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Bethlehem Council MInutes
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 – 7:00 PM
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
Pastor James Muske, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church,
offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to
1. ROLL CALL
Vice President 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 Evans was absent.
Prior to the regular Agenda items, City Council conducted a Public Hearing to consider the following Amendments to the Zoning Ordinance: (1) Amending Sections 1302 and 1319 - Commercial and Recreational Vehicles – Parking in Residential Districts; (2) Amending Section 1304.04 - Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in the RT and RG Districts/Corner Lots; and (3) Amending Section 1317 - Flood Plain Ordinance.
5 A. Director of Planning and Zoning – Proposed Zoning Ordinance – Amending Articles 1302 and 1319 - Commercial and Recreational Vehicles in Residential Zoning Districts
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 15, 2012 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, stating that the Planning Commission, at their meeting of October 11, 2012, voted to recommend approval of the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amending Articles 1302 and 1319 – Commercial and Recreational Vehicles in Residential Districts.
5 B. Director of Planning and Zoning – Proposed Zoning Ordinance – Amending Article 1304.04 – Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in RT and RG Districts
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 15, 2012 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, stating that the Planning Commission, at their meeting of October 11, 2012, voted to recommend denial of the proposed Zoning Ordinance amending Article 1304.04 – Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in RT and RG Districts. Commission members had concerns about the provisions related to tattoo parlors, the number of chairs permitted in a barber shop or beauty shop, etc., frying of foods, and language describing the physical components of the existing storefront.
5 C. Director of Planning and Zoning – Proposed Zoning Ordinance – Establishing New Article 1317 - Flood Plain Ordinance
The Clerk read a memorandum dated September 21, 2012 from Darlene L. Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, stating that the Planning Commission, at their meeting of September 20, 2012, voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposed Zoning Ordinance establishing new Article 1317 – Flood Plain Ordinance.
5 D. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission – Proposed Zoning Ordinances - Commercial and Recreational Vehicles in Residential Zoning Districts, Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in RT and RG Districts, Flood Plain Ordinance
The Clerk read a letter dated October 26, 2012 from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) stating that they reviewed the subject amendments at their meeting of October 25, 2012. The LVPC stated that the floodplain amendments are consistent with the County Comprehensive Plan, they support the City’s use of riparian buffer regulations, and the amendments for commercial/recreational vehicles and corner commercial uses are matters of local concern.
Planning and Zoning Director Comments
Ms. Heller, affirming there were meetings on the proposed new Zoning Ordinance previously, noted that Ordinances were adopted for the new Zoning Ordinance and there were some amendments since that time. Ms. Heller confirmed that the letter from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission noted these were all a matter of local concern. Ms. Heller highlighted the fact that the proposals were each reviewed by the Planning Commission.
Amending Articles 1302 and 1319 - Commercial and Recreational Vehicles in Residential Zoning Districts
Ms. Heller informed the Members that the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment for Commercial and Recreational Vehicles was recommended for approval. There is currently a definition in the Zoning Ordinance for both recreational and commercial vehicles and this amendment proposes to revise both of those definitions and add provisions for recreational vehicles. Ms. Heller enumerated that the Ordinance places a limit on when a recreational vehicle would be permitted in a residential zoning district, it must be less than 40 feet in length, must be parked behind or side of the building, must meet setbacks for accessory structure in the rear or the side yard, must be screened, must be on a solid surface and must be maintained in a clean and well-kept condition. Included are provisions for bringing a vehicle in before or after vacation or when there are visitors for which there are some exceptions.
Amending Article 1304.04 – Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses Allowed in RT and RG Districts
Ms. Heller confirmed that the Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses is included in the current Zoning Ordinance but this Amendment changes those provisions a bit. Ultimately, the intent is the same but it clarifies some of the language. The uses must be small in scale, and the Ordinance Amendment lists some that may be permitted, some that are limited to the list, and some that may be permitted to clarify that for the applicants and for the Zoning Hearing Board. The primary change is specifying what is a commercial storefront that is listed in Section A 1 and that was added to the provision. The remaining provisions refine the language. Ms. Heller explained there is a provision pertaining to cleaning the sidewalk and gutters, and a provision to clarify that if someone is in the Historic Districts they must also receive approval from those boards. The number of seats are limited to two for a barber or a beauty salon. The uses that are prohibited in this section are BYOB, alcohol sales, tattoo parlor, and pawn shops.
Proposed Zoning Ordinance – Establishing New Article 1317 - Flood Plain Ordinance
Ms. Heller, affirming that the Zoning Ordinance does have a floodplain section, explained that FEMA is now upgrading all the maps in Northampton County and there is a process to go through to adopt those floodplain maps. The City is in that process now and FEMA is also requiring that the City update the floodplain provisions to match the model ordinance provisions that the State issues. Basically, the State language is used and provisions are inserted into the proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment that are specific to the City of Bethlehem. Ms. Heller confirmed it is a required provision that the City needs to do.
Ms. Dolan, turning to Section 1304.04, Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses, asked does making a change now send every single thing back to the beginning or solely the one area about which some of the members may have a concern. Ms. Dolan pointed out that the Planning Commission agreed with the limitation to two chairs in a beauty parlor. Ms. Dolan acknowledged there are some beauty parlors that have two chairs, but stressed but it is hard to run a business and make a profit on that small a business.
Ms. Heller, agreeing it is a good point, advised that while the Planning Commission did not approve the Zoning Ordinance Amendment, some of the Planning Commission members were not aware of some of the discussions that took place in front of Council with residents and that the Bureau also had with some of the residents on various specific issues. Noting there was some discussion of whether two chairs was too limiting, Ms. Heller pointed out that in looking at the intent of the provisions, these are non-conforming uses in a residential zone and some flexibilities should be provided so that these storefronts do not sit vacant or do not become residential. However, Ms. Heller advised it should not be so flexible that there are some impacts on the neighborhood that really are not warranted. It was felt that two chairs were reasonable, and if someone wanted a larger space than that there is a lot of commercial space available on many other commercial corners in the City.
Ms. Dolan asked for a sense of how Council feels about this. She observed that the corner stores tend to have a larger footprint than a half double in terms of a non-conforming use. They are larger spaces because they were designed for some kind of retail or mom and pop shop. Ms. Dolan pointed out that for a barber or beauty shop there is one for the washing, one for drying, and one for cutting. She felt that four chairs would still constitute a neighborhood beauty or barber shop.
Vice President Reynolds stated that other Members of Council are certainly able to comment. Councilwoman Dolan, stating that Council does not have to make decisions on that now, said if anyone wanted to comment on it or look into it between now and then, they could go into any local mom and pop shops and see two chairs just does not cut it.
Ms. Heller added that a lot of these uses do not have off street parking, so parking is always one of the issues. Consequently, if there are two customers in the salon and two customers coming in for the next appointment, that is four. A lot of these uses do not have walk-up customers, although some of them might. Ms. Heller stated that was one of the factors being looked at.
Councilman DiGiacinto asked if the issue pertaining to the number of chairs was part of the amendment or part of the original section of the Ordinance that was passed. Ms. Heller responded that there is no limit on the number of chairs in the current Ordinance.
Ms. Dolan said she will look into it and get her hair cut at a really small place and see if things have changed. She said she cannot recall the last time she went into any place to get her hair cut, even a small place, where there were only two chairs.
Beall Fowler, 443 Center Street, stated that the place he gets his hair cut has only one chair, so such places do exist. Mr. Fowler, affirming he has spoken a number of times about the corner lot provision, thanked City Council and Ms. Dolan for making the changes, and said he is happy with them. Acknowledging that some of the neighbors would have been happier if there would have been a provision that these corner properties would have some residential character, said if Council feels that is not appropriate certainly what is here is a vast improvement over the current law. He expressed the hope that the Zoning Ordinance Amendment on the reuse of corner commercial properties moves quickly to passage.
Charles Washburn, 748 Linden Street, advised it is a corner lot, and wondered how the provisions will affect his business. Ms. Heller said she is not sure how his property is zoned, but thought it is probably Commercial, and commercial uses would be permitted there. Ms. Heller explained the proposed provisions would be for a residential zoning district, if there is a corner lot that would have been previously used as a commercial use, to encourage new commercial uses to locate in those storefronts.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, addressed the part of the Zoning Ordinance concerning families, and noted he has mentioned it quite a number of times, and added that the Community Action Committee, Sasaki, and other people have studied the South Side. He continued on to say concerned citizens have agreed that the best way to improve the quality of life on the South Side is to have more single families living in family owned homes. Mr. Antalics stated that the definition of family should be addressed, allowing two unmarried people to live in a residence, and also adding a new definition for student and what is a student house. He felt if that part of the Ordinance were revised it could possibly free up quite a few rental properties where there are five undesirables living, and free up those properties for people to buy on the South Side, using the plan for housing subsidies from the City to aid in buying these properties. Stressing that this needs to be addressed, Mr. Antalics said he would like to know what it would take to have the issue of redefining families looked into, and he would like to see it on the next Community Development Committee agenda.
Vice President Reynolds stated that the appropriate Ordinances would be listed on the December 5, 2012 City Council Agenda.
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:25 p.m.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of November 7, 2012 were approved.
Ms. Dolan informed the Members that she has to leave the City Council Meeting at 7:45 PM to pick up her son at college. Ms. Dolan said she wants to make sure that her departure would not have any impact on the passage of the Proposed 2013 Budget Ordinances on First Reading. Ms. Dolan communicated that she did not know if her absence would put the matter into any jeopardy in terms of what would be required in order for the Proposed 2013 Budget Ordinances to be passed on First Reading this evening. Ms. Dolan, noting that she spoke with the City Clerk yesterday, stated if there is any concern perhaps the Bills that are listed under Agenda Item 8, New Ordinances, could be moved up on the Agenda.
Vice President Reynolds stated that approval of the Budget Ordinances tonight is on First Reading, so the votes are made without prejudice. He added that, according to the Third Class City Code, the Mayor has to present the Budget Ordinances at the last City Council Meeting in November. Vice President Reynolds said he does not think the approval of the Ordinances tonight would necessarily have to be moved up because Ms. Dolan has to leave the Meeting. He expressed the belief that the procedure in order to do so would be to a motion to suspend the rules, and four votes are needed to pass the motion. Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, stated that is correct. Ms. Dolan noted if they did not pass the Ordinances would fail on First Reading and would not go to Final Reading. Restating that the Third Class City Code requires the Mayor to deliver the Budget Ordinances to City Council to vote on at the last Meeting in November, Vice President Reynolds said if they would not pass today he believes they would go on the Agenda for the first meeting in December and would still fulfill the Third Class City Code requirement. Attorney Spadoni noted there would be time. Ms. Dolan observed there would seem to be no need for her to request a suspension of the rules.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Garbage Collection - Independent Haulers versus Single Hauling Contract
Richard Skoff, 434 E. Goepp Street, referring to a November 10, 2012 newspaper article, noted that, in connection with the Proposed 2013 Budget, the Mayor is proposing a change to a single trash collector for the entire City, rather than the present method of various individual, private haulers. Mr. Skoff observed that among the reasons this issue has come up in the past is aesthetics, and trash trucks driving all around the City on the same streets several times a week. However, Mr. Skoff highlighted the fact that this time the Mayor had indicated he wants to do it for the money. Referring to the poll the Administration conducted through Muhlenberg College in which 69% of the people overall support the change if it would save money, Mr. Skoff expressed his understanding that the answer one may be looking for can be found by how things are phrased. Mr. Skoff thought the questions are you a resident and homeowner in the City, and are you satisfied with the present garbage collection system should have been asked. Mr. Skoff pointed out that if he has a problem with his current independent private trash collector he can call and talk to the owner or a family member, and he can hire another trash collector if a problem is not resolved. In addition, Mr. Skoff explained that when he is away for three months he does not have to pay for garbage collection. While pointing out the Mayor has advised that a single hauler will save citizens money, Mr. Skoff communicated his concern that the winning bid will be low in order for that company to get the single hauling contract with the City but after that it will cost residents more. Mr. Skoff, emphasizing the fact that private haulers are small business owners, stressed that by contracting with a single hauler the City will be putting private haulers and their employees out of work. Mr. Skoff asked City officials to reconsider the proposal and find the money somewhere else.
Nancy Matuczinski, 716 Sixth Avenue, asserted that retaining the present garbage collection system by independent haulers versus the City going to a single hauling contract for trash collection should not be judged by a Mayor or City Council and should be put on a ballot for the citizens to vote. Ms. Matuczinski, stating that most of the people she knows are satisfied with the present system, stressed that residents do not need more taxes or fee hikes. Ms. Matuczinski did not think the City does a good job with leaf collection and snow removal. Ms. Matuczinski asserted that the City is not clean to the degree it has been in the past, and there is dirt in the gutters. Ms. Matuczinski thought the large street trees should be trimmed every few years, and there should be no plantings in the area between the pavement and the gutter. Ms. Matuczinski said, if push comes to shove, all appointed and elected City officials and employees should be forced to take a 10% permanent gross cut in salaries, and pension should remain at the same amount throughout the retired employee’s life. Ms. Matuczinski highlighted the fact that many citizens do not even get one-third of what City employees earn. Ms. Matuczinski stressed that City officials and employees are public servants to the citizens of Bethlehem.
Peter Crownfield, 407 Delaware Avenue, referred to a newspaper
article that reported a projected savings of $110 a year for
each household under the proposed single hauling contract
for trash collection, the City would add $500,000 to its revenue,
and there would be a $3.8 million savings in trash collection
in the City. Mr. Crownfield said he does not believe those
projections unless the initial contract is a lowball deal
to get it passed. Mr. Crownfield stated he would like to see
a detailed projection, and that the proposal be removed from
the Proposed 2013 Budget. Mr. Crownfield communicated there
may be good reasons for making a change but it is not known
what they are. Mr. Crownfield asserted the problem with the
proposal is that a flat fee for trash collection rewards those
who produce a lot of trash and penalizes those who minimize
the amount of trash. Mr. Crownfield pointed out that this
backwards approach does not occur with the present
garbage collection system by independent haulers as fees are set individually. Stating that the sensible approach is pay as you throw whereby individuals pay per bag of trash, Mr. Crownfield said this can be done with a single contract or with private haulers. Adding it almost always reduces costs overall, and almost always results in recycling charges being eliminated, Mr. Crownfield noted many communities also provide free composting tumblers. Mr. Crownfield said this is a national program that is in hundreds of communities and is advocated by the EPA and other associations. Mr. Crownfield questioned why Raritan Valley is allowed to have a contract with the City because they consistently demand that customers put their trash cans at the curb that is illegal according to the City’s Ordinance. Turning to the matter of trees mentioned by the previous speaker, Mr. Crownfield informed the assembly that some of the permitted trees on the City’s list promote asthma.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, advised that a resident who only has one bag of garbage a month has a hauler who charges him only $5 for the bag of garbage, so that with the City’s annual recycling fee of $60 the resident only pays $120 a year for garbage and recycling. Mr. Grubb commented that the idea of the proposed single hauling contract is not a winning idea for individuals and for many senior citizens.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Old Business – Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
E. Amending Article 1703 – Electrical Licenses
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 16, 2012 to which was attached a Bill provided by the Law Bureau to amend Codified Ordinance Section 1703.04, Licenses and Fees, for Electrical Work within the City and represents editorial amendments that were not realized at the time of passage of Ordinance 2012-7 adopted on March 6, 2012.
President Evans stated the Bill will be listed on the December 5 City Council Meeting for First Reading.
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Joseph E. Long – Bethlehem Housing Authority
Mayor Callahan reappointed Joseph E. Long to membership on the Bethlehem Housing Authority effective through November 2017. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2012-186 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Finance Committee
Chairman Reynolds presented an oral report of the Finance Committee meeting this evening, Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 6:00 PM in Town Hall, prior to the City Council Meeting, on the following: Transfer of Funds – General Fund: Council – Overtime, Human Resources – Overtime, Recycling – Overtime, Recycling – Temporary Help, Streets – Temporary Help, Police – General Overtime, EMS – Temporary Help, Transfer of Funds - Golf Fund – Overtime, Transfer of Funds - Water Fund: Water Filtration – Overtime and Water Engineering – Overtime, Transfer of Funds – 911 Fund – Temporary Help, Golf Fees – Increase, and the expenditure of the 3rd Quarter excess Gaming Revenue above what was budgeted for 2012 in the amount of $296,365.91 to be used towards Medical and Worker Compensation payments.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING
A. Bill No. 30 – 2012 – Amending Article 911 – Water Regulations – Increasing Fire Service Fees
The Clerk read Bill No. 30 – 2012 – Amending Article 911 – Water Regulations – Increasing Fire Service Fees, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. DiGiacinto, and Mr. Reynolds, 5. (Ms. Dolan left the Meeting, as previously announced.) Bill No. 30 - 2012, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 2012-30 was declared adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 31 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 General Fund Budget
The Clerk read Bill No. 31 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 General Fund Budget, sponsored by Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Reynolds and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ADOPTING
THE GENERAL FUND BUDGET FOR 2013.
Mr. DiGiacinto commented that he listened intently to the discussions at last night’s First Budget Hearing on the Proposed 2013 Budget. Mr. DiGiacinto, noting that questions were raised about expenditures and revenues, acknowledged and commended the thought process in looking at other revenue sources. Mr. DiGiacinto, adding he has heard the Mayor speak several times about the topics that were presented at last evening’s Budget Hearing, thought the five year scope was a good idea. However, Mr. DiGiacinto communicated that based on what has been presented currently he feels there is a lot of fiction in the numbers. Mr. DiGiacinto continued on to say he does not think the $1,000,000 listed as a General Fund Revenue source under Voluntary Contribution Agreement - Non-Profits (also referred to as Payment in Lieu of Taxes – PILOT) is firm, the Transfer from Water Fund of $879,524 listed as a General Fund Revenue source is not realistic at this point, there is $500,000 listed as a General Fund Revenue source from the Solid Waste Fee but the concept of a Single Hauler has not yet been reviewed, there is a one-time General Fund Revenue source of $1,700,000 listed from the Bethlehem Parking Authority if parking lots can be sold, there is $600,000 listed as a General Fund Revenue source from the new First Responders Fee (also referred to as an Amusement or Entertainment Tax) and it is not known whether it will be finalized at the 5% amount. Mr. DiGiacinto stated he does not believe there has been a Budget delivered with real revenue numbers. Mr. DiGiacinto, advising that he will be voting no on all the Budget Ordinances tonight, expressed the hope that Council can come back and look at some realistic numbers in the next three to four weeks. Commenting that he thinks it will be tough even through the end of 2013, Mr. DiGiacinto observed that getting through 2014, in view of some of the one-time revenue sources in 2013 and the uncertainty of collecting various revenues, will also be tough. Mr. DiGiacinto said he is looking at the 2013 Budget as a two year Budget, and he does not want to come back and have to talk about all the things that were not done.
Vice President Reynolds, remarking that City Council has some tough decisions to make, agreed with Mr. DiGiacinto that a lot of tough questions were asked at last night’s First Budget Hearing. Observing that a lot will fall on City Council, Vice President Reynolds stated the Members of Council can agree or disagree on the Budget the Administration has come forward with, but it comes down to City Council’s power of the purse and the responsibility to pass a Budget. Vice President Reynolds noted that if the Members of Council have ideas and things they would like to do differently than what is in the Budget, then if there are the votes on City Council to do it the Members should certainly move forward. Vice President Reynolds said it will take some political will for City Council to make the difficult decisions to not only get the City through 2013 but some of the difficult decisions will help put the budget on the path to get through 2014, 2015, and 2016. Stressing it is not easy to be a City in 2012, or 2013, Vice President Reynolds commented no decisions that Council will make will be without pain. Vice President Reynolds communicated that all Members of Council have reservations about various things in the Budget and may not agree on even one part of the Budget. Vice President Reynolds pointed out that the Administration has laid out various revenue sources that City Council can take a look at, and it is Council’s right to choose different sources. Vice President Reynolds said if Council is going to criticize the expenditures and the revenues then Council needs to be a part of the solution as well. Vice President Reynolds expressed part of the problem going back to the time before the current Members were on Council is that difficult decisions get put off because people do not have the political will to do the right thing for not just one but several years. Vice President Reynolds, stating that City Council will be unpopular when the 2013 Budget is passed, said that is part of leadership and is part of what is City Council’s job.
Voting AYE: Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mr. Reynolds, 3. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski and Mr. DiGiacinto, 2. Bill No. 31 – 2012 Failed on First Reading. Vice President Reynolds affirmed that, in accordance with Council’s rules, no Ordinance shall be adopted by the Council without the affirmative vote of a majority of all the Members of Council; i.e., four votes. Vice President Reynolds thought that there would be a re-vote at the next City Council Meeting. Attorney Spadoni affirmed that four votes are needed in order to pass an Ordinance.
Motion - Tabling Bill No. 32 – 2012 through Bill No. 41 – 2012
B. Bill No. 32 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Water
C. Bill No. 33 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Sewer Fund Budget
D. Bill No. 34 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Golf Course Enterprise Fund Budget
E. Bill No. 35 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Liquid Fuels Fund Budget
F. Bill No. 36 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Capital Budget for Non-Utilities
G. Bill No. 37 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Capital Budget for Water Utilities
H. Bill No. 38 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Capital Budget for Sewer Utilities
I. Bill No. 39 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 Community Development Budget
J. Bill No. 40 – 2012 – Adopting the 2013 9-1-1 Fund Budget
K. Bill No. 41 – 2012 – Fixing the 2013 Tax Rate for All City Purposes
Mr. Recchiuti moved to Table Agenda Items 8 B through 8 K, Bill No. 32 – 2012 through Bill No. 41 – 2012, until the next City Council Meeting, to be rescheduled on Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall. Mr. Donchez seconded the motion. Voting AYE: Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, and Mrs. Belinski, 3. Voting NAY: Mr.DiGiacinto and Mr. Reynolds, 2. The motion passed.
Bill No. 41 – 2012 – Fixing the 2013 Tax Rate for All City Purposes
Mark Sivak, Director of Budget and Finance, informed the assembly that because of the reassessment in Lehigh County there will be a different millage rate in Bill No. 41 – 2012, Fixing the 2013 Tax Rate for All City Purposes, for Lehigh County residents beginning in 2013. Advising that as of this afternoon the City was waiting for the certification from Lehigh County on the new assessment number, Mr. Sivak affirmed that the millage rate for Lehigh County cannot be calculated until the City receives the number from the County. In response to Vice President Reynolds, Mr. Sivak commented that the number may be available by next Monday.
10. New Business.
A. Setting Date for Adoption – 2013 Budget
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Recchiuti moved to set the date for adoption of the 2013 Budget on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall.
Voting AYE: Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, Mr.
DiGiacinto, and Mr. Reynolds, 5. The motion passed.
B. Rescheduling First and Second City Council Meetings in December
Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Donchez moved to reschedule the First
and Second City Council Meetings in December as follows:
First City Council Meeting in December
From: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall
To: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall
Second City Council Meeting in December
From: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall
To: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall
Voting AYE: Mr. Donchez, Mr. Recchiuti, Mrs. Belinski, Mr.DiGiacinto, and Mr. Reynolds, 5. The motion passed.
Vice President Reynolds thought that, by Tabling the Budget Ordinances in Bills 32 through 41 tonight and not making a decision, the Members have effectively passed the buck on. Vice President Reynolds, observing there are some difficult decisions ahead of Council, expressed the hope that City Council and the Administration are going to be able to work together. Vice President Reynolds communicated that, rather than the voting down tonight of Bill No. 31 – 2012, Adopting the 2013 General Fund Budget, Council could have passed the Bill on First Reading as has been done in the past without making any comments and the Members would certainly be able to make suggestions. He thought it was an unwise direction for Council to take.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT
Chuck Nyul, 1966 Pinehurst Road, commented that the City is in the fifth year of the Mayor’s five year plan in which the Mayor had indicated the citizens will get tax breaks because the City will have money. Referring to a November 10, 2012 newspaper article concerning the City’s 2013 pension obligation of $4 million, Mr. Nyul advised he received his first pension check 27 years ago and his pension check today is the same amount as then. Mr. Nyul said he wants to see the City clamp down on City employees. Mr. Nyul stressed that 76% of his pension check goes to pay for health care. Mr. Nyul remarked that when his next pension check comes he will pay his health care of $416 on January 1, and he will give the balance of his check to the City every month and that is all the money the City is going to get. Mr. Nyul queried whether City officials understand what citizens are going through. Mr. Nyul asserted that the City is making many mistakes and should be realistic with its finances.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said Mr. Nyul is right
in the respect that City officials are making mistakes with
the City’s finances and the taxpayers pay for it. Mr.
Grubb remarked that if City Council had been making the tough
decisions over the past five years there would not be as many
tough decisions this year. Mr. Grubb explained that City employees
are not getting more in their pension checks. Rather, he said
the problem is that the bill is coming due for the pensions
for all City employees, and payments to the pension funds
were not made by elected officials. Mr. Grubb continued on
to say that many employees were induced to retire early putting
even more demand on the pension funds, and those employees
were given two years towards years of service for pension
calculations and during which there were no employee payments
into the fund. Mr. Grubb stressed that elected officials are
the culprits because they are the ones who make the decisions
about the employees pensions. Mr. Grubb acknowledged that
the Mayor has taken some steps to get those costs under control
in the long term but they do not solve the problem short term.
Mr. Grubb thought that City Council should act in concert
with the Administration and contact State officials who make
the rules for the pension system and get them to change it.
Proposed Zoning Ordinance – Article 1304 – Reuse of Corner Commercial Uses in RT and
RG Residential Districts
Timothy Stevens, 54 E. Market Street, alerted City Council that interested neighbors in the Historic District have appealed the Zoning Hearing Board’s decision on the property located at 476 N. New Street that involves the provisions in Article 1304 pertaining to the reuse of corner commercial uses in RT and RG Residential Districts. Mr. Stevens distributed to the Members of Council copies of the notice of appeal. Mr. Stevens, commending City Council for the suggested revisions to Section 1304.04, said if City Council approves the changes he does not foresee objections going forward with other properties that may pursue the provisions in Article 1304. Mr. Stevens explained that Article 1304 as now written without the revisions is contrary to the stated intent that was represented initially relative to the mom and pop type store being converted to commercial uses. Mr. Stevens said the Section 1304.04 provision negates the essential purpose of a residential neighborhood, destabilizes residential neighborhoods so a homeowner would be uncertain as to the future of a neighborhood, and allows commercial intrusion into neighborhoods. Mr. Stevens asked City Council to protect the historic nature of those neighborhoods. Mr. Stevens added that the current language of Section 1304.04 is too broad and vague leading to different results for different applicants who go before the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Stevens advised that the neighbors are challenging on the basis of having a commercial property in a sea of residential properties that is improper, and on the basis that it violates the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Stevens urged City Council to pass Section 1304.04 with the amendments that essentially cures the problem.
Mary Pongracz, 321 W. Fourth Street, stated that everyone in the country is a person of entitlement. Ms. Pongracz, acknowledging that the City is having financial problems, said they were caused by the greed of the country’s banking and financial systems. Ms. Pongracz communicated that the budget process is an opportunity for people to determine how to do the most good for the most people. Ms. Pongracz added that giving something to people who already have something and neglect the people who need something it is not doing what is right for the American dream.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.