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Bethlehem Council MInutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, October 21, 2014 – 7:00 PM
Reverend Jeffrey Gissing, of First Presbyterian Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag.
PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
1. ROLL CALL
President Reynolds called the meeting to order. Present were Bryan G. Callahan, Eric R. Evans, Michael D. Recchiuti, Cathy Reuscher, Adam Waldron, and J. William Reynolds, 6. Karen Dolan was absent, 1.
Proposed 2015 CDBG and HOME Programs and 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan
Prior to the consideration of the regular Agenda items, President Reynolds called to order a Public Hearing to consider the Proposed 2015 CDBG and HOME Programs and the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan.
Jessica Khouri, Housing and Community Planner, confirmed that the Public Hearing is for public comment on the draft 5 year Consolidated Plan for 2015-2019 and 1 year Action Plan for the Proposed 2015 CDBG and HOME Programs. Ms. Khouri affirmed that both of the plans went on public display beginning October 3, 2014 in the Bethlehem Library, as well as the Department of Community and Economic Development, and are on display through November 3, 2014. She noted that, in particular she will discuss the proposed activities for fiscal year 2015. Ms. Khouri informed the assembly that the City does anticipate a 10% reduction in both programs. The proposed 2015 HOME Budget is $306,556. The proposed activities are as follows for the 2015 HOME Program: Alliance for Building Communities - $115,000 - meets the City’s CHODO (Community Housing Development Organization) requirement for constructing rental property at 619 Broadway Street; Habitat for Humanity - $93,000 - for rehabilitation of one property for home ownership; HOME Program Administration - $24,524; Moravian Development Corporation - $74,032 - to provide facility improvements at Moravian House I and II, including window and light replacement. The proposed 2015 CDBG Program is $1,143,090. Ms. Khouri advised that the CDBG program includes consulting for the Community Development Program - $45,000. The consultants provide the Action Plan, the Consolidated Plan, the Environmental Review, and an end of year document called the CAPER. Ms. Khouri continued on to list the activities, as follows: CDBG Program Administration - $120,756; Housing Rehab Program Staff/Program Delivery - $120,000; Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority Economic Development Program Delivery - $10,000; Rising Tide - $25,000; North Penn Legal Services - $20,000 - provides fair housing education and deals with complaints in Bethlehem; Community Action Development Corporation for Micro Enterprise Assistance - $20,000 - provides start your business program; ADA Curb Cuts - $100,000; ADA Public Improvements - $10,000; Lynn Avenue Bridge - $175,000; New Bethany Ministries - $15,000 - facility improvements including masonry work and window replacement; Valley Youth House - $5,000 - upgrade security and facilities at shelter for homeless youth; Parks and Playground Improvements - $40,000 - includes some north side parks like Elmwood, Bayard, and Friendship Parks; East Fifth Street Project - $145,871 - replacement of curbs, sidewalks, street overlay resulting from installation of new water service lines; Engineering Design Fees for Street Overlay Program - $10,000; Street Tree Maintenance Program - $10,000; Street Overlay Program - $100,000; Community Policing - $80,000; Police Drug Surveillance - $15,000; Southside Recreation Coordinator - $32,295 - salary costs associated with City recreation initiatives; Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living - $15,000 - provides homeless prevention services for the disabled; Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley - $15,000 - financial counseling for homebuyers; Health Bureau Dental Program - $3,168; ShareCare - $4,000 - senior assistance program; Embrace Your Dreams - $7,000 - first serve and first tee program designed to teach life skills to low income youth.
President Reynolds, acknowledging there have been cuts in the CDBG program over the past several years, asked for the general numbers as far as previous years compared with this year’s anticipated $1,143,000.
Ms. Khouri responded in previous years the City took into account a 20% cut. It was advised by the consultants that the City would still be conservative by taking a 10% cut, but they actually believe the City will receive more. The matter will be revisited when the City receives the commitment letter from HUD.
President Reynolds inquired what has the City seen as far as what it thought would be received versus what the City actually got in a general sense as far as the CDBG budget in years past. President Reynolds asked if the City has been accurate in past years’ predictions along with the consultant.
Ms. Khouri pointed out it seems the City been conservative.
Alicia Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development, responded last year the City budgeted 10% lower and received more funding in the Spring. Ms. Karner pointed out in looking at last year compared to this year it was a decrease. Stressing she cannot imagine the City would expect anything but a continued decrease, said it is obvious it is more and more difficult to spend HUD funding, and thinks that is somewhat intentional. Ms. Karner explained the more challenging HUD makes it, the less funds they have to give. An example of that would be the requirement for spending and not having more than 1.5 times our allocation within the Federal system at one time so we have to get money out the door, and there is constant pressure to get money out the door. Ms. Karner highlighted the fact that if the City does not have the money out the door then it is not going to get the full allocation.
President Reynolds inquired what is the percentage for the South Side Recreation Coordinator salary listed at $32,295 in the proposed 2015 CDBG Budget.
Ms. Khouri stated she does not have that information with her but will get that to him.
President Reynolds asked how many organizations applied that did not get any funding.
Ms. Khouri reported there were two organizations. One that applied will not receive 2015 funding because they have current funding in the allocation in HUD activities. The other one that was not funded was the Lehigh Valley Community Land Trust. HUD imposed as a result of the 2013 HOME Final Ruling additional time clock restrictions on the activity. They are currently sitting on two allocations from 2013 and 2014 and there has been no movement on them yet so there is a concern about the timing.
President Reynolds asked what the process would be if they do not move on that money.
Ms. Khouri stated they would have to reprogram it.
President Reynolds asked how long the City has to do so.
Ms. Khouri stated there are 5 years to expend the funds.
Mr. Callahan, turning to the Police Drug Surveillance money, asked if the City gets any money from the County for this from drug money that has been forfeited.
Police Chief Mark DiLuzio replied yes, and noted that money in both Lehigh and Northampton Counties will be spent on drug investigations, undercover use of purchased drugs, guns and other items are all funded by the County. He noted the City also gets at times certain amounts of money from both District Attorneys Jim Martin and/or John Morganelli to purchase Police equipment. Police Chief DiLuzio affirmed that the money seized in drug investigations does come back, and it has to be exclusively used for law enforcement only.
Mr. Callahan queried as to the total amount of money.
Police Chief DiLuzio advised he does not know the total amount and would have to get those numbers from the past years. He recalled that one year there was a drug forfeiture and the City was able to purchase hand guns for the entire Department.
Mr. Recchiuti, noting the Land Trust was not funded but Alliance for Building Communities was, mentioned the Land Trust has been in the program for the past few years.
Ms. Khouri confirmed the organization is sitting on two allocations of money with no movement on them. Alliance for Building Communities meets the CHODO (Community Housing Development Organization) requirement which is 15% of the HOME grants, and currently they are the only certified CHODO. Ms. Khouri expressed her understanding there has been some concern but in 2010 the Alliance for Building Communities underwent new leadership and since then they have had several successful projects like the Greystone Apartments and other single family dwellings in Allentown.
Mr. Recchiuti mentioned a few years ago the City did give Alliance for Building Communities some money for this same project.
Ms. Khouri stated that is her understanding although she has not seen a complete project file on it.
Mr. Recchiuti asked if it is known what this project entails that is a rental property.
Ms. Khouri noted it would be a new construction, and right now is a big, unusable plot of land.
Mr. Recchiuti pointed out the organization used the money it received from the City before to tear down the building.
Ms. Khouri explained they applied to acquire and rehabilitate, time went by and for whatever reason the property further deteriorated, and they made it a demolition project instead, although it was not necessarily the initial intention.
Mr. Recchiuti asked if they have submitted a plan through zoning or planning for the project.
Ms. Khouri replied that Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, was on the panel that reviewed the project and certainly it would go through the required process before the City would sign a contract with them. In that case, if necessary, the City would have to revisit and reprogram it to some other activity.
Mr. Recchiuti asked if the City is confident with the new leadership at ABC and that it will not have an issue again.
Ms. Khouri replied yes.
Ms. Karner related with any organization when you have a change, whether in the Administration or leadership, there is certainly a different direction. She continued on to advise what needs to be noted in this instance is the City had not done a really good job in certifying the CHODO’s. There is a requirement to allocate 15% of HOME funds to a CHODO. In going back in the files that are fairly incomplete for this project, certification was not done for many years. Ms. Karner added this satisfies the requirements between the new direction or the new leadership within ABC and the need to identify CHODO’s that has become more and more difficult.
Mr. Recchiuti asked about the Housing Program Rehab staff and if someone has been hired.
Ms. Khouri replied yes and they both will begin on Monday.
Mr. Recchiuti, focusing on the East Fifth Street Project, asked if the amount that is $145,000 includes the overlay or is that coming out of the overlay program as well.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, responded that is to cover the overlay work as well.
Mr. Recchiuti recalled that a few years ago Carlton Avenue was on the list and asked the status.
Mr. Alkhal reported that Carlton Avenue also included some extensive water and sewer upgrade work that would be required as part of the project and that has not been able to be funded yet, so the project continues to be pushed out.
President Reynolds, turning to drug forfeiture money, asked when the City is involved in some type of investigation or there is drug forfeiture money does that money stay with the City of Bethlehem or does it go to Lehigh or Northampton County and then come back to the City.
Police Chief DiLuzio explained there are two types of forfeitures, State forfeitures and Federal forfeitures, depending on if it is a State prosecution or a Federal prosecution. For a State forfeiture, that money goes to the District Attorney’s office, the District Attorney’s (DA) office goes to the court with the case and files for forfeiture, and it stays under the control of that DA. If it is a Federal case and one of our detectives is sworn in as a Federal agent and is involved in that case, that goes to the Federal government, and the City gets a certain percent out of that forfeiture. That money comes from the Department of Justice directly back to the City. Police Chief DiLuzio further explained the City does not retain the money, it goes to the County and goes to the Federal government and the City gets a certain percent back.
President Reynolds asked how that allocation works as far as the County making that decision as to how much the City gets back.
Police Chief DiLuzio advised it is totally up to the District Attorney.
President Reynolds asked what some of the expenses are that this money is spent on.
Police Chief DiLuzio advised on the County level the money our undercover officers use is case money, money we have to put out to conduct an undercover investigation. It also pays for some overtime, pays for drug taskforce overtime, and the swearing in of those officers and detectives who work on task force. Police Chief DiLuzio noted on the Federal level there are the same type of guidelines. The money does come back to the City in different ways. The City also can use certain amounts, if he goes to a DA with a certain type of project and asks to fund that because it is a good project for the City. The DA may agree to fund it and buy the equipment. Police Chief DiLuzio added the DA also funds block watches through this source, such as funding for signs and equipment.
Police Chief DiLuzio, in further response to President Reynolds, confirmed that drug forfeiture money can be spent for equipment needs and overtime, and has been for years, even in the 1990’s when he worked on the drug unit.
President Reynolds asked if the City uses any forfeiture money for anything to having to do with getting out information, newsletters or flyers for the City of Bethlehem.
Police Chief DiLuzio noted that is part of the DA’s office that also has a County drug task force and they give information to the public, do demonstrations at schools, and there also is drug money that goes to community groups. Police Chief DiLuzio noted he was at a benefit a few months ago at which the DA gave drug forfeiture money to the Easton Boys Club. He added the money goes back in the community, such as for crime prevention. He exemplified this helps get young kids off the streets playing basketball at the boys club and not dealing drugs.
President Reynolds noted sometimes things are tied between the City of Bethlehem and Northampton County and there are questions as to where that money is coming from.
Police Chief DiLuzio advised it is governed by a State law and within that State law there are regulations and restrictions on what you can do with those funds, how you get them, and what they can be spent on.
Public Hearing - Public Comment
The Public Hearing was adjourned at 7:25 p.m.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of October 7, 2014 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
A. City Solicitor – Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of
Commerce – Christmas City Village
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 16, 2014 from William P. Leeson, Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and Use Permit Agreement between the City and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, by and through its Downtown Bethlehem Association, Franklin Hill Vineyards Sub-Permittee, for use of Nevin Place and Main Street from Broad Street to Church Street for the Christmas City Village for the time period November 21, 2014 through December 21, 2014, according to the Agreement.
President Reynolds stated that the Resolution will be listed on the November 5 Agenda.
B. City Council Member Resignation – Karen Dolan
The Clerk read a letter dated October 14, 2014 from Council Member Karen Dolan announcing her resignation from Bethlehem City Council as of November 1, 2014.
C. Mayor – Request to Fill Vacancy – Bureau of Streets
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 15, 2014 from Mayor Robert J. Donchez requesting the approval of Council to fill the Bureau of Streets – Maintenance Worker I vacancy. Over the past several months a higher position in the bureau became vacant, the posting process was conducted, and eventually the referenced position became open. With the impending leaf collection and winter operations, it is requested that the position be filled.
President Reynolds stated the Resolution will be placed on the November 5 Agenda.
D. Director of Community and Economic Development – Authorization for Contract – Republic
Services – Curbside Recycling
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 13, 2014 from Alicia Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development, requesting consideration of a Resolution to award a contract to Republic Services for Curbside Recycling.
President Reynolds stated that Resolution 9 H is listed on the Agenda.
E. Director of Community and Economic Development – Authorization for Contract – Victory
Gardens – Onsite Processing of Yardwaste and Leaves
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 13, 2014 from Alicia Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development, requesting consideration of a Resolution to award a contract to Victory Gardens for Onsite Processing of Yardwaste and Leaves.
President Reynolds stated that Resolution 9 I is listed on the Agenda.
F. City Solicitor – Revised Street Vacation Ordinance – Portion of Ninth Avenue and Tenth Avenue
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 16, 2014 from William P. Leeson, Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a revised Ordinance for the Vacation of Portions of Ninth Avenue and Tenth Avenue. Section 4 of the Ordinance relating to the utility easement being reserved for the City was revised after discussion with Attorney Faul, Solicitor for the Bethlehem Area School District.
President Reynolds stated that Bill No. 32 is listed on the Agenda for First Reading.
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Tomacene Nickens – Civil Service Board
The Mayor appointed Tomacene Nickens to membership on the Civil Service Board effective through October 2017. Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-200 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Dr. Joseph Lennert, Jr. – Civil Service Board
The Mayor appointed Dr. Joseph Lennert, Jr. to membership on the Civil Service Board effective through October 2018. Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-201 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
3. Administrative Order – Luke Cunningham– Civil Service Board
The Mayor appointed Luke Cunningham to membership on the Civil Service Board effective through October 2016. Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-202 to confirm the appointment
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
4. Administrative Order – Dr. Tiana Shekari – Civil Service Board
The Mayor appointed Dr. Tiana Shekari to membership on the Civil Service Board effective through October 2018. Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-203 to confirm the appointment.
5. Administrative Order – Rosalee Sabo – Civil Service Board
The Mayor appointed Rosalee Sabo as an Alternate on the Civil Service Board effective through October 2018. Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-204 to confirm the appointment.
6. Administrative Order – William Lee, Sr. – Civil Service Board
The Mayor appointed William Lee, Sr. as an Alternate on the Civil Service Board effective through October 2018. Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-205 to confirm the appointment.
C. Parks and Public Property Committee
Chairwoman Reuscher presented an oral report of the Parks and Public Property Committee meeting on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in Town Hall. The Committee unanimously recommended that City Council adopt an Ordinance for the following: Article 941 – Parks - Proposed Revisions. Ms. Reuscher noted in the meantime she will follow up with the Police Department about enforcement and improvement of dog leash laws.
Chairman Callahan presented an oral report of the Community Development Committee meeting on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in Town Hall. The Committee considered the following: Proposed 2015 CDBG and HOME Programs, and Consolidated Plan 2015-2019. The Committee recommended the City Council adopt a Resolution approving the 2015 CDBG and HOME Programs and the 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan at the November 5, 2014 City Council Meeting following the Public Hearing at the October 21, 2014 City Council Meeting.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING.
A. Bill No. 29 – 2014 – Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau, Police Department,
The Clerk read Bill No. 29 – 2014 - Amending General Fund Budget – Health Bureau, Police Department, EMS Bureau, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 29-2014, now known as Ordinance No. 2014-29 was adopted.
B. Bill No. 30 – 2014 – Amending Article 157 – Civil Service Board
The Clerk read Bill No. 30 – 2014 – Amending Article 157 – Civil Service Board, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 30-2014, now known as Ordinance No. 2014-30 was adopted.
C. Bill No. 31 – 2014 – Bond Issue – Refinancing Non-Utility Capital Bond Issues; Refinancing
Pension Bond Issue of 2004 – Police and Fire Pension Funds; New Pension Bond Issue – PMRS
The Clerk read Bill No. 31 – 2014 - Bond Issue – Refinancing Non-Utility Capital Bond Issues; Refinancing Pension Bond Issue of 2004 – Police and Fire Pension Funds; New Pension Bond Issue – PMRS, on Final Reading.
The Clerk read the Amendments to Bill No. 31 – 2014, to reflect the final pricing and structuring of the Bonds as concluded October 21, 2014, sponsored by Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans, as follows:
Mr. Callahan thanked David Brong, Business Administrator, for all the work that was done on the Bond Issue. He acknowledged it was a long process and he expressed his appreciation for all of the work that was done by all involved. Mr. Callahan believed this will be a bridge to get the City to where it needs to be when the TIF runs out.
Mr. Recchiuti echoed Mr. Callahan’s statements. He thanked Mr. Brong and Mr. Sivak. Mr. Recchiuti said he understands from speaking earlier with Scott Schearer, Managing Director of Public Financial Management, that the City had good news today with the bond sale.
Mr. Brong reported the City did, and pointed out the original estimates were for the tax exempt series to achieve a rate in the market of about 3% and the City actually got a rate of 2.33% of an effective rate for the monies being financed. For the taxable series that was the major share, the original estimate was a 5.1% effective rate and the City obtained a 4.61% effective rate. Mr. Brong stated this means the City is very happy that the conditions in the market aligned for a Triple B rated entity like the City to get rates like this, and is very favorable. Secondly, the City is actually doing more financially, and is able to achieve more through the improved rates. Lastly, the rates also allowed the City to do a little bit more with the Non-Utility Capital portion than originally intended. Mr. Brong, affirming the City took advantage of that, said he thinks it is the prudent thing to do right now. Mr. Brong restated the City has done really well with this transaction.
President Reynolds, referring to the City’s bond rating that is currently Triple B, asked if there is any expectation about what these borrowings will do to the bond rating in the future.
Mr. Brong commented it will not do anything to them. He said that the structural changes from these actions, as well as the actions Council has yet to see as part of the Proposed 2015 Budget, and actions the City has yet to endeavor as part of future years’ budgets, will create the stability in the General Fund that will cause the rating agencies to look more favorably. Recognizing there is some work to do, Mr. Brong stated these transactions in and of themselves are not going to diminish or strengthen the City’s Bond Rating.
Mr. Evans pointed out the City has clear savings from the projections that were looked at with the Finance Committee. He asked where the difference or the savings are to be applied as far as the debt service chart. Noting there are some significant savings in years one and two and then throughout the other years, asked was it spread out over the difference in the debt service that was projected versus what it will now be.
Mr. Brong replied slightly but minimally, and only because the City still has to put the Bond Issue in front of the State DCED that has certain requirements as far as how to deal with some of the savings generated in the transaction. He noted there are more savings than originally communicated but most of it is in years one and two at least for the Non-Utility Capital refinancing, and also the current Refunding of the 2004 Pension Bond. Mr. Brong stated those savings are going to be somewhat front end loaded in order to accommodate the regulations of the DCED. The savings on the new money are going to be spread throughout so that transaction was meant to normalize a very high expense for the next 8 years over the course of 20 years.
Mr. Evans noted each of those would be spread out over 10 to 12 years.
Mr. Brong stated the new money is a 20 year Pension Bond, and the majority of the savings is within the first two years.
Voting AYE on the Amendments: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Amendments passed.
Voting AYE on Bill No. 31 - 2014, as Amended: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 31 - 2014, now known as Ordinance No. 2014 - 31, was adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES.
A. Bill No. 32 – 2014 – Street Vacation Ordinance – Portion of Ninth Avenue and Tenth Avenue
The Clerk read Bill No. 32 – 2014 – Street Vacation Ordinance – Portion of Ninth Avenue and Tenth Avenue, sponsored by Mr. Evans and Ms. Reuscher, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING THE VACATION,
DISCONTINUANCE AND STRIKING FROM THE CITY’S
GENERAL PLAN OF STREETS OF A PORTION OF
NINTH AVENUE AND A PORTION OF TENTH AVENUE
IN THE THIRTEENTH (13TH) WARD OF THE CITY OF
BETHLEHEM, COUNTY OF LEHIGH, PENNSYLVANIA.
President Reynolds pointed out the Street Vacation has to do with the building of the new Nitschmann Middle School.
Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, replied yes.
President Reynolds asked how long is it expected for this portion of the street to be closed during construction.
Mr. Alkhal stated that he does not know for certain.
President Reynolds wondered if the City knows whether the people in the neighborhood have been informed of this and noted this question might be for the Bethlehem Area School District.
Mr. Alkhal affirmed the School District had some public meetings, as was discussed in the press, but he does not know if they have reached out to the neighbors about this matter.
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 32 – 2014 was passed on First Reading.
A. Approving Intermunicipal Transfer of Restaurant Liquor Licensee – 123 West Fourth Street
Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-206 that approved Intermunicipal Transfer of Liquor License No. R-7324 from Mishjo, LLC t/a 3 Brothers Ale House, 1031 Butler Street, Easton, Wilson Borough, Northampton County, Pennsylvania to Publik House, LLC 123 West Fourth Street, Bethlehem, Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Recchiuti wished the proprietors of Publik House the best of luck in their endeavor.
B. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of
Commerce – 2014 Doggie Day
Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Evans sponsored Resolution No. 2014-207 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between the City and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, by and through its Downtown Bethlehem Association, for use of Nevin Place and Main Street from entrance of Hotel Bethlehem Parking Lot to Broad Street, for 2014 Doggie Day, for November 2, 2014 according to the terms of the Agreement.
Considering Resolutions 9 C through 9 G as a Group
Mr. Recchiuti and Mr. Callahan moved to consider Resolutions 9 C through 9 G as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The motion passed.
C. Certificate of Appropriateness – 428 Main Street
Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher sponsored Resolution No. 2014-208 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a vinyl window sign in the storefront window at 428 Main Street.
D. Certificate of Appropriateness – 58 East Wall Street
Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher sponsored Resolution No. 2014-209 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the front screen door and the rear storm door with new storm doors at 58 East Wall Street.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 518 Main Street
Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher sponsored Resolution No. 2014-210 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to change the exterior colors of the building and repaint at 518 Main Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 438 Center Street
Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher sponsored Resolution No. 2014-211 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the roof at 438 Center Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 254 East Church Street
Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher sponsored Resolution No. 2014-212 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the roof at 254 East Church Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions C through G: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolutions passed.
H. Authorizing Contract – Republic Services – Curbside Recycling
Mr. Evans and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution No. 2014-213 that authorized the execution of a Contract between the City of Bethlehem and Republic Services for Curbside Collection of Recycling.
Mr. Recchiuti noticed that it states there is an increase of 10% but then on the back it states a 5% decrease below 2014 contract.
Michael Conway, Recycling Director, explained actually it is a decrease of 3% over 2014.
Mr. Recchiuti mentioned it is not a 5% decrease but on the front it says a 10% increase.
Mr. Conway noted the form says 10%, and it is the way the form was made up, and it is actually a 3% decrease.
Mr. Recchiuti pointed out this is part of the contract the City had for 5 one year options, and asked if the City can negotiate those.
Mr. Conway stated the City did negotiate that. The way the contract was originally written was for 5 one year extensions up to a 5% increase and the City negotiated it down 3%.
Mr. Recchiuti asked when the company picks up the recycling do they sell it themselves or is it something that the City retains ownership of and the City sells the material.
Mr. Conway replied the City retains ownership and sells it.
Mr. Recchiuti observed the City is just contracting with the company for the service so their biggest expense is gasoline.
Mr. Conway stated that is correct.
Mr. Recchiuti wondered if the City could negotiate lower now that the price of gasoline has gone down.
Mr. Conway, affirming that gasoline is a fluctuating commodity, noted it is never known if it will go up or if it will go down. Affirming the City negotiated this year at 3%, pointed out it is not certain if it will go down halfway through this year, and was part of the consideration with the 3% decrease.
I. Authorizing Contract – Victory Gardens – Onsite Processing of Yardwaste and Leaves
Mr. Evans and Mr. Callahan sponsored Resolution No. 2014-214 that authorized the execution of a Contract between the City of Bethlehem and Victory Gardens for Onsite Processing of Yardwaste and Leaves.
Mr. Callahan asked if the City went through all of the 2013 compost and mulch.
Mr. Conway reported the City is not through all of the 2013 compost and mulch. He has been in talks with Victory Gardens about selling it back to them or if whether the City could sell that to another company. Mr. Callahan noted that, since some is left from 2013, the City must have all of 2014 also. Mr. Conway stated that is correct, and added the City is just about out of the compost for 2013. Mr. Callahan asked what the rate would be on that if the City sold it back to them. Mr. Conway advised that is what the City is in negotiation about. Mr. Callahan wondered how many cubic yards the City has. Mr. Conway noted for 2014 it is at 10,000 cubic yards in each compost and mulch, and for 2013 there is almost no mulch left but in compost for 2013 there is about 300 or 400 cubic yards.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
Rescheduling First City Council Meeting in November to Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Mr. Callahan and Ms. Reuscher moved to reschedule the first City Council Meeting in November to Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall, since Tuesday, November 4, 2014 is Election Day.
Voting AYE: Mr. Callahan, Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Motion passed.
City Council Vacancy - Seat of Karen Dolan – Resignation Effective November 1, 2014 -
Vacancy to be Filled from November 5, 2014 to January 4, 2016
President Reynolds noted that the options as they pertain to the filling of the City Council vacancy, after Council received a communication (Communication 5 B that was read earlier) from Council Member Karen Dolan, will be discussed. President Reynolds advised there are two different options as far as the way Council can proceed to fill the vacancy. President Reynolds stated he will leave it up to the Members of Council to choose Option A or Option B. President Reynolds explained these options have the same basic tenets of the process, but the biggest difference would be whether the Members would choose the person to fill the second year of Council Member Dolan’s four year term either at the City Council Meeting on November 5, or the next City Council Meeting after that on November 18. He pointed out the two options are the same process but one has a shorter time frame.
President Reynolds advised for Option A the Members of Council would forward any questions they may have for candidates to the City Clerk’s Office by Thursday, October 23 at 4:00 p.m. This is similar to how Council proceeded with the City Controller’s vacancy two years ago. Candidates who wish to apply can send a cover letter, resume, and obtain the list of questions starting Friday, October 24. Individuals who have inquired previously about the vacancy will receive an email with the process. President Reynolds continued on to state that cover letters, resumes and responses, if candidates desire, to questions from Members of Council will be accepted until Friday, October 31 at 12:00 Noon. Information submitted by candidates will be forwarded to Members of Council on Friday, October 31 by 4:30 PM. A legal ad stating the acceptance of letters of interest, resumes, and responses to questions will be placed in the newspaper and online as soon as possible. At the Wednesday, November 5 Rescheduled City Council Meeting, Members of Council will consider a Resolution electing an individual to serve from November 5, 2014 to January 4, 2016.
President Reynolds advised that Option B is for Members of Council to forward their questions for candidates to the City Clerk’s Office by Friday, October 24 at 4:00 pm. Candidates who wish to apply can send a cover letter, resume, and obtain the list of questions starting Monday, October 27. Individuals who have inquired previously about the vacancy will receive an email with the process. President Reynolds stated that cover letters, resumes and responses, if candidates desire, to questions from Members of Council will be accepted until Friday, November 7 at 12:00 Noon. Information submitted by candidates will be forwarded to Members of Council on Friday, November 7 by 4:30 PM. A legal ad stating the acceptance of letters of interest, resumes, and responses to questions will be placed in the newspaper and online. At the Tuesday, November 18 City Council Meeting, Members of Council will consider a Resolution electing an individual to serve from November 18, 2014 to January 4, 2016.
President Reynolds explained that, because the vacancy is occurring this year, according to the election law, the person filling the vacancy would be filling the last year of the first two years’ of Council Member Dolan’s term. Council Member Dolan’s term began January 2014 and ends January 2018. The timeframe to fill the vacancy would basically be for all of 2015, and approximately two months of 2014. There would be a special election next year in 2015 to fill the remainder of Council Member Dolan’s term for the years 2016 and 2017 following the usual Primary and General Election process by which there would actually be a separate election than the election for the 4 year City Council term. President Reynolds noted there would be 3 seats on City Council up for 4 year terms, and there would be one separate seat that would be a 2 year term remaining from Councilwoman Dolan’s term by which that seat would get back on the cycle with the other 3 seats.
President Reynolds noted Option A and Option B have many similarities but the biggest difference is that Members of Council would pick the individual to fill the vacancy at either the November 5 or November 18 City Council Meeting.
Mr. Recchiuti believed that Option A presents a quick time frame but it would be in the best interest of whoever is seated to fill Ms. Dolan’s seat in the sense that City Council will hold its first Budget Meeting on November 13. Mr. Recchiuti stated it would be very important for whoever fills the seat to participate in the budget meetings because they would be expected to vote on the Proposed 2015 Budget in December. Mr. Recchiuti thought it would be fair to that person to be seated as soon as possible so they can have the adequate time necessary to review the proposed Budget and participate in the budget meeting process, and stated that he supports Option A.
Mr. Evans stated he also supports Option A. Affirming that Council has been through the vacancy process recently in January and February this year, said Council knows the steps that work effectively when the Members filled former Council Member Donchez’s seat since he was elected the Mayor. Mr. Evans noted a few current Members of Council participated when the Controller seat was vacated, and there were some similar actions with the filling of that seat. Mr. Evans thought it is critically important as Mr. Recchiuti pointed out that Council has the seventh Member join before the Budget Hearings start. Mr. Evans highlighted the fact that, with Option B, Council would be trying to work on the Budget at the same time as the filling of the seventh seat, and until the candidate is chosen and joins Council there will have been budget meetings already by November 18. He continued on to say it puts the person in a difficult situation if they have not been at a few of the budget meetings. Mr. Evans, commenting it would be important to move on Option A, noted the timeline is quick, and if Council wants to add any questions to the list they should send those to the City Clerk’s office by Thursday. Mr. Evans believed the process will move quickly, Council can have all of the information on Friday, and it gives candidates a full week to answer questions and respond. On October 31, Council will get all the information, and anyone interested in asking candidates questions has time to do that, to reach out and make phone calls if it is not someone the Members are familiar with. The Members can contact a candidate after receiving their resume and have Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to call them. Mr. Evans thought it is fair for both sides and prudent that Council move forward to include the individual in the budget discussions. He restated it is important that Council move with Option A.
Mr. Callahan advised he supports Option A also. He expressed his concern that if Council nominates an individual, then they are asking that person to start ramping up a campaign for May for the Primary.
President Reynolds noted the process for anyone who would choose to run for City Council next year would involve the petition process that would start in a month or two and the Primary Election would be in May.
Mr. Callahan expressed he knows the intent of Council last time with an opening when former Council Member Donchez became Mayor was to do the best, but Council was criticized a bit on the length of the process with a grueling interview process for the candidates. Mr. Callahan noted Council tried to do its best as far as getting the best person seated, which he believes they did, but at the same time with the proximity of the next election he would prefer that Council maybe appoints someone who would be willing not to turn around and run for election in the Primary. Mr. Callahan stated he does not want to be seen as appointing someone and giving them an unfair advantage over anyone else who would chose to run in the May Primary. He does not know the will of Council but his preference would be to nominate someone after going through the questions provided who agrees they would just serve out the remainder of the 14 or 15 months’ period with the understanding that they would not run and have no intent to run in the Primary in May. He said it is not Council’s position, and it should be left up to the voters to decide who will sit on Council, and Council appointing someone so close to the election could be seen as giving someone an unfair advantage.
Mr. Waldron asked if there would be a way to mandate that. He did not think that Council has the power or prerogative to say that someone cannot run for Council if they are given this appointment. He continued on to comment it is something to consider and approach whether Council wants to install someone who would have to start campaigning three months after being sworn in as a Member of Council.
President Reynolds stated this might be a good opportunity to put in as one of the questions to the potential Council Member as to whether or not they would choose to run for election or not. Obviously, President Reynolds said he does not think there is anything legally. He noted that people have said in the past in all levels of government that they are not interested in running, or only serving a certain amount of terms, and they decided to break their promise. They face the citizens and the voters with that particular issue and it is on them to convince the voters why they are the best person. President Reynolds did not believe there is anything that Council can do, if that person is qualified for that office, that could make that person if they said they would not run and turn around a month later and broke that promise, and there is no way to mandate that.
Mr. Waldron, observing that Council might be getting a bit ahead of themselves, highlighted the fact that the matter is to focus on Option A and Option B, and Council could always hash out other things in the process, such as the idea of running for election or not. Mr. Waldron thought if Council did go with Option B that would give a November 18 appointment. Since the first budget meeting is November 13, he inquired whether that person would be able to legally vote on the budget if they were not at all the budget meetings in the process.
President Reynolds asked John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Council Solicitor, to respond.
Solicitor Spirk stated if they are here they can vote.
President Reynolds, noting the budget hearings are informational, said he would think if Council chose Option B that anyone interested in the appointment would come to the budget meeting on November 13 and listen to the proceedings.
Mr. Recchiuti believed that Council needs to leave politics out of this a bit, and noted it is not Council’s role to determine who is running and who is not running. Recalling that Council has asked that question in the past, said if someone would consider running for office and they do not, that is on them not on Council if they break a promise. Mr. Recchiuti commented he is not sure if that should be a consideration as to who Council is going to vote for. He added he is not sure that Council should be worried about the politics of appointing someone, but rather about appointing someone who will fill the seat and do a good job.
In response to Mr. Callahan, Mr. Recchiuti affirmed he understands the concern of Mr. Callahan but he is not sure that should be a priority.
President Reynolds noted that Mr. Callahan can certainly make his own priorities. President Reynolds concurred with the idea that it will be easy for someone to get appointed and if they were to turn around and run it could be seen as an unfair advantage. President Reynolds communicated that, coming through the situation and knowing there are various opinions on City Council as to the resignation of Council Member Dolan, stated it is important for City Council to move on as a Board and take whatever steps are necessary to make this process one in which they allow the citizens and people of Bethlehem the most say here. President Reynolds said he tends to agree with Mr. Callahan in considering whether or not that person intends to run for the remainder of this term. President Reynolds noted many Members of Council regretted that they could only pick one of the many candidates to fill former Council Member Donchez’s seat, and ultimately it comes down to elections and to democracy. President Reynolds believed that Council allowed the citizens of Bethlehem the most influence in choosing their elected officials going forward, so he does tend to agree with Mr. Callahan as far as something he will be looking at regarding someone who would likely decide not to run. President Reynolds pointed out what Council is looking for and has spoken about is the importance of getting the person seated for the budget cycle. He further stated that Council needs someone to come in who has a lot of knowledge already and can step right in and be a productive Member of Council in this important budget cycle. President Reynolds related that Mr. Brong and Mayor Donchez have talked in the past several months how important this particular budget is for the future of the City of Bethlehem structurally. President Reynolds thought someone who can get on board to provide a different perspective, maybe a perspective that Council does not have, is something Council should be looking for. President Reynolds believed Council will likely be in the same situation as 10 months ago, by which there were many candidates, and there were 7, 8 or 9 people Council would have liked to vote for but could only pick one. President Reynolds stated the best solution is to allow the voters to decide, so someone who would like to step up and serve the City for 14 months, if they want to run for election they could choose to, but as far as he is concerned that is something he will strongly consider as well.
Ms. Reuscher, noting this is a short time line, pointed out the process outlined with both options allows it to be very open and comprehensive, and allows the public a great deal of information about every candidate by publishing the responses. Ms. Reuscher believed this eliminates any concerns about it being turned around on such a short timeframe. Ms. Reuscher said she would support Option A so that whoever ends up filling Councilwoman Dolan’s seat would be included from the beginning of the discussions on the Proposed 2015 Budget.
President Reynolds stated it appears that the majority of City Council would prefer Option A to Option B. President Reynolds, affirming that Council will proceed with Option A, read it again. President Reynolds advised that Option A would be for the Members of Council to forward any questions they may have for candidates to the City Clerk’s Office by Thursday, October 23 at 4:00 pm. Candidates who wish to apply can send a cover letter, resume, and obtain the list of questions starting Friday, October 24. Individuals who have inquired previously about the vacancy will receive an email with the process. President Reynolds continued on to say that cover letters, resumes and responses, if candidates desire, to questions from Members of Council will be accepted until Friday, October 31 at 12:00 Noon. President Reynolds noted the reason for picking 12:00 Noon is so that the City Clerk’s Office has the opportunity to gather all of the information and get it out to City Council. Information submitted by candidates will be forwarded to Members of Council on Friday, October 31 by 4:30 PM. A legal ad stating the acceptance of letters of interest, resumes, and responses to questions will be placed in the newspaper and online as soon as possible. At the Wednesday, November 5 Rescheduled City Council Meeting, Members of Council will consider a Resolution electing an individual to serve from November 5, 2014 to January 4, 2016.
Mr. Waldron suggested that the timeline be posted on the City website.
Mr. Evans commented on the questions. Noting there would be 8 to 10 questions from each Member of Council, observed maybe there would be some overlapping of questions. He noted some Members may just submit 1 or 2 questions but others may submit 8 or 9. Mr. Evans asked whether under President Reynolds’ discretion that once the questions are received to keep a limit of 10 questions total. He thought that would be more appropriate than having 32 questions, for example, because it might be overwhelming and redundant. Mr. Evans believed Council can focus on 5 to 10 questions. The Members can always follow up if they have an interest in a particular candidate and have more questions, and they can call those candidates based on the resumes received.
President Reynolds stated he agrees with Mr. Evans and reiterated that Option A is what Council will proceed with.
11. PUBLIC COMMENT.
Traffic; Parking; Parking Fines and Signs
Arthur Curatola, 813 Laufer Street, said he believed more money could be brought into the City by eliminating some minor and major problems, and the more fresh to jump into action the Police will be when emergencies arise. Mr. Curatola asserted the City does not need fender benders, causing Police to do unnecessary work, to have to appear at the scene of an accident, that may be causing physical and psychological stress to pedestrians and vehicle drivers, and/or property damage, because certain individuals like to park close to their home and up to the corners of intersections or up to the stop signs becoming traffic hazards. There are also people who double park and this becomes a traffic hazard. Mr. Curatola suggested that to help eliminate all illegal parking problems, double parking, parking too close to stop signs or the intersections in business and residential districts signs should be placed stating tow away zone plus a $550 dollar fine if parked too close to a stop sign or too close to the corner or double parked. Mr. Curatola said he realizes there would be a cost to the City to put these signs up, but he thought the City could be a trendsetter so at least the Police or the Parking Authority could ticket someone who does these things. Remarking that he sees these problems as causing fender benders, and hopefully not a loss of life, Mr. Curatola said the City needs to eliminate the problem.
Campaign Finance Reports
Emily Gibbs, 409 Evans Street, advised she looked on the City of Bethlehem website at the campaign reports that were online. Ms. Gibbs expressed that after looking at them and having to add things up the contributions might imply a conflict of interest in something that will be voted on during the November 5 City Council Meeting that is the Benner Development on the 4th and Vine Streets corner. Ms. Gibbs stated the contributions are from Dennis Benner, and read the contributions to J. William Reynolds - $3,050; Mayor Robert Donchez - $2,500; Bryan Callahan - $1,500; Michael Recchiuti - $1,000; Adam Waldron - $600. Ms. Gibbs remarked there are only two members of Council who were not given contributions by Mr. Benner and one was because of being appointed and that person did not have to go through a campaign. Ms. Gibbs hoped that none of this influences the decisions made by Council and that they consider what everyone is saying.
Proposed 9 Story Building – Fourth and Vine Streets – Benner Project – Appropriateness in South Side Historic District
Michael DeCrosta, 914 Walters Street, informed the assembly that last night the Historic Conservation Commission voted 5-2 in favor of the 9 story building proposed by Dennis Benner on the corner of 4th and Vine Streets. He said this is relevant because City Council will be providing the final say on this matter on November 5. Mr. DeCrosta noted Mr. Benner has already had a 7 story building approved for this corner by the Commission and by Council. He read from some quotes provided by Lehigh Valley Live on the votes, as follows. President Reynolds said that in reference to the 7 story building it was something that had been unanimously approved by the South Side Historic Commission and their support was important. Alicia Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development, also weighed in stating that they certainly want to make sure we are conforming with the desires of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District. Mr. DeCrosta continued on to say anyone who witnessed last night’s meeting witnessed a Historic Commission whose opinion changed vastly from the previous meeting. He said at that meeting Ms. Karner stated that whether or not the Historic Commission supported the decision she believed Mayor Donchez and City Council would be in favor of the development. Mr. DeCrosta commented this led to the Commission’s discussion about the relevance of the Commission, and whether voting no would give the impression that developers can ultimately simply get Council’s approval on projects, rendering the Historic Commission powerless. Mr. DeCrosta pointed out Christine Ussler, Historic Officer, was quoted as saying there is a fear that, if the Board is often overruled by Council, this developer and other developers will get the sense that the Commission does not count. Board Members said they were concerned with the height of the building. Mr. DeCrosta thought this does not reflect the process whereby the Historic Commission was empowered or respected enough to give any sort of real recommendation to City Council. He said it represents a process whereby the Commission was bullied and pressured to provide an answer that suited the agenda of the developer. Mr. DeCrosta remarked any sense that Council should support this building because the Historic Commission supported it is simply a false reality. He expressed the opinion that the role Alicia Karner played in that meeting, essentially applying political pressure during a public forum, was incredibly shameful. He said Ms. Karner essentially advised the Commission that the City had negotiated the height of the building down to a level that still concerned Commission members and resulted in two no votes, and that was the level regardless of what the Commission recommended would be acceptable to City Council and the Mayor. Mr. DeCrosta commented that, in the absence of someone in any department of the City who is willing to take all of these matters on, all we have is City Council. Mr. DeCrosta thanked Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher for coming to a meeting on Sunday that he said was the first step in someone coming and listening to what residents had to say, and is all they want in the first place. Mr. DeCrosta stressed that Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher are the last hope that is standing in this monumental, big decision that will be made. Mr. DeCrosta noted, as has been said, it is not just about one 9 story building. It is about the history and the future of the landscape of the South Side that can change dramatically with the vote on November 5 because of the precedent this can set. Mr. DeCrosta said he cannot stress how important these matters are in shaping the future of the South Side, and expressed the hope that Council continues to talk to them during this process.
Breena Holland, 379 Carver Drive, communicated that the Historic Conservation Commission meeting last night was a really concerning meeting. Ms. Holland said she was deeply disturbed by the way the meeting played out, it really destroyed the democratic process and the power that was given to the Commission to provide independent advice to Council on whether or not a building of 9 stories that Mr. Benner is proposing is historically appropriate. Pointing out that the Historic Commission was set up to answer those kinds of questions, Ms. Holland observed the way the information came out, and noting she does not mean to say it was the intent of the Mayor or Alicia Karner to do this but just coming to the meeting and presenting to the Commission, was basically that if the Commission did not approve the building they were not going to have any further influence on the process of designing the building. Ms. Holland believed this was quite intimidating, and the Commission then engaged in the discussion about their own relevance, and what they had to do to keep that relevance. They did not engage in a discussion about the historic appropriateness of the building which is their job. Ms. Holland stressed that is why it is a concern. There is something wrong with the process when you are forcing the people who you appoint to give you advice based on expertise and public input, and then threatening them that if they give the input honestly and it disagrees with other people and what the City wants then actually they are not going to have any say in the process. Ms. Holland remarked this is a big problem and a big concern. She communicated that, in case Council is thinking there is any legitimacy to what they pointed out, one should really take a look at the letter that was drafted by the Bethlehem Historic Society that was read at the beginning of the Meeting. Ms. Holland advised the letter explicitly stated the building proposed by Mr. Benner was something the Historic Society completely opposed and was beyond historic appropriateness of scale, mass and architectural design. Ms. Holland noted the Historic Society is an independent body that is not at all influenced by City politics and the Society said absolutely not, the proposal of Mr. Benner is not a good idea, and was disturbing. Ms. Holland said she would really like to see some involvement in listening to the community and what people are saying. She informed the Members there were a number of business people at the Historic Conservation Commission meeting last night who talked about their concerns about what this will mean for their business. She explained that a big concern is how this will end up supporting larger chain stores when these kinds of buildings are available, and how that will push out the kinds of things that make South Bethlehem unique. Ms. Holland pointed out no one has spoken about what it will take to construct this building, the displacement it will create, and the way it will shut down traffic for businesses that need traffic to survive. Ms. Holland, advising this is a problem and the group would like to see more dialogue around this, said they are developing a plan to talk about the Western Gateway area that has been spoken about with many community voices, and what people think is good for that community. Ms. Holland hoped the body of elected officials will do something more to help guide the process of Mr. Benner’s development that is a massive change to the South Side, and put it in a way that fits the needs and interests of the people who actually live there.
Peter Crownfield, 407 Delaware Avenue, said he was also troubled by the Historic Conservation Commission meeting last night. Mr. Crownfield explained he is more concerned with the integrity of the process and if we are using facts and analysis to get to where we need to go. Communicating that everyone is entitled to their own opinions about whether this sort of development is right for the South Side or anywhere else, or whether this will help or hurt the South Side, Mr. Crownfield commented that is a matter of opinion. Mr. Crownfield pointed out that the Historic Society had no trouble identifying that this building did not fit the guidelines of the South Side, and added it does not fit them at all. He continued on to say it does not comply with the City’s own design guidelines that are in writing produced by the City, and it goes against both the spirit and letter of those guidelines. Mr. Crownfield thought that some members of the Historic Commission may in fact be confused or misled about what is expected of them, although it is pretty clear in the Ordinance that they are to approve projects that fit the guidelines and reject those that do not. Mr. Crownfield asserted there is no question that the proposed Benner project does not fit the guidelines. He said the fact that there are some elements that sort of fit does not mean that you can ignore the guidelines. Mr. Crownfield believed the Historic Conservation Commission’s decision was wrong and it should be overruled by Council. Mr. Crownfield stated that to anyone involved with Council or the Administration who might have pushed the Commissioners or individual members to approve a project that violates the guidelines, that would be totally inappropriate, and would be violating the City’s own Ordinance. Mr. Crownfield pointed out leadership requires thought and facts and analysis, not power. Mr. Crownfield advised one thing that has yet to come up and should come up in this process are the environmental and sustainability issues with the building. He stated there should also be an EAC opinion on the proposed project. Mr. Crownfield repeated that several merchants are very concerned about the possibility of actually having to leave because of traffic problems that will be created by this type of massive construction.
Proposed 9 Story Building – Fourth and Vine Streets – Benner Project – Existing Infrastructure
Mingkai Jihng stated he is also concerned about the proposed Benner development. He pointed out it is a big development and there is an influx of residents to that region. Mr. Jihng said his question is about the fact that the City has already invested many resources available to facilitate this development but he is concerned about the existing infrastructure to support the building, especially the sewage system. He wondered if the City has the capacity to support the development, and why is this so late to the public discussion with this issue when they already utilized public resources to facilitate this development.
Proposed 9 Story Building – Fourth and Vine Streets – Benner Project – Appropriateness in South Side Historic District
Michael Quesada, 484 Birkel Avenue, stated he is concerned about the approval of the building on 4th and Vine Streets. Mr. Quesada noted a few weeks ago Mr. Benner attended the Historic Conservation Commission meeting and spoke about a renaissance, and portrayed the building as being a part of the renaissance. Mr. Quesada stressed that in looking at the historic context of renaissance, it refers to the rediscovery of Roman and Greek ideas that led to an abundance of fantastic art, music, paintings, architecture. When he speaks of renaissance, Mr. Quesada queried should that not focus on rediscovering the history of Bethlehem and in trying to bring that history back rather than trying to create new vision. Mr. Quesada noted if Mr. Benner wants to put in this building that is fine but why not work with him such as to create a South Side Bethlehem that resembles what it used to look like and incorporate that history. Mr. Quesada commented that Council Members speak of representing the people and letting them decide so why not try to work with the community and all should work with Mr. Benner to create a South Side that is representative of that history. Expressing that he imagines everyone has pride of being a resident of Bethlehem, Mr. Quesada said why not try to recapture that history, pride and nationalism that characterizes the City.
Seth Moglen, 726 Hillside Avenue, noted he is resident of the South Side for the past 15 years and teaches at Lehigh University. For some years, he was the Director of the South Side Initiative and is a great believer of economic and community development on the South Side for that reason. Mr. Moglen added he served for many years on the Board of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem. While commenting that development is a high priority in the community, Mr. Moglen stated he is also at the Meeting to speak about the proposed Benner development. Mr. Moglen said he wants to ask all on Council to think very seriously about the implications of this development for South Bethlehem between now and the next Council Meeting. Mr. Moglen thought this is more of an important decision than Council is aware and most importantly he thinks Council may be quite surprised at how widespread the concern is about this development. Mr. Moglen stated he was not at the Historic Conservation Commission Meeting last night because he thought there was no need to go. He recalled the preceding meeting went on for hours and it was a wonderful occasion and a marvelous demonstration with third and fourth generation South Side residents speaking against the proposal. Mr. Moglen added they had South Side business owners all of whom would be familiar to Council speaking against the proposal. There were Members of the South Bethlehem Historical Society and members of the local arts community, faculty, and students at the meeting. Mr. Moglen communicated that the logic is familiar as Mr. Crownfield has pointed out. The Historic Conservation Commission guidelines are absolutely straightforward. When there is a 2 story building one cannot put a 4 story building next to it that is a simple guideline. Mr. Moglen, remarking that a 9 story building sounds like a joke, stated it should be said that the City does not have a historic district anymore and that is okay if people want to do that. Mr. Moglen, observing it could be said that historic preservation is secondary and unimportant and the City needs to have big buildings, noted that is a legitimate decision that might be made as a community. Mr. Moglen advised at the Historic Conservation Commission meeting last month that he attended he asked the members of the Commission if there was anyone who could offer any argument to justify the scale of the proposed 9 story building and there was not one member. Mr. Moglen remarked in making this decision what is being decided is that the South Side does not deserve the form of historical protection that all of us know the North Side deserves and receives. Mr. Moglen wondered if anyone believes that a 9 or 12 story residential building would be constructed on Main Street today, and stressed it would not even be under consideration by Council. Mr. Moglen asked if Council is valuing the historic integrity of the community on the South Side in a way that one would value the historical integrity of North Bethlehem. Mr. Moglen, saying he knows that everyone on Council and in the Administration has the best interest of the City at heart, commented that Ms. Karner has the best interest of the City at heart, and Mayor Donchez who is a native son of the South Side has the best interest of the City at heart. Mr. Moglen stressed he is not impugning anyone’s motivations but he wants to ask Council to think about the upcoming vote on this. Mr. Moglen queried if Council is really thinking about whether South Bethlehem deserves the protection of its historical integrity and do they believe the community will thrive on the basis of that. Highlighting the fact that the City has an Ordinance that states that we as a community believe that, Mr. Mogen observed the City is clearly in danger now of violating that Ordinance.
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, commented that over a period of a few Council Meetings concerned citizens came before Council concerning an issue and asked serious questions about behavior of one of the Members of Council. Those questions were never answered and people who spoke were given blank stares and no comment. Mr. Antalics said we did get our answers but that took a Grand Jury to get those answers. Mr. Antalics remarked that Council is a consortium of independent, unrelated individuals but they have a common goal and a common denominator that is to serve the will of the people and the citizens, but he said we are not served when we ask these questions. Mr. Antalics expressed that the Grand Jury cast a pall upon the City of Bethlehem. He asserted that Council could have taken upon themselves to censure that individual and it would have not come to this. Mr. Antalics noted Council has a chance to make amends, the people behind him speaking are in the same position we were in way back when we spoke and asked questions about the welfare of the community in terms of our money. Mr. Antalics stated that to ignore these people will continue action by Council that he finds negligent. He added we put you where you are so you should listen to us. Mr. Antalics stated Council should do their job and listen to the people and stand up because these people are the voice of the City.
Community Asset Mapping
Brooke Kohler, Florida Drive, a Lehigh University graduate student, brought up the idea of community asset mapping. She explained it was an activity by which they walked around the historic district and looked at all of the assets in the community. Ms. Kohler noted they looked at the community centers, the local businesses, the walkability of the area, and found the South Side Historic area really had many assets. Ms. Kohler explained she would like to bring to attention all of those different assets and how they might be impacted by the construction of the proposed development on 4th and Vine Street. Ms. Kohler stated these are things like walkability, foot traffic for community members in the area, or health concerns possibly for the construction workers or for local community members walking by as far as pollution goes. Ms. Kohler noted community engagement within those different assets of places that will be going on with the construction are impacted, as well as noise pollution.
Smart Growth Principles; Types of Buildings in South Side; Fahy Bridge
Sarabeth Brockley, 516 Montclair Avenue, stated she has been a Bethlehem and Lehigh Valley resident her entire life, loves it here, and it is a great place to live. Ms. Brockley advised she is speaking as a Lehigh student and also as a resident of the area. Ms. Brockley referred to a document that is part of the Department of Planning and Zoning permits and speaks to the idea of what smart growth principles are, and the precedence of types of buildings. She hoped that Council reiterates the types of principles located in the Department of Planning and Zoning in 2008. Ms. Brockley stated the first one is creating a range of housing opportunities and choices. The second is creating walkable neighborhoods. The third is to foster distinctive attractive communities with a strong sense of place. After attending the Historic Building Society meetings, Ms. Brockley stated she would say that one is in critical danger so that would be a low grade if this were graded. Ms. Brockley noted that discourse creates lively citizens, and being able to listen to students and to older generations. Ms. Brockley said she was pleased about how many people showed up at the historic meetings because she thought as a student maybe there was not that type of level of engagement from community members, but there is more interest from community members that actually lived here their entire lives than there is from students. She advised that the fourth is probably the most important one that is to make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective. She said this means to listen to all of us but to also listen to the Historic Society and really take into consideration what they think matters to the South Side. Ms. Brockley noted the next one is mixed land uses, the second to last is to preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, historical integrity and critical and environmental areas. She pointed out this is a huge tenet of smart growth, technology and predictability, and is something that she hoped you can always uphold in a community. Ms. Brockley stated the last one is to provide a variety of transportation choices and she is not sure if that exists here. Focusing on the Fahy Bridge, Ms. Brockley acknowledged it is not part of the jurisdiction of the City and that PennDot is responsible for the bridge, and wondered if there is a way to try to swap the responsibility of the bridge because it is a critical artery that connects the North Side to the South Side.
Proposed 9 Story Building – Fourth and Vine Streets – Benner Project – Appropriateness in South Side Historic District
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, stated as far as he is concerned the Historic Conservation Commission caved last night. He said the truer sense of the feelings of people living in and concern about the South Side would be the vote of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, not the Commission. He mentioned that Mr. Moglen stated the Society but he really meant the Commission. Their vote was even more overwhelming against the proposed 4th and Vine project. Mr. Scheirer said they thought a Certificate of Appropriateness should be denied and he would like to stress the word appropriateness. Mr. Scheirer noted historic preservation is not just the look of buildings, and when you triple or quadruple the height of buildings that is not historic preservation by any definition. Pointing out that the Rooney building has been cited as a precedent, Mr. Scheirer stressed this makes a precedent even worse. Just because one mistake was made it does not mean a second mistake should be made. He continued on to say if this is a watershed building about the future of the South Side and if you approve the proposed 9 story building you will see a sprinkling of such buildings, maybe a profusion of such buildings, on the South Side and then it will be just another old neighborhood with a lot of buildings that are too tall. Mr. Scheirer communicated that people want to have a South Side where people want to live and want to visit. If the building is approved, Mr. Scheirer asserted Council is saying that developer dollars are more important to the City than historic preservation. Mr. Scheirer mentioned that Mr. Benner has been quoted as saying that he needs to go up to 9 stories in order to make the project viable, even with the CRIZ, and questioned whether people should take his word for it. Mr. Scheirer said there is a legal decision that Council will be making. He urged Council to table the proposal until it can be found out what lies behind Mr. Benner’s assertion that he needs to go up to 9 stories in order to make a profit even with the CRIZ. Mr. Scheirer believed we need to have these assumptions and calculations vetted by knowledgeable people.
City Council Member Resignation – Karen Dolan
Michael Colon, 215 West Broad Street, noted he attended a lecture by Father Greg Boyle, a priest in Los Angeles for gang members. Mr. Colon noted Father Boyle stated an interesting thing that we are all a lot more than the worst thing we have ever done. Mr. Colon, in reference to Councilwoman Dolan’s resignation, said he would hope that when people are discussing her she could be remembered for her entire length of service and not just the things that have made the newspapers the past few weeks. In terms of filling the Council vacancy, Mr. Colon stated he would hope that anyone who feels they are a qualified candidate to represent the City would apply to fill the vacancy, and regardless if they are appointed or not would still decide to run for election at the next opportunity.
Kim Carrell-Smith, 833 Carlton Avenue, informed the Members that she spoke with Mayor Donchez last week during his office hours and asked him if he could dig up some of the planning documents or reports received in the past. She noted these include the South Side Master Plan 2001 which was done by the City and Sasaki Associates, the South Bethlehem Historical Conservation Commission’s Guidelines which were drawn up by the City and approved by Council, and the City’s Historic Preservation Plan prepared by Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC Planning and Real Estate Consultants. Ms. Carrell-Smith advised that the handout she has given to Council has portions from those plans, and she provided President Reynolds with an April 23, 1999 Morning Call story on the establishment of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission. Ms. Carrell-Smith added Council also has one piece on demolition that she wrote as a public historian. She advised these documents are intended to guide development on the South Side, provide well connected thoughtful plans for development, and were paid for at some significant expense to Bethlehem taxpayers with support from Council, including the current Mayor. Ms. Carrell-Smith pointed out she gave these documents to Justin Porembo, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, to give to the Mayor although he may not have them at this meeting. Ms. Carrell-Smith noted the documents she handed out are from experts and clearly show that among other things history and historic character is a key to the North Side and the South Side’s future. She expressed she is amazed that these documents seem to be discarded when a shiny object and public money were waved at Bethlehem with the CRIZ. Affirming she is not an anti-development person, Mr. Carrell-Smith stated she thinks that development of the South Side is great and she has lived on the South Side for 26 years. It has gone through some ups and downs and does need some thoughtful, careful development. Ms. Carrell-Smith stated in fact she has liked what she has seen of Ashley Development’s plans that are in keeping with the kinds of information Council now has in their hands and will have with the other planning documents and reports she spoke about. Ms. Carrell-Smith pointed out it is interesting to note that his proposals are 4 stories high and he seems to feel he can make that work. Ms. Carrell-Smith communicated that as of last night the City has an eviscerated South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission who were pressured to pass something that Commissioners almost all expressed serious concerns about. She remarked that thanks to the pressure and advice from City officials and the Mayor, the Commission opted to have some little input into the design of the 4th and Vine building instead of being entirely shut out of the process. Pointing out City Council had not even officially weighed in on the matter yet, Ms. Carrell-Smith said the advice given to the Historic Commission heavily suggested it was a done deal, but Council would override the South Bethlehem Historical Conservation Commission’s recommendation if they were to reject the proposed building. Ms. Carrell-Smith asserted the idea that the Commission was essentially told before their deliberations that they could have some power in the development decisions if they approved the proposal, or no input if they were to reject it, was intimidating, and invoking the Mayor’s name and enthusiasm for the project at this point she thinks to be generous was heavy handed. Ms. Carrell-Smith mentioned in addition most members of the Commission except for the two members who are residents of the South Side seemed to believe their job was first to consider what is a viable economic development, and second, historic appropriateness was also truly extraordinary given the name of their Commission. She stressed that economic development is not their charge, and when faced with the seeming fait accompli of the Council’s intentions they chose to hold on to one vestige of power, that of overseeing details of the building, things like windows and railings. She commented these do matter but perhaps not as much as some other portions of what they are responsible for. Ms. Carrell-Smith stated they were to do this over the consideration of the overall appropriateness of this structure in that particular location. Ms. Carrell-Smith communicated she is sad to say she is so disappointed in the City and in the Mayor, and she hopes that Council may be at least a little disturbed at the assumed outcome of their votes, a decision that will not even be made until November 5. Ms. Carrell-Smith pointed out Mr. Waldron and Ms. Reuscher were kind enough to come and see the proposed building site to visualize it. She asked Council to keep an open mind and reminded the Members that the brand in Bethlehem is history and is a selling point. She asked Council to remember that this is important and if we forget our history we will also jeopardize our future.
12. ADJOURNMENTThe meeting was adjourned at 9:00 p.m.