see the $70 fine doubled to $140. She further advised she would like to see all of the fines for handicapped parking violations doubled.
Amending Resolution 9 B
Ms. Dolan moved and Mr. DiGiacinto seconded the motion that the fines for handicapped parking violations contained in the Resolution, that read as follows:
For handicapped parking violations, the owner of a vehicle shall pay a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00) within fourteen (14) days of the violation; thereafter, until a citation is issued, seventy dollars ($70.00); and, after the issuance of a citation, not less than eighty dollars ($80.00) nor more than two hundred dollars ($200.00).
be amended to read as follows:
For handicapped parking violations, the owner of a vehicle shall pay a fine of one hundred dollars ($100.00) within fourteen (14) days of the violation; thereafter, until a citation is issued, one hundred forty dollars ($140.00); and, after the issuance of a citation, not less than one hundred sixty dollars ($160.00) nor more than four hundred dollars ($400.00).
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The motion passed.
Voting AYE on Resolution 9 B, as Amended: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 9 C through 9 I as a Group – Certificates of Appropriateness
Mr. Donchez and Mr. DiGiacinto moved to consider Resolutions 9 C through 9 I as a Group.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 228 East Market Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-116 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a steel fence and gates at 228 East Market Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 428 High Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-117 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to re-roof the house at 428 High Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 453 Main Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-118 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace an existing sign at 453 Main Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 49 West Church Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-119 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the side and rear roofs and repair the front roof at 49 West Church Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 81 West Broad Street
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-120 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the awing at 81 West Broad Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 527 First Avenue
(Repair Existing Façade Windows & Trim,
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-121 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to façade windows, trim repairs and repainting at 527 First Avenue.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 527 First Avenue (Stucco and Siding)
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 2012-122 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to stucco the exterior of the masonry portions of the building and side the frame wing at 527 First Avenue.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 C to 9 I: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolutions passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
Chairman Donchez re-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.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
Ordinances - Killing of Domestic Animals and Wildlife
Artie Curatola, 813 Laufer Street, remarked that the ordinances pertaining to killing of domestic animals and wildlife are the same as they were 25 years ago and maybe not that much different than 125 years ago. Mr. Curatola communicated that the ordinance should be stronger than it is for the killing of domestic animals and wildlife. He explained that a person who leaves an animal astray should pay a fine, but if that animal is killed there should be a larger fine and/or imprisonment. Mr. Curatola informed the Members that 7 weeks ago a neighbor threatened to kill his 3 year old cat if he saw it on his property. Last week he put his cat out and he has not seen him in a week, and he has put out posters with a reward mentioned on them. His cat is black with white paws and answers to the name of Midnight. Mr. Curatola mentioned that this neighbor has suspiciously moved his garbage can from the gate and put it along side his home. Mr. Curatola asked the Police to find out who is the neighbor’s garbage carrier but they said they could not do this but when they asked him he said it was Bob’s Hauling. Mr. Curatola stated the Police did not pursue this matter. Mr. Curatola thought his cat was in that garbage can. Mr. Curatola said all he is asking is that the Ordinances be made stronger for domestic animals and wildlife and people should be made to pay fines if they kill any type of animal.
Parking – Main Street
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, noted that recently he has read in the newspaper that the City of Bethlehem has a problem with parking, especially on Main Street. Mr. Nyul commented that his solution is to stop the parking on Main Street, since there are enough parking spaces in the garages. Mr. Nyul highlighted the fact that two parking garages were built near Main Street, and meters were placed on Main Street. He pointed out that now people can pay for parking at meters with their cell phone. Mr. Nyul emphasized that he loves Main Street but does not like the cars parking on it, and asserted that all the cars should be taken off Main Street. He added there is only one handicapped parking space on Main Street and there should be more.
Proposed New Zoning Ordinance – Section 1304.04 – Corner Lots
Robert Romeril, 26 E. Market Street, noted it looks like Section 1304.04 of the Proposed New Zoning Ordinance is going to be revised. Mr. Romeril asked that City Council makes sure the revision includes four words that will take care of the concerns. Mr. Romeril stated the four words are “and be owner occupied”. Mr. Romeril communicated that if it is owner occupied the neighbors will work with the owners and they will be there 24 hours a day. He commented that also fits the Mom and Pop store concept because they will live there. Mr. Romeril expressed the owners are part of the property, they will worry about the leaves, the trash, the recycling, noise, traffic, and parking.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, thought that since the proposed new Zoning Ordinance was reviewed at two Planning Commission meetings it was like giving advance notice of the change. Mr. Scheirer, observing that Section 1304.04 is a new section in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, expressed his opinion that under Roberts Rules if an amendment were made tonight to make that section stronger that would not be allowed because there would be a strength increase from what was advertised. He thought that if an amendment were made to make it weaker that would be allowed under Roberts Rules because it would be less than what was advertised. He also expressed his opinion that if you delete this section that would make it weaker still so under Robert’s Rules that would be fine. Mr. Scheirer added that unless there is a statute that says that any weakening of a proposed change has to be referred again to the planning commissions it could have been done and he thought that Council can do this if they want to delete this section.
Christine Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, challenged the accuracy
of what Mr. Virgilio has stated about the 35 properties on
Market Street. Ms. Stevens advised that she did the historic
research on Market Street and she has not found such numbers.
Referring to Mr. Recchiuti’s comments that just because
the new Zoning Ordinance with this Section is passed there
will not be a flood of applications, Ms. Stevens affirmed
there is an application pending based on Section 1304.04 that
has been postponed until the August 22 Zoning Hearing Board
meeting. Ms. Stevens questioned, if this is now approved and
then there is an amendment, where does this leave the applicant
and where does it leave the neighbors. Ms. Stevens stressed
there is the loophole that the
residents have been talking about that now will be open. Ms. Stevens noted Ms. Heller had explained that in Section 1304.04 it states that the Zoning Hearing Board has the authority to place reasonable conditions upon the use including but not limited to Subsection 2, limits on alcohol sales. Continuing on to point out that Ms. Heller had expressed this was very neighborhood friendly and a bar could not pop up on the corner, Ms. Stevens queried then why are alcohol sales listed. Ms. Stevens, wondering if Council and the Administration know what they are doing, stated she hopes that they do better homework and think about what the citizens have to say.
Tim Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, handed out copies of his letter dated July 16, 2012 to Members of Council and the proposed amendments to Section 1304.04 that were attached as part of the record. Mr. Stevens, stating he would like to reinforce what Ms. Stevens has said about the alcohol provision, thought a serious look should be taken with the language as written. Regarding Mr. Recchiuti’s comments about City Council’s Solicitor intervening if there is any activity with the Zoning Hearing Board on any applications, Mr. Stevens commented he does not know the legal ramifications. Stressing there are flaws in Section 1304.04, Mr. Stevens pointed out there is concern that there may be activity under the Section in the interim period while Council goes back to the drawing board to address amendments and try to get this better worded. Mr. Stevens referred to another point Ms. Heller made about the need to advertise and the pending amendment issue. He pointed out that the application for 476 N. New Street is pending and is scheduled for the Zoning Hearing Board meeting on August 22 so the timeframe from now to get an amendment and get it advertised it would apply to that situation. As far as the deletion of the provision, Mr. Stevens thought that under the law it needs to be looked into. Mr. Stevens stressed the real concern is the fact that the language is so vague and indefinite, including what is a corner store front and how does the Section apply. Mr. Stevens, inquiring what will happen when this Section goes in front of the Zoning Hearing Board, asserted there will be a lack of uniform decisions, and there will be arbitrary decisions.
Flatiron Building – Solar Collector
Craig Weidman, 460 Carlton Avenue, addressed the issue of the Flatiron building in South Bethlehem, and asked if there is any possibility to seek some remedial action relative to the solar collector that was placed on top of the building. While expressing he is happy to see alternative energy, Mr. Weidman pointed out there is such a thing as aesthetic pollution as well. He communicated that he lives in the neighborhood and has to look at the solar collector that has denigrated the visual beauty of the Flatiron building. Noting that when the Certificate of Appropriateness was sought there were particular representations made relative to how the solar collector would be seen, Mr. Weidman stressed that clearly what is being experienced is not in keeping with the representation. Mr. Weidman remarked, if a Certificate of Appropriateness is granted and the representation made to secure the Certificate is not followed through, then what is the point of going through the process in the first place. Mr. Weidman stated he lives a block and a half away from the Flatiron building and has to look at the solar collector every time he walks out his front door. Mr. Weidman affirmed that other residents in the neighborhood have spoken to Council about this because it is an unsightly thing to see, and they would appreciate if something could be done, but if not he thanks Council for trying.
First Friday – South Side; Council Member Discussions
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, confirmed that he supports the previous speaker’s comments. Mr. Antalics related that he noticed during the First Friday event on the South Side this month he saw less people on that sunny day than he saw at the First Friday last month during a rainy day. When he inquired about this, it was advised there was an event sponsored by the Downtown Business Association at the North Street Parking Garage on the same date as the First Friday. Mr. Antalics informed the assembly that business owners were upset by this because it impacted the activity on the street and hurt their businesses. Mr. Antalics expressed that, to him, it is a clear insult to the South Side businesses to have an event on the North Side the same day as First Friday when there were other options. Mr. Antalics noted he sees many violations against Robert’s Rules. Mr. Antalics stressed that Members of Council have a responsibility at a public meeting to show what is going on with the City and have open dialogue. The President of Council should have final say on comments made by Council during the meeting. Mr. Antalics thought it is a disgrace to see Members of Council have dialogues that citizens cannot hear.
Proposed New Zoning Ordinance – Section 1304.04 – Corner Lots; Bicycle Parking Requirements
Joshua Buck, 1739 Hastings Road, referring to Section 1304.04 of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, said he does not have personal opposition to commercial interests on residential street corners, and would be happy to have a neighborhood bar that he could walk to in Northeast Bethlehem. Mr. Buck stated it is important to have places in neighborhoods that meet all of the needs that include living, working, and playing, and commercial businesses are needed. Mr. Buck felt it is important to preserve neighborhoods and to use buildings that were storefronts already. He noted in his neighborhood there are no corner stores in existence. Regarding an argument that it would not be constitutional to pass the ordinance knowing it would be amended later, Mr. Buck said he does not know if that is true, but pointed out that the Constitution of the United States was passed and amended immediately. He suggested that an amendment be drafted to be passed at the same time. Mr. Buck, advising he is from Maine, informed the assembly that crossing into Maine there is a billboard that states Welcome to Maine, but there are no billboards in the State. Mr. Buck stressed that anything that can be done to keep billboards off highways would be a benefit for the view of the community. Mr. Buck added he thought that the bicycle parking requirement section of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance is an excellent idea but it could be stronger. He noted that it requires businesses or new developments to meet a 5% parking requirement with bicycle parking. Mr. Buck thought an option should be given to meet 20-25% of those parking needs. He remarked this would be a great benefit to developers because it would enable them to remove parking spaces to meet the impervious surface requirements. It would also allow businesses that do not have the space to add new parking to add parking that is an alternative so they are still adding parking but it is not car parking.
Police Officers and Firefighters
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, relating that she finds it sad that people who save citizens’ lives are shot at random, advised she is speaking of Police who have been shot in Philadelphia and other areas. Communicating she often thinks that people do not appreciate what they have in the City of Bethlehem, stressed the City has a tremendous Police force, and they work hard. She noted that the Fire Department has been faced with some very difficult incidents in the past few weeks. Ms. Pongracz thought it is time for the people in the City of Bethlehem to say thank you to those who work to save lives.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:50 p.m.