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Bethlehem Council MInutes
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 – 5:30 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
Father Scott Ardinger, of Incarnation of Our Lord Church,
offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to
1. ROLL CALL
President of Council Eric R. Evans called the meeting to order. Present were Jean Belinski, David T. DiGiacinto, Karen Dolan, Robert J. Donchez, Michael D. Recchiuti, J. William Reynolds, and Eric R. Evans, 7.
Prior to the regular Agenda items, President Evans called to order a Public Hearing to consider revisions to the 2009, 2010 and 2012 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Programs and the 2012 Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Programs. The purpose for these revisions is to reprogram funds from prior year programs and revise specific project budgets.
Irene Woodward, Housing and Community Development Planner, informed the assembly that the amended budget includes adjustments to the 2012 CDBG Budget and HOME Budget as a result of the funding cuts by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The 2012 CDBG allocation was reduced to $1,168,434 from $1,300,000. The 2012 HOME allocation was reduced to $628,316 from $640,899. Ms. Woodward listed the Accounts that were adjusted, as follows. The Health Bureau Dental Program was increased from $2,827 to $8,827. The Lynn Avenue Bridge Project was increased for engineering costs from $6,750 to $34,390. The Health Bureau Account was decreased from $7,915 to $1,915 in view of usage and the funds are being moved into the Dental Program. The allocation for the Fire Truck was reduced from $265,000 to $134,300 because the City received a grant from Northampton County that will offset the budgeted amount. The Alliance for Building Communities was reduced from $150,000 to $0, and the HOME Administration was reduced from $40,899 to $28,316.
There was no Public Comment.
President Evans stated that Bill No. 23 – 2012 is listed on the Agenda for First Reading.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 5:35 PM.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of July 17, 2012 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Bill No. 21 – 2012 - New Zoning Ordinance – Section 1304.04 – Corner Lots; Definition of Family
Mary Ann Lynch, 48 E. Market Street, stated that she would like to speak about the corner lot provision in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Lynch advised she lives close to the particular corner that will be under consideration soon to be an office building with at least 10 employees. Mentioning she had always lived in the country, Ms. Lynch communicated that she and her family moved to Bethlehem with her husband because it is a beautiful City, and they bought the house next to the Trinity Episcopal Church because her daughter goes to school there. Ms. Lynch remarked she did not expect that she would have to live next to an office building with 10 employees. Ms. Lynch said she does not see why that house has to be approved for offices in a residential zone. Ms. Lynch added that if she were just moving into this area she would think about it twice if she knew that an office building was on the corner because she does not want this area commercialized.
Beall Fowler, 443 Center Street, addressed Section 1304.04 that he sees as the flawed corner lot provision of the proposed new Zoning Code. Mr. Fowler stated the first point is that some think that a bit of spot zoning from residential to commercial is a good thing. After all, the homeowner can probably gain more from a commercial transaction than a residential one. The commercial entity will pay higher taxes than if the property remained residential. Mr. Fowler stressed this is a false deal in that the short term gain for some is felt by the rest of the community. Seeing the residential fabric reduced, homeowners may find that their properties are less valuable. Mr. Fowler added that people may be less inclined to invest in their own homes and may have more trouble selling. Mr. Fowler commented it should be remembered that zoning exists for a reason and one of the main justifications for a zoning code is to provide a sense of stability regarding the use of properties within particular zones. Mr. Fowler pointed out that in the RT zone in which he lives, except for possible grandfathered uses, he can be reasonably certain that his neighborhood will not contain bars, restaurants or other commercial establishments. Under the present zoning code these are not allowed and attempts to establish these should and probably would not be supported by the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Fowler noted that Section 1304.04 of the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, however, turns this situation upside down. Picking out arbitrarily certain classes of properties as candidates for allowed commercial development goes against all good City planning and zoning, and provides uncertainty of what properties may be eligible to be converted from residential to commercial. Mr. Fowler, continuing with his second point, stated that because the criteria used for conversion in Section 1304.04 is arbitrary it may be argued that it is discriminatory. Mr. Fowler emphasized that a corner lot that once housed a business makes perfect sense in the former corner store context that was presented first. However, he stressed that in the current version, where it can apply to a residence that long ago housed a business, it makes no sense. The use of a property many years ago has no bearing on its present use or the present environment of the neighborhood. Mr. Fowler remarked that the corner stipulation in this case is clearly arbitrary as well. If he owns a house three from the corner and he wants to convert it he can argue discrimination. Even if there never was a business in that house he can argue irrelevancy. In this context, the criteria of the third house from the corner that was once painted blue had just as much relevance as the criteria stated in Section 1304.04. So if anyone likes Section 1304.04, Mr. Fowler suggested that it be broadened to include as well the third house from the corner that was once painted blue. Mr. Fowler, stating that Section 1304.04 is a bad section of the zoning code, said at best it is embarrassing and at worst it could be disastrous. Mr. Fowler asked that Council not pass the new Zoning Ordinance and do the right thing to postpone the vote and fix the code.
Robert Romeril, 26 W. Market Street, stated that he heard words of wisdom from Mr. Fowler when he suggested that Council not pass the new Zoning Ordinance tonight, although he can see that Council will pass this tonight. Mr. Romeril remarked that Council should get word somehow or pass a Resolution that binds the Zoning Hearing Board that they in no way can use Section 1304.04 until it is properly looked at by Council. Mr. Romeril said he cannot believe there is any reasonable person that does not recognize that Section 1304.04 is not good for the City of Bethlehem. After the new Zoning Ordinance is passed tonight, Mr. Romeril thought the place to start is the exact wording provided by Timothy Stevens in his letter dated July 16, 2012 where he spelled out in detail the basic format and the adjustment in the wording so it can be reasonably applied. Mr. Romeril thought this is a place to start because it reflects the strong opposition Council has heard over the past few months and will hear again.
Steven Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, pointed out that Section 1304.04 is getting a lot of attention but there is also another change in the new Zoning Ordinance that could have a negative affect upon the City, primarily the South Side, and that is the definition of family, Section 1302.40. Mr. Antalics read that it states that a family is one or more individuals who are related to each other by blood, marriage, or adoption. The definition goes on to say it is up to 5 unrelated individuals who maintain a common household with common cooking facilities and certain rooms in common who live within one dwelling unit. However, Mr. Antalics pointed out this is saying that 5 unrelated students are equal to a single family related by blood that is the traditional family. Mr. Antalics denoted in 1963 the Zoning Code stated that a family was related by blood. It was amended in 1980 to read that individuals living as a single housekeeping unit and using cooking facilities and certain rooms in common constitute a family. Mr. Antalics advised that in the 2001 study called the South Side Bethlehem Master Plan it stated that for the welfare of the community owner/occupied homes make for a stable and suitable community. Mr. Antalics informed the assembly that in 2001 he did a study on a 23 block area on the South Side with 499 properties, and 199 were single families, and 300 were landlord rentals. Since then it has gotten worse because 5 people can live in a house who are students, in addition to the fact that non-resident landlords are putting up signs on properties that state student housing only. Mr. Antalics advised that the newest construction on the South Side is a duplex and each part of the duplex has 5 bedrooms which means it would be for 5 students. Mr. Antalics asserted that clearly this definition opens up housing to accommodate students. Mr. Antalics, wondering how other communities that have a student population deal with this, pointed out that suburban Philadelphia has two contiguous townships, Lower Marion and Radnor. They have a combined population of 70,000, there are 9 higher learning institutions in that area including Villanova that has a student population of 10,000. Bethlehem has 2 higher learning institutions. Those townships have a similar definition to family but they also define a student home as a living arrangement for a maximum of 2 students, and student homes shall not include dormitories, fraternities, and sororities. Mr. Antalics exclaimed that the definition of family in Section 1302.40 is a gross contradiction to the South Side plan, and equates a student house of 5 to a single family who are blood related.
Timothy Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, stated that a legal challenge will happen if City Council votes in favor of the new Zoning Ordinance with Section 1304.04. Mr. Stevens noted that one aspect of Mr. Fowler’s comments was the discriminatory aspects of the Section where certain households may challenge it because it is unfair to just include corner properties. Mr. Stevens queried what about the properties in the middle of the block. Mr. Stevens asserted that the language of Section 1304.04 as worded is vague, arbitrary, irrational, and contrary to the purpose of a residential district. He pointed out that there have been proposals as referenced by Mr. Romeril to amend this and work with Council to have a provision that will work with the City residents. Mr. Stevens, advising he does not want to be perceived as being obstructionist with regard to this section, highlighted the fact that he comes from an immigrant family. His great grandparents were first generation Slovakians and lived on Fullerton Avenue in Allentown. Their business was a Mom and Pop store. His great grandfather was a butcher, he worked in that store, and his great grandmother ran the store which was in a row home on Fullerton Avenue. Mr. Stevens expressed his belief that there should be stores such as this because they serve the interest of the residential community, which Mom and Pop stores and others like it should do. Stating that is how it was presented to the residents of Bethlehem, Mr. Stevens affirmed they were shown power point presentations at meetings that showed a Mom and Pop store and that is what they were lead to believe that this was. Mr. Stevens stressed, as worded, this provision is so vague that it allows for any commercial use to be injected into a residential district other than adult oriented entertainment or fried foods. Mr. Stevens said it completely abrogates the purpose of the residential zoning district, and he will move the court to strike the provision in its entirety. Mr. Stevens hoped that Council will look at the various provisions, particularly the fact that the corner lot provision should be owner-occupied, as was his grandparents’ store. Mr. Stevens stated that is how the Section should read along with the other amendments he has suggested. Mr. Stevens asked that Council make these appropriate provisions as has been previously proposed to Council, and delay this vote for just a few months to do it once and to do it right.
Christine Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, voiced her opinion that Section 1304.04 is horrible and it does not protect the residential community, which is the point of zoning. She observed there are neighbors who are upset over the Elias Market expansion and there is the common theme of residents of Bethlehem being upset over the fact that their residential neighborhood is being destroyed. This is another element where the City is not protecting its residents. Ms. Stevens remarked that, if anything, it gives the residents the burden of walking and policing neighborhoods looking for yellow signs that will pop up on corner properties, and they will have to go in and say that this does not belong. Ms. Stevens pointed out that if you read the newspapers there seems to be a recurring theme that the residents of Bethlehem are upset because they feel that their residential neighborhoods are being destroyed by the zoning laws. She asserted that this is just another example of making residential neighborhoods weaker. Ms. Stevens noted that her great grandmother had a corner store on Polk Street in South Bethlehem, and she lived on top of the store so this was an owner-occupied store. Her grandmother was raised in this home. Ms. Stevens communicated that, if the City truly wanted to make the South Side what it was and to reintroduce the Mom and Pop stores then it must be owner-occupied, to recreate what was there many decades ago. Ms. Stevens thought that Section 1304.04 needs to be tabled and City Council needs to postpone the vote. Ms. Stevens stated that Council is not doing any residential neighborhoods any favor by passing this through.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, observed that tonight Council has a big decision to pass the revised new Zoning Ordinance as is or to amend it and send it back to the Planning Commissions. Mr. Scheirer noted that, if it is sent back the Planning Commissions, the process would take about a maximum of four months. Mr. Scheirer wondered if there is anything in the new Zoning Ordinance that is so urgent that four more months would be a detriment, and said he does not think so. Mr. Scheirer stressed that if the Ordinance is passed as is with an eye to amending it later, the quality of residential neighborhoods all over the City are at risk. Mr. Scheirer highlighted the fact that there is already a Zoning Hearing Board meeting scheduled about the house at Market and New Streets being used as offices, in anticipation of this Ordinance being passed. He noted the appellant was turned down for a variance previously on a 2-2 vote with one member declining because of a conflict of interest. Mr. Scheirer emphasized that if this Ordinance is passed without amendment only a special exception would be required. While the building would look the same, there would be enough employees to require 11 vehicles even though 9 of them would be housed in the City’s parking garage. Mr. Scheirer denoted that although there are home offices in the historic district there would be a lot more activity in this home and it would set a bad precedent for the historic district. Mr. Scheirer commented that the Zoning Hearing Board in general tends to favor commercial over residential. He queried what would happen if one of the funeral homes wanted to become a hotel. Noting that the Community Development Committee will meet in September with one of the agenda items being corner lots, Mr. Scheirer said it would take the same four months to amend the Ordinance with a committee meeting, the planning commissions, and two votes. He affirmed there is similar activity concerning the corner of Center and Dewberry Streets. Mr. Scheirer wondered how many other developers and their lawyers are now figuring out where they can invade residential neighborhoods. Mr. Scheirer stated the choice is clear. The Administration can wait another four months, or the quality of residential life can be put at risk for four months. Mr. Scheirer hoped that Council has sufficient sensitivity for the residents of the City so that it will remove the offending section, send the Ordinance back to the Planning Commissions, and begin work in September on a section that is more respectful of residential neighborhoods.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce/Downtown Bethlehem Association – 2012 Bethlehem VegFest
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 2, 2012 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and Use Permit Agreement for Public Property between the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, by and through its Downtown Bethlehem Association, and the City of Bethlehem for use of the Bethlehem Greenway between Adams Street and Polk Street on September 8, 2012 for the 2012 Bethlehem VegFest, according to the Agreement.
President Evans stated that the Resolution will be listed on the August 21 Agenda.
B. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Northampton Community College – Civil War Road Show
The Clerk read a memorandum dated August 2, 2012 from John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and Use Permit Agreement for Public Property between Northampton Community College and the City of Bethlehem for use of the South Bethlehem Greenway between Fillmore Street and Pierce Street for the time period September 4 through September 10, 2012, for the Civil War Road Show, according to the Agreement.
President Evans stated that the Resolution will be listed on the August 21 Agenda.
A. President of Council
C. Public Safety Committee
Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, gave an oral report of the Public Safety Committee Meeting held on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the following subjects: EMS Bureau: Eastern PA EMS Council – Dewberry Avenue Operational Assessment; Call Volume (3 Year Comparison); Percentage of Calls Handled by BEMS (3 Year Comparison); Update - Two EMS Centers – Dewberry Avenue and Stefko Boulevard; Staffing – Full Time and Part Time, Vacancies, Retirements; Overtime; Equipment Needs – 2013; Fire Department: Staffing – Current Levels, Vacancies, Retirements, Future Training Classes; Overtime; Response Times; Inspections; Update – Easton Avenue Station; Musikfest – 2012 Plans; Participation with Northampton and Lehigh Counties – Gaming Funds – Equipment, Reimbursement: Bomb Squad, HazMat, Fire Alarms, Arson; Equipment Needs – 2013; New Programs/Initiatives.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
A. Bill No. 21 – 2012 – Re-enacting and Replacing Zoning Ordinance – Articles 1301 through 1327
The Clerk read Bill No. 21 – 2012 – Re-enacting Replacing Zoning Ordinance – Articles 1301 through 1327, on Final Reading.
Ms. Dolan asked whether the Zoning Hearing Board not only has the discretion to refer to the new Zoning Ordinance when deliberating but also in the case of Section 1304.04 does the Board have the discretion to look at what was the original interest in the Section.
Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, noting that question has been raised by some residents, explained there was a concern that what had been presented at meetings was different than what was in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance, and whether that can be presented to the Zoning Hearing Board. Ms. Heller noted if there are interested parties or objectors they can present whatever they want to present as long as it is related to the proposal in front of the Zoning Hearing Board. Ms. Heller, while communicating that the Zoning Hearing Board is obligated to go by the Ordinance in front of them, pointed out if there is additional information they feel is pertinent and has impact on their decision they can include that in their decision making. Ms. Heller added they weigh the testimony in front of them and determine the value of the testimony case by case.
Ms. Dolan exemplified that, if in the next few months an inappropriate business was coming into a residential area under the corner lot provision, citizens would have the opportunity to raise that as testimony and the Zoning Hearing Board would take that into consideration.
Ms. Heller indicated that is correct. Ms. Heller, affirming that the Zoning Hearing Board reviews requests against the Ordinance in front of them, advised the Board can take in additional information.
Ms. Dolan asked whether City Council can bind the Zoning Hearing Board.
Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, replied no. Attorney Spadoni advised that the Zoning Hearing Board is an arm of the Lehigh and Northampton County Court of Common Pleas, and is a quasi-judicial body and independent of City Council.
Ms. Dolan noted that the original corner lot concept was
not what is on paper now in the proposed new Zoning Ordinance.
Ms. Dolan thought it was accidental since there were many
discussions about it and pictures about how a corner store
looked included in documents over the past year. Ms. Dolan
pointed out the bigger issue is that someone could request
a variance to locate a business or commercial enterprise in
a residential neighborhood and many things would be considered.
She continued on to say the viewpoint in older communities
like Bethlehem was the opposite of that held by many people
since the inception of the suburbs. The traditional city has
commerce, manufacturing, places of worship, schools, cemeteries,
restaurants, and breweries all in the same blocks, and within
walking distance. Ms. Dolan highlighted the fact that many
cities died after the suburbs were born, and people lived
away from businesses. Ms. Dolan urged people to think about
life in a city versus a suburb.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Reynolds, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. Voting NAY: Mr. DiGiacinto, 1. Bill No. 21 – 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012 - 21, was declared adopted.
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, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 22 – 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-22, was declared adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 23 – 2012 – Amending CDBG Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs – Final Allocation
The Clerk read Bill No. 23 – 2012 – Amending CDBG Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs – Final Allocation, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BUDGET FOR 2012.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. Bill No. 23 – 2012, was declared passed on First Reading.
A. Approving Zoning Hearing Board Fees
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-123 that approved the fee structure related to Zoning Ordinance Article 1324, Section 1324.03, Fees, heard before the City Zoning Board: (1) Appeals for dimensional variances for existing single family residences occupied by the owner - $250.00; (2) Continuation of hearings as stipulated in (1), above - $100.00; (3) All other appeals - $500.00; (4) Continuation of appeal as stipulated in (3), above -$200.00; (5) Additional hearings necessary for testimony. If a case is lengthy and requires an additional hearing(s), the Applicant shall pay an additional $200.00 per additional hearing; (6) Curative Amendment/Validity Challenge - $5,000.00; (7) Zoning Certifications - $50.00
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Amending Resolution 2012-115 – Special Condition
- Handicapped Parking Violations – Musikfest
Mr. DiGiacinto and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution No. 2012-124 that amended Resolution 2012-115 adopted by City Council on July 17, 2012 concerning the Special Condition – Handicapped Parking Violations for Musikfest 2012 that reads: For handicapped parking violations, the owner of a vehicle shall pay a fine of one hundred dollars ($100.00) within fourteen 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 ($160.00) nor more than four hundred dollars ($400.00), to 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 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 ($160.00) nor more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00).
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolution passed.
Motion – Considering Resolutions 9 C through 9 I as a Group – Certificates of Appropriateness
Mrs. Belinski and Ms. Dolan moved to consider Resolutions 9 C through 9 I as a Group.
Voting AYE: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 335 South New Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-125 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage, install an awning, and replace the front door at 335 South New Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 321 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-126 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the second floor windows at 321 East Fourth Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 503 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-127 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 503 East Fourth Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 738 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-128 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 738 East Fourth Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 833 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-129 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 833 East Fourth Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 601 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-130 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 601 East Fourth Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 736 East Fourth Street
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2012-131 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 736 East Fourth Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 C through 9 I: Mr. DiGiacinto, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Evans, 6. The Resolutions passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
Chairman Donchez announced a Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 6:15 PM in Town Hall on the following subject: Police Department – Update.
Chairman DiGiacinto announced a Community Development Committee meeting on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the following subjects: Home Foreclosure Program; LERTA; Zoning Ordinance Amendments – Corner Lots, Demolition, Recreational Vehicles – Parking, Flood Plain Ordinance; Updates: Economic Development Loan Program, Main Street Streetscape.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
Bill No. 21 – 2012 - New Zoning Ordinance – Section
1304.04 – Corner Lots; Definition of Family
Beall Fowler, 443 Center Street, addressed some of the remarks that were made implying that those in the downtown somehow wanted to make the area they live in like a suburb. He expressed that if they wanted to live in the suburbs they would have lived in an RS district or outside the City. Mr. Fowler stated the fact is that they wanted to live downtown, and they want to be able to walk to various places. Mr. Fowler remarked that many of these residents would like to see a grocery store downtown they could walk to. Affirming that the residents value the health and vitality of the downtown, Mr. Fowler stressed they also value the residential nature, the fact that they have neighbors, and there are young people moving in with children. Emphasizing that the residential aspect of the downtown is clearly critical to the success of Bethlehem, Mr. Fowler urged Council to do what they can to protect that. Mr. Fowler pointed out it is fragile, and there will be pressures because this is a desirable area. Commenting that many organizations would like to be in this area, Mr. Fowler informed the assembly that those who are residents want to live in this area with their neighbors.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, suggested that agenda items 2 and 3 be reversed. He thought the public comment should be before the minutes just in case someone in the public has a slight correction they can consider those before the minutes are approved. Mr. Scheirer said it was an interesting point raised earlier about towns and history but all of those towns acquired zoning with one exception, the City of Houston, Texas, that at last report has no zoning. Mr. Scheirer observed that in Houston the corner lot in question could be acquired, the house torn down, and a gas station put in. He pointed out this is why cities have zoning for that reason. Mr. Scheirer commented it is a question of degree, that is what was relevant tonight, he is sorry that Council did not choose to stop this, and stressed that damage can happen.
Robert Romeril, 26 W. Market Street, spoke of all of the different streets in the historic district including Wall, Market, Walnut, Broad, and Church and pointed out that Main Street and Broad Street were not always commercial. The homes on the south side of Broad Street in the 200 and 300 block have beautiful old homes but they are all commercial now. Mr. Romeril pointed out the southern edge has been residential, but the City saw fit not to recognize it as being residential. Mr. Romeril highlighted the fact that the historic district is not that wide that additional commercial properties are needed, because there are commercial properties already at Broad Street and Main Street. He affirmed there are already restaurants and stores, except for a grocery store. Mr. Romeril expressed the hope that City Council takes a look at what is there, and asked that Council protect the residential areas.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, returned to his earlier comments about a family being 5 unrelated individuals. Mr. Antalics restated that, as he mentioned earlier, other townships call them students and they only allow 2. Mr. Antalics queried if there are 5 unrelated individuals on the South Side and they are not students how many homes have 5 unrelated individuals who may be members of gangs who are in this area and preying on the students. Mr. Antalics stressed these students are being violated because they are out on the streets in the evening and there are many properties broken into when the students are away on vacation. Mr. Antalics stated that allowing the number of 5 caters to the lucrative business of landowners who can pack people in since it is good business for them. Mr. Antalics highlighted the fact that one person owns 66 properties within a small complex east and west of New Street and rents to students. Mr. Antalics said he sees this as catering to the destruction of the South Side and this is dangerous. Mr. Antalics remarked there is no control because a non-resident landlord could put 5 people in a house and nothing can be done about it. Mr. Antalics thought that Council does not care about the South Side. He added that there is still the solar obstruction on top of the Flatiron Building and the McDonald’s was put at Five Points. He thought that Council and the Administration does not care about the South Side to let these things happen. Mr. Antalics stated that the South Side is a community and a part of Bethlehem.
New Zoning Ordinance; Fire Truck; Charging for Parking at Lots on South Side
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said there are many learned, concerned, and informed residents who come to City Council Meetings, and sometimes he thinks these people are not being heard. Regarding discussions on the corner lots provision, Mr. Grubb noted this is not just limited to the historic district downtown, and is something that can impact many neighborhoods throughout the community. Mr. Grubb asserted it is apparent that the new Zoning Ordinance is flawed and yet Council passed it and he wondered why. He expressed his opinion that the best interest of the residents of Bethlehem were not served. He pointed out there were some very compelling arguments made and hoped it will come back and will be addressed. Mr. Grubb wondered whose best interests are being represented. Mr. Grubb, commenting he is happy that the City is getting a fire truck, said it is telling that the City has to go to the County to get additional money to fund a public safety vehicle when the City is already receiving $9 million from the Casino Host Fee. Pointing out that this was designated as a Casino impact fee, Mr. Grubb remarked it is representative of Government in general that has an insatiable appetite for public funding. Mr. Grubb did not understand how the City can receive $9.375 million dollars in this year’s budget and not find $100,000 to fund a fire truck, and added this does not speak well. Mr. Grubb informed the assembly he noticed the other day when he was on the South Side at Musikfest that at a number of parking lots along Third Street that were improved using TIF funding people were being charged $10 to park. Mr. Grubb advised his understanding was that people could not be charged to park in those lots, and they should have free parking.
Installation of Garbage Cans - West Broad Street
Evelyn Beckman, 310 W. Broad Street, affirmed she has a building that is commercial on the first floor and residential on the second floor. She has spent a lot of time researching where to establish her business, and aesthetics is very important to her business. She was happy that the City had a project on West Broad Street where a lamppost was placed at her entrance. Ms. Beckman related that one morning she noticed an addition to the beautiful lamppost that is a small green garbage can clamped on with two screws. Communicating this is aesthetically not pleasing, Ms. Beckman advised she called to find out what happened, since she was never notified as a business owner that a garbage can would appear. Ms. Beckman highlighted the fact that within two hours the garbage can was full. Ms. Beckman noted there were complaints from someone on West Broad Street who wanted to have garbage cans for pedestrians. While stating she is for this, Ms. Beckman she is not in favor of the fact that 4 were designated and she could only find 2; i.e., the one in front of her building and further up the other one is clamped onto a telephone pole. She commented this would be aesthetically more pleasing than having it on one of the lampposts that were just installed. When she called she found out that one department installed the garbage can and another department is to come twice a week to empty the garbage. She noted that from 8:00 to 10:00 it was full but the City did come yesterday to empty it. Ms. Beckman pointed out that people put soda cans and bags of garbage into the garbage can. Ms. Beckman, affirming that she would like to keep this clean and has encouraged others to do the same, explained she feels a burden with this matter that she should not be carrying. Ms. Beckman proposed that whoever installed the garbage can to please remove it.
President Evans requested that after the meeting Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, discuss the matter with Ms. Beckman.
The meeting was adjourned at 6:40 p.m.