The City of Bethlehem uses an independent third party tool to provide automated language translation. As with any machine translation, the conversion is not context-sensitive and may not fully translate text into its intended meaning. Therefore, the City of Bethlehem does not guarantee the accuracy of the translated text and it should not be relied upon for anything other than informational purposes. We recommend that if you experience difficulty, or doubt the accuracy of the translation, you contact the proper City of Bethlehem department for the information you seek. Please note that some applications and or services may not work as expected when translated.
Bethlehem Council MInutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Wednesday, November 5, 2014 – 7:00 PM
Reverend Jeffrey V. Bauer, of Church of Christ – United Church of Christ, 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.
Welcoming Lehigh University Journalism Students
President Reynolds welcomed the students of Lehigh University Professor Matt Veto’s Journalism class. He pointed out they were at the last Meeting and thanked them for returning. President Reynolds noted Members of Council are happy to answer any questions they may have after the Meeting.
2. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of October 21, 2014 were approved.
3. PUBLIC COMMENT
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Olga Negron
Olga Negron, 1306 East Fifth Street, stated that she and her two children moved to Bethlehem in 1987. As a single mother, she raised her girls in this community and made sure they benefited from many resources available to them from the Boys and Girls Club on the South Side to the South Side Library, from the Moravian College summer reach program and the Lehigh University star program, to CACLV after school technology center just to name a few. Ms. Negron noted she also made sure she gave something back and gladly including serving as Vice President of the Bethlehem Planning Commission, Vice President of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, incoming President of CACLV and a member of the Community Revitalization and Crime Prevention Advisory Board, appointed by former Governor Ed Rendell. She advised this includes overseeing budgets and services to all the Lehigh Valley and the Commonwealth, making tough decisions when working with budgets, and including many times reduction of services. Ms. Negron, highlighting the fact that she has a proven record, said even though she has supported candidates during elections again and again it does not mean she will rubber stamp or even agree with ideas or projects that an elected official has. Ms. Negron stated she understands that as a Member of Council she would be representing the people and not any specific elected official or entity. She was very happy when she heard the City was granted the CRIZ designation, agrees with the selected area, and is very supportive of the future economic development in those areas. As a Member of the Bethlehem Planning Commission she voted in favor of the development of Lehigh Valley Charter School for the Arts on East Third Street, and most recently voted in favor of the development that Michael Perrucci presented on East Third Street. Ms. Negron believed that growing Bethlehem’s tax base is the best way to avoid tax increases, and the CRIZ designation will help stimulate an economy to ensure Bethlehem has a vibrant future as was realized with the Brownfields of Bethlehem Steel, and the City will be attracting new businesses, new developments, and new life. Ms. Negron was convinced that Bethlehem can honor architectural history while promoting economic growth. She pointed out that a plan has been developed to do so with the guidance of historic preservation experts. While expressing that she appreciates the perspective of those who took the position against appointing someone for the Council seat who plans to run, Ms. Negron said she does not see why the Members would not want someone pursuing an elected position who has already accumulated valuable experience in office. Ms. Negron communicated that someone would not want an electrician without experience to rewire our home so why would we want an unexperienced Council Member running for the position. Ms. Negron stated when she commits to something no matter what it is she will give everything she has to that effort. Ms. Negron emphasized that to Council she will bring her proven selfless commitment to work as a team with her colleagues on Council to make sure that every resident of the City has the opportunity to have the kind of quality life that she has had. Ms. Negron noted she has participated in the development of City plans and has kept involved in City happenings. Ms. Negron stated that she calls Bethlehem home, she knows this community very well, and this community trusts her. Ms. Negron added she works alongside her neighbors to make this community a place we all can be proud to call home.
Ladd Siftar, 117 East Raspberry Street, stated he is at the Meeting to speak on behalf of Ms. Negron’s candidacy. Mr. Siftar advised he has known Ms. Negron for the past 6 years and he knows picking a new Council Member is a heavy responsibility. Mr. Siftar stated he had to do this a few times when he was on Northampton County Council. Mr. Siftar remarked that Ms. Negron has already demonstrated her leadership and service to Bethlehem, she serves as Vice President of the Planning Commission, and as Vice President of the Library Board she especially has to deal with representatives of other governments. She has gained intergovernmental experience which is very important. Mr. Siftar stated Ms. Negron will also be taking on another leadership role as the incoming president of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley that is involved with everything from food banks to home ownership to home buyers education to economic development. She served on their economic development board and also Vice President for a time. Mr. Siftar noted a month ago Ms. Negron received the governmental service award from Allentown Mayor Pawlowski and he was pleased to have nominated her for it. Mr. Siftar pointed out Ms. Negron also has business experience which can be valuable and useful and it brings another perspective to Council. She served as manager of the Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks for two years and has done an amazing job and got that program off and running. Mr. Siftar advised that Ms. Negron serves currently as manager of La Ola Radio, and is manager of their marketing team so she is out in the community daily. Mr. Siftar worked with Ms. Negron on veterans recognition events and she has bi-partisan support. Mr. Siftar continued on to say Ms. Negron is an elected member of both the Bethlehem City and Northampton County Democratic Committee. Mr. Siftar explained that he introduced Ms. Negron to Congressman Matt Cartwright who represents a small piece of Bethlehem in the 17th Ward, and he realized Ms. Negron was the reason there was one little dot in south western Bethlehem where he received 90% of the votes because of her hard work going door to door in the rain. Mr. Siftar stated that he supports Ms. Negron for the City Council vacant seat.
Tina Garcia, 1324 Montrose Avenue, said as a Bethlehem resident and personal friend of Olga Negron she is at the Meeting to support and urge Council to consider and support her for the vacant Council seat. Ms. Garcia stated she would like someone who has walked in her shoes in order to understand what is needed for the City. Ms. Garcia noted Ms. Negron can hold a conversation with an illiterate person, or with a College Professor, or with the Vice President of the United States, and know what she is talking about at all times. Ms. Garcia pointed out that Ms. Negron has lived on foods stamps and part time jobs, and she has been the director of one of the most important organizations in the valley, the Levitt Pavilion at SteelStacks. Ms. Garcia stressed that Ms. Negron knows and understands the community and the community knows and trusts her. Because of her influence and hard work Mayor Panto, Mayor Donchez, and Mayor Pawlowski are now interacting with their communities through La Ola Radio Station. Ms. Garcia believed without Ms. Negron and her influence the Mayors would not know what the residents need from them or what they are struggling with. Ms. Garcia noted Ms. Negron has a passion for everything she is involved with, she has the love for her community, leadership skills, and compassion. Ms. Garcia urged Council to consider her for the vacant Council position.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Timothy Finnegan, 618 Turner Street, stated his family owns a property that would be directly affected next to the proposed 9 story Benner project at Fourth and Vine Streets. They own 20 and 22 West 4th Street as well as 10 addresses surrounding the block. Mr. Finnegan stated he has many concerns but his biggest concerns would be the size of the building and the parking. Referring to a proposed garage that would be on New Street, Mr. Finnegan hoped if the Benner project does go through that the garage would be up and running to facilitate the 120 to 150 cars at minimum that would be taking up space from this building. Mr. Finnegan said he is concerned with the setbacks because of his building being next to the proposed 9 story building. Advising that 22 West Fourth where the Blue Sky Café is located is a 3 story building with two other apartments above the Café, Mr. Finnegan commented he is not sure if it is responsible to put that size of a building, a new 9 story building, next to an historic 120 year old building that close. Mr. Finnegan, referring to the building that is being built on Third Street as an example next to Loopers, the Lehigh Valley Academy, said that is at least 12 feet away from Loopers and it does not compromise the foundation. Mr. Finnegan mentioned that, with 120 people living in the proposed building and a restaurant with a capacity of the same number, he thinks garbage would be a concern as well as daily deliveries for the restaurant. He believed there will be a huge impact for the existing buildings during construction with cranes for building a 9 story building. Mr. Finnegan added he thinks Council should recuse themselves from voting on the Resolution since it is on record that payments were made to them from Mr. Benner that people know of. Mr. Finnegan believed there should be a separate committee to vote on it, non-appointed by parties of interest on either side. Mr. Finnegan stated he is not against progress but it needs to be done responsibly and he believed Council should be careful of their vote because in a few years the people will be voting as well.
Steven Barron, Jr., 2239 Lincoln Street, read a letter as President of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, as follows. I am writing to express the Historical Society’s concerns regarding the proposed redevelopment of the properties at 24-30 West Fourth Street in South Bethlehem. On October 14, 2014 Board Members and the Board of Directors took formal action to express our opposition to the current plan for these properties. The scale and mass of the project are contrary to the protections intended when this area was designated as a Historic District. If this development is allowed the unique sense of place that we have all come to know and love as South Bethlehem would be compromised significantly. It would work against the property owners who have worked with the City and various historic groups who conformed to the standards established in the Secretary of Interior’s standards for rehabilitation, the City of Bethlehem’s Preservation Plan of 2011, and the joint City and Lehigh University Sasaki Plan completed around 2001 for South Bethlehem. Please consider our position as it relates to the proposed 9 story project at this location by not approving the current proposal. Any project planned for this site should follow the aforementioned Historic Preservation related documents by incorporating a scale and mass architectural design consistent with the current building environment and the streetscape in the South Bethlehem Historic District.
Mr. Barron noted now that he has said this he would like to actually commend Mr. Benner for his reinvestment in South Bethlehem, and added he has some very wonderful projects going on. However, Mr. Barron stated this building proposed to be 9 stories high in the place proposed is wrong, and it does not fit the neighborhood. Mr. Barron stated his concern is with Council and the fact that Council has spent thousands of dollars to create Historic Districts, those guidelines are imposed on property owners, and they have incurred expenses in keeping them up with the guidelines outlined. He remarked that basically for $9,700 which is what Council has gotten collectively from Mr. Benner and his sons they sold all that out. Mr. Barron stressed that tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent to preserve history and Council will take that first step down a slippery slope to put a 9 story building where it does not belong, selling us all out for $9,700 which is the message that has been conveyed in the newspapers, and that is what all these people here understand and realize and we all do vote. Mr. Barron stated he is at the Meeting to say put the brakes on, do not vote on this project tonight, and gather input from people. Pointing out that Mr. Benner is in a CRIZ district, Mr. Barron said he finds it hard to believe that the only thing that will be profitable there is a 9 story building. Mr. Barron highlighted the fact that there is a 23 story building in West Bethlehem that still sits largely vacant and he would like to see that redeveloped. He stressed the City definitely does not need another 9 story vacant building. Mr. Barron expressed that South Bethlehem is a very magical place, although he has never lived there, but his great grandmother called South Bethlehem home her entire life. Even when she sold her home and could not live alone anymore she moved in with his Aunt in South Bethlehem. Mr. Barron remembered walking outside of his kindergarten and pre-school classes, and commented the South Side was different back then. He would walk up the hill stopping at Charlie Brown’s store to get something to eat and walk to his Aunt’s house. Mr. Barron thought the brakes need to be put on this project, and he stressed that if Council votes to approve this tonight the message that is sent is that Council does not really care about all these plans on which tens of thousands of dollars were spent, and $9,700 gets you pretty much anything in South Bethlehem.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Dennis Douvanis
Dennis Douvanis, 1944 Main Street, advised that his Bethlehem roots run extremely deep, his grandfather and grandmother emigrated here from Greece and Italy respectively, so he is third generation. Mr. Douvanis noted his great uncle was the iceman on the South Side of Bethlehem who had a horse drawn wagon with big chunks of ice moved with tongs to use to cool refrigerators. Mr. Douvanis stated he had other relatives including the Delgrosso’s who were involved in all kinds of things, and his late cousin was Jim Delgrosso who served as Mayor and was on City Council for years. Mr. Douvanis stated that at the age of 22 after having gone through the Bethlehem public education system and graduating from Penn State University with both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees he began a business with $500, started out in a trunk of a 1965 Buick Rivera, and turned it into a record business that became millions of dollars in sales known as Toone’s that was started in 1975. Mr. Douvanis pointed out his parents stood side by side with him in the business, and some of the other successful businesses he had in the area were Molly Maid, and Grand Stand Sports Collectibles. He also owned the 40 West night club on Broad Street with a partner. Mr. Douvanis stated that at the age of 42 he had to change careers because with his wife of 30 years they began a family. Fortunately, when he was at Penn State one of his dual majors was education so he went back to education. Mr. Douvanis explained he was determined to become an educator, so he started as a substitute, went to night school and summer school, and ultimately got a chance to be an alternative education teacher in the Northampton School District. He became a history teacher in the district, taught psychology, and worked towards his principal certification, and in 2007 he was offered a Principal’s job at Bangor High School and became the Vice-Principal of Bangor High School. Mr. Douvanis reported he recently retired this past August and at the age of 62 he feels his time is available and he can devote all of his time to the City of Bethlehem as a Council Member. Mr. Douvanis stated he was asked by one of the Council Members on the phone how he would do coming into something completely new, and he said he would hit the ground running, just as he did as an Administrator and as a business person. Mr. Douvanis pointed out there are many qualified candidates, but he would guess he is the only one who has 20 years in the private sector and 20 years in the public sector so that is 40 years of experience. He remarked there is one thing you cannot have in life and that is youth and experience, and although one can have a degree of it but certainly not the experience and understanding one would have at the age of 62. Mr. Douvanis stated his passion for Bethlehem remains and burns within him, and added he is on the Board of Directors of the Levitt Pavilion and he believes in that project wholeheartedly. Mr. Douvanis thanked Council for this opportunity and hoped that he will be picked to be the next Council Member.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Christopher Spadoni
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, stated if there were appointed a committee with individuals who had no prior knowledge of each other with the responsibility of choosing the candidate to replace the open seat and they were given their credentials of each person and were identified as candidate A, B and C, this would give pure objectivity to the decision. Mr. Antalics felt that candidate given to this Council could not be appointed, the reason being that this most qualified candidate was dismissed as Solicitor for this Council. Mr. Antalics stated he is speaking about Christopher Spadoni who was dedicated, and mentioned why he was dismissed was that he told certain Council Members what the law was and not what they wanted to hear, and was chastised for that a few times. Mr. Antalics noted as a result of that it was orchestrated to have him removed from being City Council Solicitor. Mr. Antalics stated that Council could not appoint him without looking foolish so there is a problem here. Mr. Antalics said from his point of view the best person will not be sitting on Council. Mr. Antalics continued on to say what that tells him is that this Council was operating as a private club and unfortunately one member of the group seems to act independently of the group by voting his conscience, so many votes on Council come down to a vote of 6-1. Mr. Antalics stated that since he knows Mr. Spadoni will not be appointed because Council does not want to look foolish, he feels that he is obliged to support Ms. Negron. Mr. Antalics commented he does not know her well personally but he has seen her often at South Side Task Force meetings, and from what she says and from her credentials she seems to be a very responsible person. Mr. Antalics believed Council should appoint the person who will best serve the community, and they should be a body of independent legislators and not a private club.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Olga Negron
Roger Hudak, 1256 East Fifth Street, noted for more than a decade he has been a demanding advocate of South Bethlehem’s renaissance. Mr. Hudak advised he firmly believes that part of the City’s viable future employment is still waiting on the former Bethlehem Steel properties. Mr. Hudak noted if there were a perfect candidate for City Council that candidate is Olga Negron. Mr. Hudak said she is his neighbor and friend for many years, she is bright, caring, has the understanding of issues, and is a valuable Hispanic South Side resident. Mr. Hudak thought that Ms. Negron would do a valuable job for the City and for the South Side population. Mr. Hudak believed it is time to have South Bethlehem represented on City Council by a young, dynamic leader like Ms. Negron. Mr. Hudak asked Council to please do this right and name Olga Negron to City Council.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Sarabeth Brockley, 516 Montclair Avenue, said she is at the Meeting as a representative and not a speech giver. She informed Council the following presentations that are on the list are representative of a true TEDx format, usually it is expert advice delivered in a very short time period. They will be talking about the western gateway which is north and west of Lehigh University, historical appropriateness, smart growth strategies, and the future of the Bethlehem community given the developments that are at stake. Ms. Brockley stated that because five minutes is not long enough to adequately explain individual credentials to convince you of a person’s credibility in the highest light, she will help a fellow community member out who will be speaking after her today. Ms. Brockley noted tonight is especially important, given the amount of people who do wish to speak, and she urged Council to listen to them all no matter what they are talking about. She said these people are here as residents, and community members, and experts in their fields, and especially as residents of Bethlehem. Ms. Brockley noted an expert is defined as a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge or skill in a particular area. A community member is defined as an expert in that community in which they live, reside and participate. Ms. Brockley advised she knows this person because she teaches classes at Lehigh University, and as a student and a resident of this area she does see her a lot, and she had the ability to have many of her courses last year, including urban policy and planning, and community development. Ms. Brockley pointed out she is a life-long resident of this area, she was born in Allentown and now she lives in Bethlehem. Ms. Brockley pointed out that she knows Karen Beck-Pooley who will be speaking next very well. Ms. Brockley stated that Ms. Beck-Pooley is the former executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Allentown. In addition to teaching classes at Lehigh University, Ms. Beck-Pooley has a job as a consultant at czb Associates, LLC, a neighborhood planning firm that analyzes local conditions to develop and implement revitalization plans for communities across the country. Ms. Brockley informed the assembly that Ms. Beck-Pooley specializes in what most of the local residents and businesses see as community and much of which will be lost when principles that hold that place together are dismantled brick by brick. Ms. Brockley said Dr. Pooley has many degrees, she completed her undergrad at Wellesley College, has a Master’s Degree in Urban Policy and Planning at the New School University’s Milano Graduate School, and completed a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Ms. Brockley noted that prior to Ms. Pooley’s work in Allentown she was the Deputy Director of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She has held various other professional positions including the City of Philadelphia Chester Housing Authority, Community Solutions in New York, the Penn Institute for Urban Research and Reinvestment Fund for Philadelphia. Ms. Brockley stated that in Allentown, Ms. Pooley has been a board member for the Seventh Street and Main Street Development Committee, the Alliance for Building Communities, the Lehigh Valley Mural Arts Program, and Old Allentown Preservation Association. She has chaired the Weed and Seed Committee, and has been the co-chair of the Zoning City Task Force. Ms. Brockley noted all of this suggests that Dr. Pooley has a vast amount of experience in helping to revitalize neighborhoods and undergo economic transformations. Ms. Brockley said that given Dr. Pooley’s age one can be sure that she has been well trained in the most recent research on urban policy. Ms. Brockley welcomed Dr. Pooley to speak, who she said is an expert on urban policy and a resident, on her local community.
Karen Beck-Pooley, 331 Prospect Avenue, reported she is at the Meeting to comment on the building proposed for Fourth and Vine Streets, and added she is at the Meeting as a concerned citizen and also as a professional planner. Ms. Pooley stated she is a teacher at Lehigh and works for a planning firm that Ms. Brockley described that is based in Alexandria, Virginia. One of her colleagues there always starts every project with an important question. He asks what exactly is the problem that you are trying to solve. Ms. Pooley thought it is worth taking the time to clarify this because people have been hearing a lot of buzz words around this project like density, walkability, and renaissance, and these words do not always mean the same thing in all cases. Ms. Pooley commented that density in particular is probably the most relevant regarding Historic Conservation District guidelines. She queried in what ways is this section of the South Side not dense enough. Ms. Pooley continued on to say population density she would argue is not what the neighborhood is lacking. She said, in fact, the South Side western gateway is already a high density district. The area where the building is being proposed has a population density of over 13,000 people per square mile, or nearly one and a half times the population density of the downtown Main Street corridor that has 9,500 people per square mile. Ms. Pooley advised these figures are from the 2010 census and they were compiled by the City’s Bureau of Planning and Zoning. She noted that population density of 13,000 puts the western gateway on par with the City of Boston. Ms. Pooley stated that over 16,000 people work in the zip code 18015 which includes the South Side, and about 2,000 of those people are employed by Lehigh University alone. Another 12,000 people live just beyond but within about a half mile of the western gateway, as do most of Lehigh University’s 7,000 students. Ms. Pooley stated we are really not talking about population density at all. We are really talking about getting more people walking around and shopping and visiting the Third and Fourth Streets commercial corridors. She said we need a greater density of users in the western gateway. Ms. Pooley noted most of these users would come from far and wide which is what is responsible for the success of Main Street and vitality, and this is just how we should be understanding and thinking about density on the South Side, too. She continued on to say, when you do, you realize that the western gateway’s vitality in no way depends on how many people actually live at the corner of Fourth and Vine Streets. It matters instead for people in general, those who work and live in or near the South Side, how many reasons all of those people have to walk or shop in the neighborhood. Ms. Pooley commented that, as far as those reasons go, are there many things to do, are there reasons for people to come to the South Side, particularly this western gateway, with more than two dozen restaurants, and at least as many retail outlets, not to mention portions of the two mile long Greenway, and stated she would say the answer is yes. Are there characteristics that distinguish this neighborhood from others and the typical strip mall, and she would say there is historic architecture and eclectic vibe so the answer is yes. Ms. Pooley queried, if the ingredients are all here, how do we go about revitalizing the western gateway, and how can we encourage more users. Ms. Pooley mentioned that, as Andres Duany who is an urban planner and the founder of the Congress for New Urbanism, likes to say the great amenity of the City is the public realm. People visit urban neighborhoods and urban commercial districts rather than the mall for that public realm, for the streetscapes, for the sidewalk life, for the parks and green spaces, and most of all the character of those communities. Ms. Pooley noted development projects, even great ones, cannot create the public realm. It is just not what they are geared to do. Development projects create individual buildings and it is just the nature of the beast. What creates and reinforces the public realm are all the rules and regulations in place that insure that new development projects complement their surroundings, that they leverage rather than overshadow existing neighborhood assets, and that they strengthen rather than overwhelm existing neighborhood identity. Ms. Pooley stated that conservation districts are a prime example of these kinds of rules and regulations, as are design guidelines and zoning codes. She said Council knows all this because we can see what was done for Main Street. Thoughtful planning documents like the City’s Comprehensive Plan, the South Side Bethlehem Master Plan, and the Historic Preservation Plan are all key tools for guiding investment and development in ways that further enhance this public realm and are most beneficial to neighborhood vitality. Ms. Pooley stated what you want are more users in the western gateway, more people walking, shopping, and dining in the neighborhood. The population density is already there to support it, and we already have the rules and regulations to support it. Ms. Pooley strongly cautioned Council against undervaluing or ignoring these regulations and plans. Ms. Pooley remarked that new development that adheres to make the western gateway a place filled with users and new development that does not like the 9 story building would likely do more harm than good.
Ann Evans, 464 Montclair Avenue, stated she is at the Meeting to remark on the Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed 9 story building at Fourth and Vine Streets. Ms. Evans mentioned in the past 40 years she has participated in at least 6 surveys, and many more planning meetings than she can count, about development on the South Side. Denoting that much of her taxpayer money and everyone’s taxpayer money has been spent on these studies, Ms. Evans questioned what happens to these reports. Ms. Evans said it is obvious to her that no one involved in community development for the City consults them. Ms. Evans noted that the Sasaki Report from 2002, which Council just got a copy of and some of which has been highlighted, has been used by the City to develop the Greenway and the eastern gateway, and is being ignored for this development. Ms. Evans pointed out that report recommends small infill projects, which 9 stories definitely is not. It lists special attention to the gateways of Third and Fourth Streets, and it promotes strategies that maintain historic and neighborhood character, and reinforces the districts that have unique identities. Ms. Evans commented perhaps the developer and Members of the City Administration and City Council do not believe this district has a unique identity and they would be wrong. Ms. Evans stated she chooses to make her home in this district, and she chooses to live in an urban environment. It is important to her to be able to walk, shop, and eat at restaurants close by. She likes to cross streets without endangering her life. Ms. Evans stressed that the South Side has strong assets, and the City has made a commitment to the historic significance of the South Side by seeking approval for a Historic Conservation Commission well over a decade ago. Pointing out that not every City is given this approval, Ms. Evans affirmed it is a time consuming process, but it was pursued vigorously by Bethlehem as a means to protect these very assets and enhance economic development. Ms. Evans noted the Historic Conservation Commission has helped improve the community through thoughtful review of projects that have kept organizations here, and brought in new development. She said some examples of that include the Portuguese American Club, the Fowler Fourth Street Commons, the Charter High School for the Arts, and recently the home of the Good Samaritans. Ms. Evans stated that their decision on the proposed project at Fourth and Vine Streets seems incongruous to her given their past actions. Ms. Evans pointed out this is not a philosophical argument for her. It is deeply personal, she grew up here and still lives here, and chose to raise a family here in a diverse and interesting community with historic homes and buildings. Ms. Evans said she resents the opinion that they do not know what is best for us so others who do not live here can develop what they want and fatten their wallets without any regard for those of us who have been supporting this area for years. Ms. Evans urged Council to represent their constituents who elected you to serve us and vote down this Certificate of Appropriateness tonight.
Matt Carolan, 4605 Maple Drive, stated he will be talking about the Preservation Plan and the Comprehensive Plan. He thought people can see there are a number of good, thoughtful planning documents available to the City right now which can help the City achieve the kind of long term economic success that does not just magically happen when you undertake this type of development on an ad hoc basis. Mr. Carolan noted this kind of development, the development that does not connect with existing strategies, policies, plans and regulations, damages rather than enhances the assets that already exist in a particular place. He stated that the creation of a Historic Conservation District in 1999 and a number of planning reports and recommendations from well-paid expert consulting firms, as well as the recent community of distinction award from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, all emphasize that historic character can and does sell on both sides of the river. Mr. Carolan noted a few examples of these planning documents include the City’s Preservation Plan which explains that by the early 1970’s Bethlehem made a strategic decision to pursue an incremental economic strategy focused on its historic character and heritage towards its potential. He said this is even while other competitor cities were pursuing the quick fixes of large scale redevelopment. Mr. Carolan noted that, by the time the City of Bethlehem’s Preservation Plan was written in 2011, consultants recognized that historic preservation is a powerful tool for economic development and community revitalization, and a significant generator of jobs, income and tax revenues. The Preservation Plan goes on to outline the numerous ways the City can leverage its historic character to enhance and revitalize areas on both sides of the river. Mr. Carolan pointed out the Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan prepared in 2008 by two professional consulting firms outlines what it terms the downtown revitalization and economic development strategies indicating that the City should strengthen both the North Side and the South Side Central Business Districts, branding an identity, and should employ historic preservation strategies to ensure that historic resources are not unduly affected by land development nearby. Mr. Carolan noted these plans as well as others Council will hear about this evening, and even the Zoning Ordinance, are all very clear about how important Bethlehem’s historic character is to its economic success, and that historic character is a selling point for the City. Mr. Carolan stressed this is a great concern to him and to many others because there is an assumption that history does not matter as much on the South Side as it does on the North Side. Mr. Carolan wondered would we really contemplate a 9 story building where Johnny’s Bagel’s is on Main Street and Market Street in downtown Bethlehem. Mr. Carolan highlighted the fact that the Fourth and Vine building would be in the center of a crowded business district on the far narrower street, one filled with historic character. He said just think about three buildings to the east of the properties, the Escalando Home Base Building with its careful tri-color historical paint job, the beautifully restored foundation offices that brought back the dignity and historic character to a sizeable grand former twin home, and the Spanish architecture of the Blue Sky building with its Juliet balconies and interesting brick. Mr. Carolan asked why we would want to overshadow this great intact grouping of esthetically interesting buildings that are full of historic character with an out of scale high rise that could denigrate the existing historic integrity of that part of the historic conservation district. He pointed out this would be also be right in the middle of the business district as well. Mr. Carolan noted across the street is the 1897 First Reform Church with grand architecture. Mr. Carolan communicated that, as Dr. Beck-Pooley said, we should leverage the area’s assets and strengthen the neighborhood identity in those blocks. He said you can implement and market what the plan has suggested instead of assuming based on no expert plans whatsoever that an extremely imposing out of scale building of 37 apartments will transform that historic commercial business district for the better.
Delicia Nahmen, 6664 Blue Church Road, Coopersburg, said she is one of the people who came from far and wide to move to Bethlehem. Ms. Nahmen noted she came from California and was struck by the beauty of South Bethlehem when she initially interviewed for the position she initially took. Ms. Nahmen stated she is at the Meeting to speak about the concerns she has about the proposed building on Fourth and Vine Streets. Ms. Nahmen pointed out that for Council to vote that this building is historically appropriate would not only conflict with the planning documents discussed, but it would also conflict with the recommendations that they wrote in their own Zoning Ordinance, and with the design guidelines established for the area of the South Side where this building will go. Ms. Nahmen noted that Council has a copy and asked them to look at Article 1714 that established the Historic Conservation District on the South Side, and on page 2 are the purposes of the Ordinance. She observed the second highlighted area of the page says it is the purpose and intent of the City of Bethlehem to promote, protect, enhance and preserve historic resources and traditional community character. Ms. Nahmen asked Council to turn to page 11 where the Ordinance establishes guidelines for new construction. She pointed out this section of the Ordinance under item (a) (1) states that the City Council shall consider the affect which the proposed change will have upon the general historic and architectural nature of the district. Ms. Nahmen turned to page 14 where the Ordinance establishes guidelines for new construction. This section of the Ordinance says that you are to consider size, scale and proportion, and specifically it states that new construction should relate to the dominate proportions, size, scale of the period buildings in the district. Ms. Nahmen went to page 15 and noted that in item (6) it refers to shape and massing. She said here the Ordinance states that new construction should incorporate massing, building shapes, and shapes that are present in the period buildings. Immediately following, item (7) states streetscapes and that new construction shall reflect prevailing setbacks, physical elements that define the streetscapes such as brick walls, wrought iron fences, building facades or a combination of these which form the visual continuity and cohesiveness of the period buildings. Ms. Nahmen pointed out that the Ordinance pretty clearly recommends against buildings with this size, scale, proportion, shape, massing and streetscape. Ms. Nahmen noted in the second document that Council has in front of them are the design guidelines, and there is a section under new construction that identifies what should be done in the Historic Conservation District on the South Side. She commented this document and the sections she highlighted affirms and elaborates the points she has already directed to you in the City’s Ordinance. Ms. Nahmen noted looking at these design guidelines she would direct them to page 8 where the guidelines for new construction are presented. Here the document begins by warning that new construction within an historic district can dramatically alter the appearance of the streetscape. Ms. Nahmen continued with page 9 where size and scale are discussed in more detail. She denoted that specifically it states that new construction should reflect the dominant harness and roof heights of adjacent buildings, and proportion of building elements to one another in the streetscape. She stressed that she cannot emphasize this enough. Ms. Nahmen stated below that sentence there is a highlighted box with a picture that is reproduced in this poster explaining what size and scale is appropriate in historic districts.
Kim Carrell-Smith, 833 Carlton Avenue, stated the speakers before have discussed some of the planning documents, the regulations and Ordinances local taxpayers have supported, and which City Council and officials have long endorsed. She said it is clear we have guidance for the successful, sustainable economic future of the South Side and for leveraging its historic character. Ms. Carrell-Smith observed we have to commit to the implementation of those plans, something that has not happened in the central business district on West Fourth Street despite the existence of the Historic Conservation District. Ms. Carrell-Smith, wondering if we have ever applied most the advice in the documents we have heard about here tonight, said yes we have in some places on the South Side, but not much on the West Fourth Street business district to her knowledge and she walks and drives in this area every day, it is where she lives and works. Does that mean these recommendations and plans will not work and how can we say that when we have not made a concerted effort to implement many of the planners’ recommendations in this particular area. Ms. Carrell-Smith continued on to say or is it as Mr. Benner has said there is no historical integrity left on the South Side. To that, Ms. Carrell-Smith emphasized she would say to Mr. Benner and City Council that Bethlehem would not have a State recognized Historic Conservation District and would not be winning planning awards for historically minded economically viable planning on both sides of the river if historic integrity did not exist in South Bethlehem. Ms. Carrell-Smith said she is sorry that Mr. Benner has ignored that in both his public statements and in his plans for the South Side’s future. She said if you look closely at the Fourth Street blocks around the area of this proposed project you will see there is a lot of historic character in the buildings and there is a lot of potential peeking out of facades that have been neglected. Ms. Carrell-Smith stated we should do development, but let’s do it right, let’s respect the plans we paid for, and leverage the assets of our City, and let’s build things that fit our community and enhance its assets, rather than overshadowing or denigrating them. A building is not a plan to achieve lofty goals of economic revitalization. Pointing out it is just a structure, she questioned, if it is not tied to rules, regulations and plans that have been carefully crafted and interconnected over the course of over a decade in order to strengthen and revitalize our community, who benefits. Ms. Carrell-Smith said she suggests it is just a developer and not a City. Ms. Carrell-Smith stated please do not sell out our community just because you have the CRIZ. It is not magic. Making it work means focusing on the assets we have and making the most of them, not claiming that there are no assets in South Bethlehem and just filling holes with big buildings. Ms. Carrell-Smith advised she is asking Council to please look at the planning documents, look at the great 3 to 4 story buildings we have in the Fourth Street central business district south side, look at the views, the vista from the north side, which are historic vistas and landscapes. Ms. Carrell-Smith continued on to say Council should look at the Historic Conservation District and the many details that were just spoken about, and build to scale, and build in a way that enhances our whole City’s historic character. She stated, let’s use our plans and use our heads, and let’s not get derailed by one developer whose vision of the South Side is not our own. Ms. Carrell-Smith stated that when she says our she means the whole City’s vision, the whole City’s historic brand, the brand and vision that were created by the work of City officials and citizens from both sides of the river. Ms. Carrell-Smith noted those individuals assisted in those consultant studies, they committed to those studies, spent a lot of time on them, and care and thought, and that all of our City’s taxpayers, North and South Side, paid for.
Brooke Kohler, 4 Duh Drive, mentioned although she spent a lot of time in South Bethlehem she currently works in Easton and she is somewhat shocked to see the kind of building being considered on the South Side that is the Benner project on Fourth and Vine Streets. She said this is partly because Easton has been doing a lot to protect its historic character so she wanted to discuss a few of their strategies. Ms. Kohler mentioned one of the things they did in Easton when they rewrote their Zoning Ordinance was to place conditions on where tall buildings could be located. The previous zoning code pretty much allowed 10 story buildings anywhere in the downtown. Ms. Kohler advised this was changed so that tall buildings could only be built if they were located on a street of a significant width, and in their case that is Northampton Street which has 4 lanes of traffic and two lanes of parking. By putting that requirement into the zoning code we guaranteed that tall structures would only be located where the proportions would work relative to the scale of the street and streetscape. Ms. Kohler related that 9 story buildings look fine on Northampton Street or even Third Street which are the major corridors in Easton with sufficient width. That is where our tallest buildings are already such as Northampton Bank Building, the Alpha Building, the Grand Estonian Hotel and Suites. Ms. Kohler continued on to say a 9 story building would not be permitted on a regular street frontage or an alleyway where the street width is narrower. She said this is one and only one important reason why the 8 story high historic Hotel Bethlehem fits into the historic district which has many shorter buildings. Ms. Kohler stated the thing that makes Mr. Benner’s proposed building appear to be out of place is the size of the other buildings on Fourth Street, since most of them are only 2 or 3 story buildings. Ms. Kohler noted a 9 story building would probably be more appropriate on Third Street which is Route 412 and has already been widened, and yet on Third Street we see buildings going up at a far more reasonable scale, between 3 and 5 stories. Ms. Kohler pointed out it also helps that Third Street is downhill from Fourth Street which makes the height of those buildings less obtrusive.
Thomas Scott, 432 Stoneman Street, said he wanted to speak about the Benner project as well from the perspective of that much of the talk about this project has been creating a college town. He knows when he first came to Lehigh University and was driving into the City and seeing Lehigh on South Mountain it is a sight that will stick with him for the rest of his life. Mr. Scott noted as he runs through North Bethlehem and South Bethlehem he is always amazed at the beauty of South Bethlehem itself. He said he knows personally that to the vision that the Benner project has for the South Side would completely take away the beauty he saw in the City when he first came here. Mr. Scott commented he also realizes this is a personal opinion but he also knows that one of the largest factors of why students pick Lehigh was the beauty of the campus and the South Side. Mr. Scott commented he knows that Lehigh is struggling in its rankings right now and anything could hurt the University and in turn hurt the City itself. Mr. Scott advised he was the president of Lehigh University’s fencing club for 3 years and he got to travel to many different Universities and he knows that a coach of a different fencing squad once told him that Bethlehem, and particularly South Bethlehem, is a beautiful City with many great restaurants right near campus. Mr. Scott commented he agrees with that and knows many Lehigh students would agree as well. What makes the college town special is the out of the ordinary local eating places and entertainment venues. Mr. Scott thought that is where the project that is on the table tonight really fails. It focuses on housing which is not an issue to Lehigh students. They like the current system they have of having small homes to rent. Mr. Scott said he knows that some of the South Side residents do not like this but it is the truth. Mr. Scott pointed out when Lehigh students are asked about where they should go off campus, it is the local places, it is Goosey Gander, Deja Brew, and these kinds of places. He mentioned having gone to other Universities, like Duke University, they love their local eating places, these small places. Mr. Scott noted that Lehigh students are still going to leave South Bethlehem to go to the Promenade shops to go to that movie theatre, so we need to focus on smaller eating places, or smaller entertainment venues to bring them into the community. Mr. Scott said he knows he may be leaving in a few years but he has family that lives on the South Side and the North Side, and he does know he will worry about them if this development gets passed.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Olga Negron
Aurea Ortiz, 1628 East Sixth Street, pointed out that as a taxpayer, citizen and resident of Bethlehem she tries to stay involved in local politics. Ms. Ortiz stated that Council’s work is greatly appreciated, and tonight they have many important decisions to make, one of which is appointing a new Council Member. Ms. Ortiz said we are blessed to have 13 knowledgeable people who put their names in for this vacancy and they are ready to be a part of the decision making process for the City. Ms. Ortiz thanked them all for this because this is not an easy task. Ms. Ortiz stated that, as Council begins deliberating about candidates to fill this position, she strongly urges Council to consider Olga Negron as a highly qualified candidate. Ms. Ortiz said she believes Ms. Negron would be an outstanding City Council Member who would work passionately to assure Bethlehem continues to be a great place to live, learn, and start a new business. Ms. Ortiz explained she has had the opportunity to work with Ms. Negron in several capacities within the City of Bethlehem and the City of Allentown. To her work in the community she has shown a passion for advocating and helping others and has helped unite our diverse community by advocating and guiding citizens to non-profit organizations and government agencies to make our lives better in this Christmas City. Ms. Ortiz thanked Council for the opportunity to speak tonight and for their kind consideration of Olga Negron to be part of Bethlehem City Council.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Christopher Spadoni
Tom Carroll, 248 East Union Boulevard, stated he is impressed by the number of people who stepped up to say they wanted to be placed in the position of the vacant City Council seat. Mr. Carroll said every single one of these candidates is qualified and he knows every single one would bring unique experiences and qualifications to this position. Mr. Carroll wanted to advocate for one in particular but said he is certainly not putting down the others. Mr. Carroll expressed that the nice thing about this situation is that coming into 2015 we will have an election for 4 seats and hopefully all of the people who stepped up today to say they wanted to serve will consider running. Mr. Carroll informed the Members that no one approached him to say he should talk on their behalf, and he is doing this on his own. Mr. Carroll added he ran for City Council in 2011, he has come to City Council Meetings since 2006, serves on the Board of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, and has been actively involved in the community and politics for many years. Mr. Carroll pointed out that City Council’s former Solicitor, Christopher Spadoni, is an amazing advocate for his clients and is one of the most impressive and well known attorneys in the Lehigh Valley. Mr. Carroll noted that Attorney Spadoni has served not only as the Solicitor for Bethlehem City Council, but also Northampton County and other municipalities throughout Northampton County. Mr. Carroll commented that Mr. Spadoni has unique experience with his law practice which is located in the City of Bethlehem as well as where he lives, but also in being a Solicitor for so many different municipalities there is no one who would know City government better than Mr. Spadoni does. Mr. Carroll commented that he hears at City Council Meetings the problems with the impending budget that we are all facing and the budget process that will probably be difficult, there are large amounts of money that are going to have to be figured out, and how we will plug these holes, but there is no one who would understand the workings of City government and the budget process better than Attorney Spadoni. Mr. Carroll pointed out that Attorney Spadoni stated he would not run for the open position. Mr. Carroll believed to place someone who will not run into that position who also has the experience and the love of the City that is required of anyone who would sit on Council would be the best possible choice.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Gerardo Calderon, 516 Montclair Avenue, spoke for a few minutes in Spanish then asked if anyone on Council speaks Spanish. President Reynolds commented he speaks a bit of Spanish but not that quickly. Mr. Calderon asked how inclusive is Council by now with the Hispanic Community on the South Side, which will be the community that will be most impacted by the Benner project at Fourth and Vine Streets. Mr. Calderon informed the assembly that three weeks ago he canvassed the South Side for around 6 hours and spoke to 60 people about the proposed project, and no one knew about it which means they have not been informed. Mr. Calderon stated probably Council will say it was advertised in the newspaper, and on the City’s website, but he remarked that is not their job. He stressed that Council’s job is to connect with the people who put you in power. Mr. Calderon pointed out this is his call to action to go to the South Side, knock on the doors of those people, talk to them, and receive their input. He said next time have a translator here because that means you are not expecting the Hispanic community to come to these Meetings.
Michael DeCrosta, 914 Walters Street, mentioned that throughout this whole ordeal with the Benner project on Fourth and Vine Streets some City Council Members, the Mayor and officials from Economic Development, have maintained their stances on the Benner development which revolves mostly around the idea that the merchants on the South Side need assistance, and that this foot traffic will help those merchants. Mr. DeCrosta commented that, for a second, let’s imagine a world where the building is constructed, and if those are the sort of metrics that we are going to measure the success of this project by, do we think they will be met. He said the logic behind this seems to go that the construction is going to bring individuals to town who will spend money as they walk about the South Side living their new urban lives. However, all of this action appears to happen in a vacuum with the construction of the actual building having no recourse on the greater community. Mr. DeCrosta noted the urban planning literature on these sorts of things tells us that this simply is not the case. He advised if we look at other communities and bodies of research based on actual science we can plot out two potential trajectories. In one world, we can imagine that Mr. Benner’s 9 story building is hugely successful for him in terms of the profit generated by it to him. Mr. DeCrosta said he calls this the world of the South Side of speculation. Once the rules of the game are aligned in such a way that these developments are allowable by local government, and once they prove to be profitable, they will increase the value of the land surrounding it. Developers then are going to come in and bid to purchase that land so they can build their own high rises, their own upscale restaurants, and achieve their own levels of profit. Mr. DeCrosta pointed out as this occurs the value of the existing buildings increases too, so as current owners of these buildings are approached by developers who want to purchase their land, and chain stores or upscale businesses are looking for spaces, and they can pay higher rents, these owners are faced with a business decision. So do they realize these profits that are offered to them, do they increase the rents of their tenants forcing them to either pay more or to leave their buildings, or do they simply sell to developers. Mr. DeCrosta stated this is strictly anti-small business and will result in many of the merchants we are talking about saving being priced out of the market. Mr. DeCrosta stressed this is a real thing that happens. This is just not an opinion. He advised it has already started to happen in Allentown, a place where development is happening way too fast. He said, in fact, one of the South Side restaurants has experience with this. He will not mention who they are but he talked to them and they were priced out of Hamilton Boulevard by speculation and moved to South Bethlehem because they had a chance since they could afford to live there and start a business there. Mr. DeCrosta mentioned the Wildflower Café on New Street was priced out for this very reason and that was a huge institution on the South Side. They were forced to close because of this very thing. Mr. DeCrosta stressed this is going to become a place where small business simply is not feasible. Mr. DeCrosta stated the question he wants to ask is how does that sound like saving merchants, and additionally is it not curious that a number of small South Side businesses are expanding into Easton, do you not think they see this coming, and they are absolutely willing to leave. Mr. DeCrosta continued on to explain in another world we can imagine that Mr. Benner’s building is an utter failure, tenants do not come, the space is not filled, and the project is just not viable. If that happens, then what will happen, who would be on the hook for this building. Would it be Mr. Benner, or is it the City, how does that affect our budget, and what do we do with an empty 9 story building. Mr. DeCrosta asked how much that will cost to renovate, and will we need another CRIZ. Is it going to simply be a sibling to the Rooney building, a reminder of the irresponsible decision made by City officials. We thought they were doing the right thing all the while ignoring the humanity behind the process of building a City. Mr. DeCrosta, wondering if there are any warning signs that this is a possibility, communicated perhaps it is the fact that Mr. Benner seems unable to complete the project without State subsidy, and that he can only complete the project at a certain height with the sorts of rents associated with luxury condos and upscale wine bars. Mr. DeCrosta highlighted the fact that Council has a choice to make, and if the decision is you agree with Mr. Benner that there is truly nothing here, that these businesses do not exist, and that we need to do something new that is your prerogative but he said please show respect for the people of the South Side and do not frame it as you are trying to save the South Side because it is not the case. Mr. DeCrosta pointed out many realize the policies behind this, how much of your constituency comes from the South Side, and how many votes come from the South Side. He asked if it is almost worth it to be able to flaunt economic development on the South Side to voters who never even have been there. He urged Council to stand up for the community and be brave and listen to us. Mr. DeCrosta stated if you stand up for us we will stand up for you, and said how involved will this community be if you give us the chance to do this, that is all we are asking for.
Emily Gibbs, 409 Adams Street, commented we are all talking about the merchants on the South Side but she does not see many of them at the Meeting. She wondered where they are and where are all of the other community leaders, adding many are working or at home because they worked all day. She said the ones who do not have that excuse are not here because they do not care, and the other ones are not here out of fear. Ms. Gibbs noted some of the ones who are not here out of fear is because they have been threatened that they would be sued if they speak against this. Other people are afraid that their building will get bought up and they will be displaced and their community service will be gone. Ms. Gibbs stated she wanted to speak on their behalf because they are not here out of fear, and she wants to stand up for them because they have been bullied, and said she does not want us to be bullied in that way, too.
Monocacy Nature Center
Linda Freedman, 251 A Spring Street, stated she has concerns about the revision of Article 941 - Parks. Ms. Freedman asked Council to please consider more amendments to the Article because not all of the City parks are the same, and they should not have all of the same rules for domestic animals. Commenting that one size does not fit all, Ms. Freedman said she is concerned specifically about Monocacy Nature Center. Ms. Freedman noted this area is different from other parks in a few ways. It is a unique area in the City and home to a remarkable variety of wildlife, birds, fish, plants, insects and more. One of the things that sets it apart and makes the variety of wildlife possible is that it is an undeveloped area. Ms. Freeman pointed out because it is undeveloped it has the habitat to attract and support a variety of wildlife, the paths are natural, narrow dirt paths, many of which are often muddy and sometimes overgrown. Some of these paths are too narrow for two people to pass, let alone people and their dogs. Ms. Freedman explained that dogs in the creek will not be helpful to fisherman or beneficial to aquatic life. Stating that people are proud to have trout in the City, Ms. Freedman pointed out we cannot keep nibbling away at the buffers along the stream. Ms. Freeman quoted from the Allentown Morning Call newspaper from the dedication of the Nature Center on May 13, 1973 with the title, Bethlehem Dedicates Monocacy Center. It states about 50 persons attended the dedication of the Monocacy Nature Center yesterday in Bethlehem. The dedication followed 7 years of work to turn what was once a quarry and a dump into a natural preserve within the City. Thomas Mutchler, Field Director of the Moravian College Conservation Association, opened the Center dedication program. He noted that the Center is part of the City’s park system but that it will never look like a typical park because it is dedicated to nature, not people.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Cathy Kimock, 1424 Center Street, stated she did not prepare a speech but did bring a few readings, and a few excerpts from the National Register of Historic Places registration form for the South Bethlehem Downtown Historic District. Ms. Kimock stated that it is dated November 21, 2005 and is a certification that the South Bethlehem Downtown Historic District for this application does meet the National Register criteria. Ms. Kimock informed the Members that the passages she is picking out are some of the history, and really it is her response to reading in the newspaper and following the first Historic Commission meeting about the 9 story proposed building. Ms. Kimock noted the meeting was continued into a second meeting, but between the first and second meeting one of the Historic Commission members walked over to the North Side of Bethlehem and said Hotel Bethlehem is 9 stories high and that looks okay so they thought this new building would be okay. She commented there is a passage that represents the historic Hotel Bethlehem. Ms. Kimock noted most of you should know the history of the three Bethlehem’s as being distinct. They were not consolidated until 1917. Ms. Kimock read the passage that within the larger regional context, the South Bethlehem Downtown Historic District is unique to the Lehigh Valley area. Most surviving historic commercial corridors in the region belong to much larger cities like Allentown, Easton, Emmaus, and Quakertown. She pointed out one of the criteria you must go by is to compare your historic district in an application to similar ones. Ms. Kimock continued on to read that, architecturally, the commercial corridors of each of these cities are similar to South Bethlehem in that they share a diverse range of eclectic styles from the end of the 19th to the mid-20th century. However, due to their larger populations and more diverse industrial bases, the commercial corridors are geographically larger, and contain building types like skyscrapers that are not found in South Bethlehem. She said once again this is what made this downtown historic district unique, the size of the buildings and why they developed that way, or why they were not larger than that. She further read that Bethlehem’s proper commercial district, which is North Bethlehem, is similar to South Bethlehem in that it represents an eclectic mix of styles from the late Victorian early 20th century periods, but North Bethlehem is geographically larger and includes resources that are both physically and commercially larger. For example, Bethlehem proper features tall multi-story department stores like the Farr’s which are not found in South Bethlehem in the same scale. In Bethlehem proper, the residential community that patronized the district included some upper management from Bethlehem Steel, professionals like doctors, lawyers, accountants, students, employees, and faculty from Moravian College. Although a bridge at New Street connected the two commercial districts, they historically maintain separate identities and continue to do so today. Ms. Kimock read that the South Bethlehem Downtown Historic District remains a vital, intact concentration of commercial, civic, residential, social and religious buildings from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The district is representative and reflective of the growth of the South Bethlehem community, the character of this industrial community, and the architectural diversity of the period. Because the historic district retains integrity and cohesiveness, it is able to convey its significance as a representative example of a traditional downtown in its historic relationship. Ms. Kimock stated that integrity is a word she would like to bring up with this, and pointed out if we put a 9 story building within a historic district we will destroy that integrity.
Candidate – Vacant Council Seat
Grace Smith, 2512 Hampshire Road, thanked Council for considering her as a candidate for the vacant Council seat. Ms. Smith stated she believes her qualifications are evident in her resume, cover letter, and responses based on the questions that were posed by Council. Ms. Smith commented everyone who knows her knows she is a very strong advocate and will fight and stop at nothing to fight for what she believes is fair, necessary, and just. She believed that everything she has ever learned about life she learned growing up in her small twin home with her 9 family members and 1 bathroom. Ms. Smith stressed that she most importantly learned the value of civic involvement and community responsibility, and as such she has a strong desire to give back to her community and serve on Bethlehem City Council. Ms. Smith informed the Members that if she is appointed to the position she will work tirelessly to catch up to speed to the business at hand on Council, and will dedicate herself to working for the best interest of the citizens of this great City.
Betty Compton, 2529 Hampshire Road, stated she is at the Meeting to speak about her neighbor, Grace Smith, who is a candidate for the vacant Council seat. Ms. Compton reported she sat at the Meeting all evening and admires the work Council does for our community. Ms. Compton noted that in politics one thing is often lost and that is integrity and, if integrity were the basis in the selection of candidates, George McGovern would have been President of the United States. Ms. Compton said, unfortunately, it was not, but as for Ms. Smith, her neighbor, you will find integrity, and added the beauty that you see in her face is also inside of her. Ms. Compton stated she has known Ms. Smith for the past 24 years as a neighbor. Many years ago she used to help present programs for the Council of Churches in these quarters and she found a paper from one of those programs titled, The Crisis of Dropouts in Our Schools. Ms. Compton noted that Ms. Smith lives her faith, and she saw her work hard to graduate from Lehigh with her degree so she could become a guidance counselor. Ms. Compton highlighted the fact that Ms. Smith cares for all of the children, she can see and hear this many times from her, and whatever race the children may be she cares. Ms. Compton noted Ms. Smith also cares about the elderly because she cares about her. Ms. Compton said she can guarantee that if the Members choose Ms. Smith for the position they will have a person of great integrity.
Jim Ortiz, 1041 East Fourth Street, stated he owns the restaurant Maracas Café that opened a few months ago. Mr. Ortiz noted he has not known Ms. Negron for a very long time, maybe just a few months, but within those months she has made a big impact. Mr. Ortiz communicated that his business has had ups and downs, but Ms. Negron has encouraged him in many aspects of his business, even the times when he thought the South Side was not the type of place for his type of business. Mr. Ortiz explained he thought maybe he should do something else, but Ms. Negron has encouraged him that there will be a change, and has directed him to the right people in the City who can help him. Mr. Ortiz highlighted the fact that Ms. Negron does so much volunteer work, half of her life is volunteering, and now is the time that her volunteer work should actually be where everyone can see. Mr. Ortiz stated that if Ms. Negron got this position on City Council that would put her where her knowledge can be used, and added we do need someone who is dedicated.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Peter Crownfield, 407 Delaware Avenue, stated he is at the Meeting to speak about the proposed building on Fourth and Vine Streets. However, he wanted to make a brief statement about one of the candidates. Mr. Crownfield stated he knows some of them and is acquainted with many of them, and has had the opportunity to work with one of them, Olga Negron. Mr. Crownfield noted has known her for 10-15 years and it has been apparent through the years that she is committed to the community. Mr. Crownfield, commenting he does not know where she stands on the proposed project at Fourth and Vine Streets, stated he does know that she would consider everything carefully, and that is what he hopes the rest of Council will do. Mr. Crownfield, mentioning that someone had referred to Council as being a club, said it might be good for Council to choose a candidate who would demonstrate a commitment to the whole City, and all of the people by appointing a highly qualified Latina from the South Side. Mr. Crownfield informed the assembly he is speaking as a concerned citizen with no formal training in community development, but with experience analyzing proposals. He called to attention to a quote from Mayor Donchez who said we were talking about the revitalization of South Bethlehem for 30 years, and now is our chance to do something about it. Mr. Crownfield noted what we really have been talking about all these years is how to build on the strengths of the South Side and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Mr. Crownfield pointed out that the South Side Sasaki Plan, the creation of the Historic District, the Comprehensive Plan, and the Zoning Ordinance all attest to this. He said all you have to do to help the South Side businesses is to do what those plans say, but this is not done. Mr. Crownfield referring to buzz words about smart growth, infield development, and density stressed we cannot afford to get stuck in the 1990’s version of smart growth. We now know that the wrong kind of density is destructive to communities, and revitalization is about people not buildings. We also learned that planning should be comprehensive but growth should be incremental, especially historically. Mr. Crownfield pointed out we do not need more density, and more foot traffic. He pointed out that the CRIZ is designed to attract out of State businesses, and is not in any way designed to help local businesses. Mr. Crownfield asserted it needs to be remembered that even the most superficial due diligence review of this proposal would have told Mr. Benner from the very beginning that this building does not fit the guidelines, and should not be allowed in South Bethlehem in the Historic District. Expressing that he while appreciates all of the people on the Commission, Mr. Crownfield said their decision was wrong. Mr. Crownfield observed that Council has a similar decision to make. He emphasized that the Agenda does not ask whether you support this project, or like the idea, or want development. It asks you to vote on whether the proposal is historically appropriate for the district, and that is the agenda item. Mr. Crownfield asked Council Solicitor Spirk to confirm that to Council Members that this is what they are to vote on, not whether they like the plan, but whether it is historically appropriate. It would be wrong and do irreparable harm to the community and it goes against your own Ordinances and guidelines. Mr. Crownfield noted the building does not meet the guidelines, we saw that chart before. Mr. Crownfield asked Council to set aside their other feelings and do the right thing and that is to vote no on the Certificate of Appropriateness.
Andre Tulhon, 455 Carlton Avenue, stated he is a Political Science major at Lehigh University and believes that the South Side project proposed for Fourth and Vine Streets will benefit not only Lehigh students but also residents of South Side Bethlehem. Mr. Tulhon noted he has been at Lehigh for 3 years and the biggest complaint that many students have is how underdeveloped the South Side is. As a resident of Bethlehem, Mr. Tulhon said he is happy to see that someone is trying to stimulate the local economy. Mr. Tulhon noted many students do not have cars, and Freshman at Lehigh are not allowed to have them. He said this means that many Lehigh students are limited to the South Side and while there may be a few favorite spots among the students it is still clear there is not enough to do around town. He noted that even the students who have cars end up going to the Lehigh Valley Mall and the Promenade Shops. Mr. Tulhon pointed out it is clear there is a huge untapped market on the South Side and tapping into this would not only be providing a valuable service to thousands of Lehigh students, but also more importantly the residents of Bethlehem.
Connor Burbridge, 221 Square, referred to Detroit, Atlantic City and Camden, and queried what do they have in common. He said these communities all sided with business and now they are all hurting. Mr. Burbridge pointed out that if you look at Camden it was built off of Campbell’s Soup, but now no one wants to live in Camden. Mr. Burbridge noted he is from Atlantic City and is now a student at Lehigh University. He highlighted the fact that four casinos in Atlantic City have just closed, and there are more closing so there are many jobs that are lost. He remarked no one wants to live in Detroit but there are people working in those communities to now make it a sustainable community, and that is what we need here in Bethlehem. He said Greenway is great, and there are people doing great things in the community. Mr. Burbridge noted that, when we talk about getting Lehigh students into South Bethlehem, Lehigh does not even have a bus that runs into Bethlehem, and no bus even to Steel Stacks. Mr. Burbridge said before you consider siding with business and more major developments, just look at smaller community big solutions.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, stated that, as a life-long resident of Bethlehem and a former President of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, he recognizes and respects Bethlehem’s history that he believes is the foundation for the City’s tourism, as well as both community and economic development efforts. Mr. Grubb stated, in his opinion, selective decisions and shortcuts are not an option when history and preservation are at stake. He said the public outcry over the proposed development on the corner of West Fourth and Vine Streets seems to be mostly about the scale, and somewhat about the design of the project. Mr. Grubb commented that, although he would personally prefer the preservation of existing structures over demolition, he is pleased when any developer is willing to invest in Bethlehem, especially when development is proposed that is compatible with what already exists, particularly in a National Register Historic District, the protection of which is provided for under City Ordinance. Mr. Grubb questioned why do elected officials always seem to support developers instead of City residents and other community representatives, and why do elected officials ignore City Ordinance and preservation guidelines that have been enacted and vetted by City Council that define and outline measures for protecting historic properties and areas of the City. Mr. Grubb asked why elected officials waste taxpayer money on those studies if they will not use them, and why do elected City officials deny that campaign contributions can influence their decision making process when we all know that is why campaign contributions are made. He said we all know it is human nature to reward kindness and favors in kind. Mr. Grubb questioned why cannot a project located in both a National Register Historic District and CRIZ, one that will be subsidized with public funding, be developed with more attention to a scale that fits based on the Historic District and the City Preservation Guidelines. Mr. Grubb wondered why Council cannot look at other successful examples in Bethlehem like the new office building at Broad and New Streets, the rebuilt Wieland’s Property at Broad and Main Streets, the office building at East Third and Polk Streets, the Charter School’s new building, and other proposed development along East Third Street to understand how important scale and design are on infill development. Mr. Grubb asked when will City planners begin to plan for instead of react to development proposals. Mr. Grubb stated that, as he listens to some of the speakers, there is more planning knowledge out here than there is in City government. Mr. Grubb wondered how does a Conservation Commission charged with overseeing and protecting historic districts decide that economic development impact is part of their charge when it is not, and he was here when all of that was done. Mr. Grubb wondered when will elected officials in the City seek to protect the community’s history through the application of plans and historic district guidelines instead of just paying lip service to the City’s history. He asked how many of you would support this size development if it was in your neighborhood. Mr. Grubb highlighted the fact that the City government and the developer have the ability to ensure that the scale, mass, and architecture are compatible with the surrounding streetscape in a National Register Historic District, but he wonders why they will not.
Stephanie Aperdomo said she feels more comfortable in Spanish. She said I live at 711 E. 5th Street. I’ve lived on the Southside of Bethlehem for one year. I’m talking about our community. By community I mean my neighbors, the people I love, the people I say hello to everyday, I’m speaking for them. I’m speaking for the future of our community. I’m speaking about this building they want to put up. It’s not something I love from my home. It’s not something that I love in my neighborhood or the love of the people in the neighborhood. It’s something that is going to destroy that love, erase it. It’s going to poison the water that is so clear, so beautiful, and full of history. I am talking for my people, for the people around me, for my neighbors, for the people, for example, from the restaurant La Lupita who are my friends. I’m talking about the people I speak with and love. I am trying to talk about and protect your town, your home, your neighborhood for the love they have. I tell you Council people from the neighborhood please think of what is happening. This building is not something we want. Like a lot of people, we are saying it should be from a normal scale a building of 3 or 4 floors, that’s fine, because that is part of my love for South Bethlehem. That is fine, but if you have something that’s 9 floors, the gentleman had said he wanted 12 floors but changed his mind and is building one that is 9 floors. They compared it to the Hotel Bethlehem. They said this building is 9 floors, okay what is the difference. The difference is that Hotel Bethlehem is situated on a larger street. The hotel is situated in a consequential area. How are they going to know driving or even walking on the path from the north to the south? There is going to be a building of 9 floors, a building that is not going to help us feel Latino, it’s not going to help us feel happy living on the Southside of Bethlehem. This building is going to be a very big building, a very big building that is going to be over our heads, a building that we can’t even live in, a building that for sure is going to charge $1,000 for each apartment, and more than $2,000 if you want a luxury apartment. If you are really thinking of this, I want to tell Mr. Benner to please think of the people, not only for the students. I live here, I live on the Southside. I know this area from before. It’s not worth it if someone comes and says that these people need a building of 9 floors. This is why I’m here. I am here to speak for my people, for a place that I love, that I came to a year ago and like very much. I love the Star, the star that I see at night when I’m walking. The star that guides me and sees me and tells me here is your home, you are going to get home. I tell you I hope that you speak and vote. If your language is English tell them, tell them the truth, how much you love this country, how much you love your neighborhood, and let’s preserve your history.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Basilio Bonilla
Basilio Bonilla, Jr., 428 Grandview Boulevard, commented for those of you on City Council who do not speak Spanish he must say the speaker before him had one of the most powerful speeches of the night, and he feels bad for those who did not understand her, she spoke from the heart. Mr. Bonilla advised that, as someone in the community and the Hispanic community serving on the School Board, he has never heard a speech spoken like that. Mr. Bonilla believed that Bethlehem is great, and one thing that makes this City great is the fact that there are Hispanics, African-Americans, Portuguese, Hungarians, Germans, and they are all living together as one. But then when we come before this body we do not have the representation that we should. Mr. Bonilla related that he is Hispanic but he believes that race should not be part of the decision being made by City Council tonight. He did not think that race has a place in a decision like this. The things that need to be decided tonight when we look at candidates are the $5.8 million deficit, the Benner project, the future revitalization of Bethlehem, traffic, and how can we make our streets safe to be biker friendly and walker friendly. Mr. Bonilla asked how we can represent our community better, so he asks when Council makes their decision tonight that they not just make it on race. Mr. Bonilla explained that on the School Board he has seen candidates be dismissed because of race, because they were Caucasian, and it is not always right. Mr. Bonilla pointed out that City Council needs to select the best person for the vacant Council seat who can best represent the City and this community. Mr. Bonilla informed the assembly that, aside from his position on the School Board, he has held several positions within the community. Mr. Bonilla stated that the issues facing the City need to be addressed, the budget, that is the big elephant in the room, so he hoped that Council selects someone who can both best represent the City and understand the issues we face.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Catherine Young, 314 West Ninth Street, stated she is at the Meeting to support many of the other people who have spoken about the proposed 9 story building. She wondered if anyone here has lived on the South Side, and if they have tried to get out of the South Side or back into the South Side in the morning or in the afternoon coming home or going to work. Ms. Young pointed out it is already overpopulated, and said we do not need any more people within there than we already have, in her opinion. She explained it takes her 45 minutes to get across the bridge at Route 378, and to add more housing is an absurd idea. Ms. Young communicated that this is not the right plan for the City, the City that she lives in, the South Side that she lives in. Ms. Young believed this is not the right plan for the community and she does not really see many people represented here of the community she knows. Her children go to Broughal Middle School, and she does not see many parents from her class represented here. Ms. Young said it is sad and it shows her that we are not doing a very good job of communicating what the future of the City is going to be to the people who actually live there. Ms. Young hoped that when Council makes this decision they will consider all of the professionals who have given all of the amazing information they have about revitalizing this area, and also consider the voices of the people who actually live there, and will continue to live there for a long time. Ms. Young said this affects her and her children and her neighbors, and she hopes that Council says no to that building, it is not the right thing for our community.
Gail Domalakes, 825 Carlton Avenue, noted that she came to the Meeting mostly to listen tonight but she has to say an alarm went off in her head when she heard the comment about the same density and population as Boston. Ms. Domalakes said she would have to agree with the previous speaker and urge Council to vote no on the proposed building for Fourth and Vine Streets. Ms. Domalakes commented it also seemed peculiar to her to think that a 9 story apartment building would give the Lehigh students something to do. She said there is plenty to do on the South Side. There are many places to eat and there are movies at SteelStacks, they can walk on the Greenway or go to the Casino. Ms. Domalakes hoped that Council votes no on the project.
Jason Eugene Richard Hetherington, 316 West Packer Avenue, stated this is his first ever City Council Meeting, he has been living on the South Side for 17 years, and because the building idea is important to him he wanted to speak. Mr. Hetherington said he has sat here and listened to so many brilliant speakers tonight, and he wanted Council to know there are many people who are not at the Meeting who he has talked to about this all week. He commented that there is an opportunity here for Council to do the right thing. There are many people who did not show up tonight because they believe the deal is done. Mr. Hetherington believed this is an opportunity for Council to not just listen to the people who are speaking, but it is an opportunity for Council to show the people that they are listening. Mr. Hetherington remarked that, as for places for the students to live, in his neighborhood he sees for rent signs all over the place. There are empty homes waiting for students to rent and live in them, so the idea of needing another place to live is absurd to them. Finally, Mr. Hetherington said he does not know Ms. Negron but she sounds like a superstar to him.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Esther Lee
Wandalyn Jeanette Enix, 489 Vera Circle, informed the assembly she was born and raised on the South Side, was a History teacher for 43 years at Broughal and Nitschmann Middle Schools, and then taught at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She has history stories she could tell, and is writing a book more on the African-American History in Bethlehem and there is so much to tell. Ms. Enix advised she came to the Meeting to speak in support of Esther Lee for the vacant Council seat. Ms. Enix pointed out that Ms. Lee has run for this office more times than anyone in the City of Bethlehem, at least 6 times. Ms. Enix advised that Ms. Lee also ran for the General Assembly and she has been on many committees including State Committees, Church Committees, Children’s Committees, and it would be an important part of African-American History in the City. Ms. Enix informed the assembly that the Lee family came in the 1880’s. Their great-grandfather worked for Mr. Witherall, a businessman. Ms. Enix reported her people came to Bethlehem in the 1920’s, and her grandmother worked for Edmund Martin, Chairman of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and she asked him to get her son, and her dad a job at Bethlehem Steel so we have a long history in the City. Ms. Enix stated that actually African-Americans have been in the City since 1741. She tells people they love this City, and there are three parts in the City of Bethlehem for the African-Americans. One is named for a young girl who was murdered on the South Side, another part is named for Martin Luther King, and the third part is Ernest Enix park. The Mayor was on Council at the time to dedicate the park to her father’s work in the community. Ms. Enix informed Council that Mrs. Lee is dedicated, qualified, and needs no introduction.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Michael Quesada, 484 Birkel Avenue, stated this evening he heard the term renaissance used a few times. He noted there has been talk about bringing a renaissance to the City, and the hope is that the project on Fourth and Vine Streets will help spark that in this part of Bethlehem, and his philosophy is bring it on. Commenting that the citizens are ready for this renaissance, Mr. Quesada explained that a renaissance is about continuity. It is about respecting the past by working in the present to build a better future. Mr. Quesada advised if you look at the term renaissance itself it is about continuity. It began with the Greeks, and the Romans took the Greeks ideas and added their own ideas. The Europeans added their own ideas, and then we as Americans took up the renaissance ourselves and we continue that tradition. Mr. Quesada said if we will do a renaissance, then instead of destroying an entire building and building an entirely new one, why not utilize the resources that you have. Mr. Quesada stated he understands that with government we elect officials so that they will assure us they will do everything in their power to make sure the citizens will meet their needs. He remarked people may not remember but they will never forget, and if this Council votes for this project he can promise them that the people of Bethlehem will not forget this so they may vote next time for someone else. Mr. Quesada noted it is about creating something that will stand the test of time. He said we should show respect for the buildings we have here already so we should incorporate the old with the new.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Olga Negron
Mr. Negron, nephew of Olga Negron, noted he is a citizen of the City and he deserves representation of his own people. Stating there are decisions that affect him directly, said it would embrace you as a City Council to have Olga Negron as a Council Member. Mr. Negron pointed out he is very proud of Olga Negron. He commented we have heard many good things about her, but he has to add she is a good cook. Being her nephew, Mr. Negron advised he has seen his aunt growing up with 11 brothers and sisters, and he is proud of her because his grandfather showed her how to work for the community and give back to the community. Mr. Negron communicated that we as human beings need to give our neighbors and family members and even strangers our well-deserved help. Mr. Negron believed Ms. Negron would be the best City Council Member because she is an impartial person, that is one of her values, and as a Latino she has strong values.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Esther Lee
Esther Lee, 627 Cherokee Street, stated she is one of the candidates for the vacant seat for City Council. Ms. Lee pointed out her people did not come through Ellis Island, and they came on trains from the South. Ms. Lee advised that she has lived in Bethlehem all of her life, as is evident by her gray hair, but that does not prevent her from knowing how to make decisions. Ms. Lee informed the assembly that she served on the Bethlehem School Board, and she continues to work within the community very vitally every day of her life. Affirming that the candidates have submitted their documents to the Members of Council, Ms. Lee said she prays that Council has read them. Ms. Lee explained she stands only to introduce herself to the community, and to the younger folks who may not know her. Ms. Lee said she does not come to serve in this position as a tall, black woman but as a citizen of Bethlehem representing the City. She has reviewed and watched the projects constantly, and she sees the constructions that are projected. Pointing out we are watching every day what is going on, Ms. Lee noted as she stands if she is placed in the seat she would review everything. Ms. Lee advised that budgets are not strange to her, she can review a budget as good as the next, and when it comes to dollars she knows how to count them as well. Ms. Lee commented she has been around a long time, and she would expect the respect of just being rightfully considered for the position, not as a tall black woman, and she has always counted herself since she was young as being a human being and not one of color. Ms. Lee communicated that, as Council makes their considerations this evening, she would pray that they look to consider her for the position. Ms. Lee added she has run for office and has run the right way. She has been a Democrat and has served as a Republican, so she knows the system. Ms. Lee stated as we go forward whether she is selected or not she will continue to pursue the watch over Bethlehem. Ms. Lee said she is a taxpayer, has children, and two grandchildren who graduated from Moravian College. Ms. Lee added that she is retired. Thanking everyone for listening to her, Ms. Lee said she has watched each one of the Members of Council, but no one called her name, and they know her so she counts that as the fact you need to be careful. Ms. Lee stated that, in a situation like this, you cannot acknowledge the fact you might know her but God speed to each one of you and if she never speaks again you heard her tonight.
Candidate for Vacant City Council Seat – Julie Ann Edgar
Julie Ann Edgar, 534 North Circle, advised that she submitted some records to Council and has made a grave error and she wanted to revise and say she does not support the 9 story building exactly as proposed. Ms. Edgar noted she may have indicated otherwise so she wanted to explain it for the record. Ms. Edgar said she wanted to give great respect to all of you with the testimony given here with all of this information. She encouraged Council to appoint someone tonight who will reflect the diversity of the community. Ms. Edgar informed the assembly that she spent the last three days knocking on doors in Bethlehem, hundreds of doors, including the most palatial places, some public housing, and speaking Spanish to many people. She was grateful she could speak enough to communicate with them, and they were very forthcoming. Ms. Edgar believed the diversity of the community should be more represented on Council and she encouraged Council to consider that during deliberations.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Lucy Lennon, 1816 Millard Street, advised she is a rental agent, was the past President of the Downtown Bethlehem Association, and she has owned restaurants on both the North and South sides of Bethlehem, so not only is she a resident but she is a business owner. Ms. Lennon said, from doing rentals, there is a great demand for housing on the South Side. Ms. Lennon pointed out people are looking for granite, they are looking for stainless steel, kids have higher expectations and they want nice places to live. She said it would be a nice change to see kids living in nice places, and when they are done at 5:00 pm, or even young professionals, then instead of climbing in their car and driving over to the North Side or the Promenade or Allentown they will stay in their own community because there is much more to offer. Ms. Lennon listed businesses including Clothes Line Organics, Comfort and Joy, Home and Planet, Velvet Textures, Monsoon, Primo, Wildflower Café, and Shuze, that she said is just off the top of her head, on Third and Fourth Streets that were lost on the South Side. She thought maybe three places have announced they are going to Easton. Ms. Lennon stressed if we do not step up our game, and with zoning if we do not offer more and start putting up new buildings, we might be in trouble. Ms. Lennon wondered if people knew that when a hood is installed for a restaurant it has to be 14 feet away from the property next door to you. She continued on to say you cannot be over the sidewalks anymore like the old buildings like Chicken and Ribs had. Commenting you have to actually build from new pretty much, she said it is very hard to put in restaurants there. Ms. Lennon pointed out these would be restaurants people would go to where they live. Ms. Lennon noted if Council does not believe that the restaurants and stores are suffering they should come to a First Friday on the South Side sometime. Ms. Lennon explained it used to be that you could not get down the streets because it was so crowded, but now you could roller skate if you wanted. There is no one out there. She stressed that for every one of those businesses you cannot tell her they would not want to embrace more clientele. Ms. Lennon, noting there are about 75,000 people in the City, said if every one of those businesses had just 10% of our population as their regular customer base they would be okay or at least be doing better. She acknowledged, yes, there will be issues with traffic which we will have to figure out. Ms. Lennon remarked that, when it comes to parking, go up and down Carlton Avenue and Fourth Street where you have taken homes that were structured to be single family homes when people had one car. Years ago they turned them into two and three families’ residences so now there are three, four or five cars there. Ms. Lennon mentioned it would be nice to have a garage where people could pull into and be off the streets. Ms. Lennon stated she wants to see the City do better, and she is tired of hearing about businesses that are either closing or moving to another location. Ms. Lennon commented she is also speaking as a merchant since as a realtor she is also a merchant because she chooses to work in Bethlehem. Ms. Lennon stressed we need the housing and we need nice housing so she hopes that Council supports the building on Fourth and Vine. As for the vacant Council seat, she said she hopes that Christopher Spadoni gets the appointment.
President Reynolds called for a recess at 9:40 p.m. The meeting reconvened at 10:00 p.m.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Jeffrey R. Zettlemoyer, 1304 East Sixth Street, stated he is at the Meeting to speak on the process and said the Historic Commission did not run their meeting by Roberts Rules of parliamentary procedure. He commented that Resolutions E and F received no second he could hear of in the meeting so he would strongly urge Council to kick these two back to the Commission for a final vote and final come down. Mr. Zettlemoyer advised that in conversation with Chris Ussler and the Board there were 9 to 11 unresolved issues in this project that need further ferreting out by the Board and by the Commission, so it would be hasty for this Council to even consider these Resolutions when the developer really is not ready to proceed with this project based on what we heard in that meeting. Mr. Zettlemoyer strongly urged Council Members to attend some of these meetings so they could hear for themselves what goes on in these meetings. Mr. Zettlemoyer said he would not want to go to a derivative lawsuit to send this back but will pursue that if necessary. Mr. Zettlemoyer noted that, as far as economic and community development, in 1974, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding came into existence. In 1978, the City of Bethlehem by Resolution appointed a Section 3 Business Coordinator who had the task of developing economic opportunities within the City of Bethlehem. In 1980, a person was hired to do that work but at the time the Chamber of Commerce did all the economic development for the City. Mr. Zettlemoyer informed the assembly that in 1983 the late Mayor Paul Marcincin and the late Joseph Leeson, Sr., former City Solicitor, got together with staff to find out if we wanted to bring it under the guise of City government and we did so, and brought it into the Redevelopment Authority. Mr. Zettlemoyer said he remembers the words of Joseph Leeson today who said economic development is for the high and moderate income, community development is for the low and moderate income. Mr. Zettlemoyer remarked you have a dichotomy here, and this is a perfect example of economic development running headlong into community development. He asserted they should be kept separate, be in separate departments, and should be administered by separate people. Mr. Zettlemoyer advised people are looking at the Section 3 Business Coordinator, as he was hired in 1980 to do this type of work for the City. As a result, he stayed out of it because community development was his bailiwick, not economic development. Mr. Zettlemoyer informed the assembly that John Rohal and the Redevelopment Authority championed economic development in the City until Kerry Wrobel was hired to take it up another notch. Then he was relieved of his Section 3 responsibilities because Mr. Wrobel assumed those. Mr. Zettlemoyer commented he would say the City should have a community development and an economic development coordinator, and that is how he feels about his subject. Mr. Zettlemoyer mentioned as far as being the City’s first Civil Rights Enforcement Officer he wishes both Ms. Negron and Ms. Lee well in pursuit of a City Council seat. He pointed out they come with a lot of experience, and with a different frame of reference than any of the Members on Council now, with all due respect. Mr. Zettlemoyer stated Ms. Lee has been around a long time and the knowledge she possesses of this City is unparalleled. Mr. Zettlemoyer stated that there was one other person who ran more times than Ms. Lee for City Council and that was John Cornish. Mr. Zettlemoyer urged Council to send this back to the Commission, table it, send it back and let them do their due diligence, and then we will see what develops of the 9 to 11 issues that are still outstanding for these projects.
President Reynolds advised when the Resolutions come up later he will turn to the Administration for a comment about the overall process as it has come forward.
Winston Alozie, 623 Alaska Street, stated he is adamantly opposed to a 9 story building on the corner of Fourth and Vine Streets. He is adamantly opposed to it because that is too close to a school where most of the children in the neighborhood attend. It will be a place where you will have such fancy wonderful shops and get a certain type of people living there and that would not be fair to the children. Mr. Alozie mentioned that as someone who lives in the neighborhood, and commenting he will not say where he works because of a conflict of interest, to see so many people be pushed out of their homes because 5 years ago they were paying $800 a month to live there but now have to pay $1,200 dollars a month to be in a row home on Atlantic Street, now they have nowhere to go, and that is not fair. Mr. Alozie stressed that to say to build something like that in a town that has prided itself on its historical integrity when it comes to certain areas in town and to not do the same to the other side of town is just wrong and an insult to anyone who lives south of the Lehigh River. Mr. Alozie emphasized it is not fair in the name of economic pursuits to put more shops that the people who actually live in the neighborhood cannot afford to go to. Mr. Alozie noted he knows many on Council and that Mr. Callahan was his gym and health teacher. Mr. Alozie said he respects all on Council, but asked that they please hear the pleas of the southsiders, and stated it is not right. He pointed out that so many people go to Goosey Gander to sit and enjoy the sunshine while they eat a sandwich. He said please do not block that sunshine with a 9 story building across the street.
Dave Fry, 7 East Fourth Street, stated he lives across from the great Rooney Building. He mentioned the gentleman before him talked about blocking sunshine and that is how this building affects him. Mr. Fry stated he has four months of living in the shadow of that building, it affects his fuel bill, his geraniums, and how he feels. Mr. Fry stressed that adding a 9 story shadow to the South Side of Bethlehem is wrong.
Robert Williams, 940 Jeter Avenue, Fountain Hill, remarked that people know of him as LA. Mr. Williams, commenting he was confused by something that was said before, said he was told that someone in the audience is an employee of Mr. Benner. Mr. Williams said he is a resident of Fountain Hill but he has spent a lot of money on the South Side. Mr. Williams advised he goes to the Blue Sky Café almost every day and spends about $1,000 a year there, he has been doing this for about 15 years, and has spent probably $20,000 just having breakfast on the South Side. Mr. Williams stated he knows some of the people who have moved to Easton, and he does not think they moved to Easton because they were waiting for development. They moved to Easton because the rents are getting too high because of the development. Mr. Williams thought if we see a woman who represents herself at this Meeting as speaking for merchants who are not here and is in fact an employee of the person who is developing, you work for who pays you, and said the people at this Meeting have a right to know who this is.
President Reynolds explained that during the Public Comment period people are able to speak about the particular project, but as far as other speakers are concerned that is not allowed. President Reynolds noted he has been lenient about what is allowed under the First Courtesy of the floor as far as the Ordinances and Resolutions. President Reynolds asked people to keep the comments to the project in particular.
Mr. Williams stated his comments would be about the procedure, and that there is something about this procedure that seems really wrong. Mr. Williams noted that with the CRIZ, this particular project has been given that designation and it would be much more realistic if after the CRIZ had been developed the regulations for applying for a project could be put out and then you might have more than one or two things on the table to look at. He said this is given as the only option and given the CRIZ there are probably other options. Mr. Williams expressed that vetoing this does not mean you are against development, it does not mean you are against new businesses, and it does not mean really that you are against tearing down half of that old structure. Mr. Williams stressed we will end up with a 9 story building on a street that is too small for it. He pointed out that Northampton Street in Easton does have big buildings, but is a big wide boulevard. Mr. Williams observed that Hotel Bethlehem is on a big wide boulevard, but a 9 story building on Fourth Street does not fit.
President Reynolds reiterated that when the matter comes up in the Agenda he will turn to the Administration for some comments on the process that has been followed so far, and the process as far as the whole project is concerned so hopefully some of the questions will be answered then.
Breena Holland, 379 Carver Drive, stated she wanted to speak about the Historic Conservation meeting a few weeks ago, and added she has spoken about this before. Ms. Holland explained that the article that was written in the newspaper that she believes was written by Lynn Olanoff the day after the Historic Conservation Commission meeting brought up one quote by one of the members of the Historic Conservation Commission saying that she was concerned that the decision making in that meeting was based on economic impact and that was setting a bad precedent. Ms. Holland stated there was another comment by another member of the Commission who said that she thought the discussion was violating the Zoning Ordinance. Ms. Holland noted she has provided Council with a copy of the powers and duties of the Historic Conservation Commission regarding the Historic District. Asking Council to open up to the highlighted section, Ms. Holland noted that in item (a) (2) in Article 1714 the Board can consider the financial feasibility of its recommendation based on cost estimates and other financial documentation provided by the applicant when necessary, but that is not what the Board was doing. She said it was talking about the economic impact of the building, not its financial feasibility. Ms. Holland stressed that the impact on the community is what it was using to justify its reasoning for why a completely historically inappropriate building would somehow get approval as historically appropriate. Remarking this is a problem, Ms. Holland communicated that someone should please tell her in the guidelines where there is anything that gives the Historic Conservation Commission authority to consider economic impact, and she said there is not. Ms. Holland emphasized she is not just saying this. It was reported in the press that this is what they were doing. She pointed out that two members of the Board that night referenced the potential disastrous impact of setting a precedent where the Board would start to consider the economic impact of a building when they are charged with considering historic appropriateness. Ms. Holland pointed out the proposed building is the CB Zone and the building on Fourth Street and Vine Street that Mr. Benner is proposing is in the same exact district as the CB district on Main Street. If someone wants to tell her that there are different zoning guidelines for a CB district she could not find that demonstrated on the map. She stressed it is very important to think about the fact that whatever you think should go and can go on Main Street, the same rules are also what guides what goes on Fourth Street. Ms. Holland handed out the design standards in the CL, CB and RT districts, and said the district we are talking about on Fourth Street and on Main Street is the CB district. Ms. Holland advised if you turn to the second page of the document under new construction, item (h), the design requirements the Ordinance states new construction should have roof lines that are similar to adjacent older buildings. Ms. Holland continued on to read that a flat roof should be avoided except when a decorative cornice or parapet is used where a pitched roof is not practical. Then the roof should at least appear to have angles and a pitch when viewed from the street, assuming it will be visible from the street. Ms. Holland noted at the end of page 7, (g) and (m), it states a building should be constructed to a height compatible with existing surrounding buildings, and highlighted the fact that those are your rules.
Al Wurth, 525 Sixth Avenue, noted he has appeared before Council in the past and many times on issues similar to this about historic preservation. Mr. Wurth said he remembers asking Council to save and intervene to protect historic value for Broughal Middle School, and Council was unwilling to do that. Mr. Wurth stated it is disappointing to him that Council is willing to supersede or override the historic regulations on behalf of a project that is being proposed. Mr. Wurth advised he came to Bethlehem 30 years ago and has been charmed by Bethlehem’s livable, walkable, attractive, if not perfectly vibrant community. He thought we already know what makes a good urban community work, we do not need to mess with it too much, and certainly there should not be a violation of the rules and laws. Mr. Wurth said he cannot figure out exactly what the vote is all about. He does not understand why the Mayor and Council would disagree with the Historic District. He queried do they think someone should get special consideration if they are going to build a monstrosity. Mr. Wurth commented that makes no sense to him. He questioned why is this project getting special consideration and why would they not follow the same rules that everyone has indicated. Mr. Wurth remarked it is almost as if there are two sets of laws, one for the developers, and one for the rest of us that have to follow all these rules. Mr. Wurth noted the real question for Council is do they believe in the Historic District or do they believe in the developer. Do they believe in the community and the guidelines that are set, or are they working for someone else. Mr. Wurth asked why this building could not be built within the constraints that everyone else’s buildings have to live with. Mr. Wurth recalled before he moved here he looked at a house on Wall Street and one on Sixth Avenue where he lives, but Wall Street was out of his pay range, unfortunately. He explained the reason was although the two homes were almost exactly the same in square feet, livability, and features, the one on Wall Street was 25% more because it was in an historic district. Mr. Wurth pointed out that the historic district provides what planners call assurance. You know no one will build a roller derby rockarama next to your house. Mr. Wurth pointed out that is why we have zoning, why there are historic districts, and that is why property values go up in the historic district. Mr. Wurth continued to say if we violate historic districts we are cutting off our nose to spite our face. We are penalizing everybody else on the block. Mr. Wurth stressed this building will be a precedent, and Council cannot fight the lawyers off once there are special treatments in an historic district because you have decided an historic district does not matter. Mr. Wurth asserted the worst thing about this is it just tells the whole world that we will do whatever. We have these rules but the rules do not really matter. If you come and spin a nice tale you will get what you want in Bethlehem. Mr. Wurth stated this is a disappointment to him and everyone else who comes here how little Bethlehem understands how wonderful it is and what makes it so wonderful. He believed this is a huge mistake, and we cannot keep doing these kinds of things where the rules do not matter if you know the right people or if you jump through the right hoops. Mr. Wurth noted this building could be built according to the law, and Mr. Benner could make a lot of money, and everyone would be happy, and he does not understand why Mr. Benner gets an exemption.
Andrew Po, 327 East Market Street, stated the business he runs is on 14 West Fourth Street. Mr. Po, speaking in regards to the building on Fourth and Vine Streets, commented he is the only business owner at the Meeting so he wonders if he is not supposed to be here. Mr. Po said he is a business owner and thinks economic development in South Bethlehem would be amazing, and there are many people who made good points about the reason why this project probably should not get voted for. Mr. Po expressed that he is not necessarily here to tell Council that he is adamantly against it, because he is for progress and for development. Mr. Po informed the assembly that the reason why he opened up his business 12 years ago on the South Side of Bethlehem is because of the things that everyone else spoke about. He had a decision to make about where he wanted to have a business, and the South Side and everything about the South Side and the historic district, is what made him choose to open up his business there. Mr. Po stated it was said before that there is community development. Mr. Po advised his business has invested a lot of energy and time, not so many dollars, but a lot into the community of Bethlehem and the South Side of Bethlehem. He said there are many other businesses that do the same. A lot of what makes the South Side a vibrant place is because those business owners work together to create a good economy. Mr. Po noted it was said there are businesses that are not there anymore, and that is unfortunate. He wished they were there because those are the businesses that made First Friday, brought people, helped support the Skate Plaza and the Greenway, and these are all things that contribute to the community of the South Side of Bethlehem. Asking if we need new neighbors, Mr. Po commented yes, the South Side does need new neighbors. Mr. Po expressed he would love to see more people develop in the South Side. Much like his landlord developed, they took an old building and they made it something that people can live in, people can work in, and have businesses in. Mr. Po noted his landlord did not get rich overnight but she is doing well off of his building, the people who live there, and the people who run businesses there. Mr. Po highlighted the fact that she followed the rules and went before the Historic Board, and she had to go by every single rule that the Historic Board had. Mr. Po commented maybe there are things he does not understand about politics and about business. He said when you have large sums of money to invest into a community, and adding it is not bad to have large sums of money to invest in a community, inquired is this person going to invest in the community in the same way other business owners and the people who have already invested their lives in this part of town. Mr. Po wondered if this person will continue that tradition. Mr. Po expressed he cannot say if he will, and he does not know this person well enough, so he is not here to bad mouth anyone who wants to invest in the South Side. Pointing out that City Council has seen everyone who has spoken here and what they know, Mr. Po wondered is the decision made going to be in line with what these people have said and with the laws we have worked under and lived under. Mr. Po noted the person before him talked of a precedent, but he is worried about the next project, how will that affect his business, and should he consider leaving Bethlehem because maybe the South Side is not the place he thought it was. Acknowledging that is his personal opinion, Mr. Po said although he loves the South Side for what it is, he hopes that the development that comes respects the people who have invested in the South Side and will want to work with the people who are already there.
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, informed the assembly that he is an economist and an amateur city planner. Mr. Scheirer said he was reminded of a comment once made by the previous Superintendent of Schools about Broughal School. There is a lot of misinformation out there he said, but Mr. Scheirer noted he would say not only misinformation but faulty thinking and incomplete thinking. Mr. Scheirer pointed out that since historic preservation includes scale, tripling the height of buildings is not historic preservation. Denoting that the Rooney building has been shown as a precedent, Mr. Scheirer stressed that one mistake should not lead to another. Noting that the Hotel Bethlehem has also been cited, Mr. Scheirer highlighted the fact that it is on a wider street, is on the end of the historic district, and it almost adjacent to a bridge. Mr. Scheirer observed that the Flatiron building on the South Side is only 6 stories and faces a wide intersection. He further noted that the Bethlehem Steel corporate headquarters is adjacent to what was once a 5 mile long plant. He said church spires are just that, spires, and they in no way compare to the mass of a 9 story building at the narrow intersection at Fourth and Vine Streets. Mr. Scheirer, advising that the building has been described as a game changer, asserted it is indeed that. Mr. Scheirer stressed that, if this project is approved, it will set a real precedent for the entire South Side because there will be similar proposals. Mr. Scheirer commented that the developer has also been talking about 13 stories down the street, and 7 stories at Third and New Streets. He asserted this is in no way compatible with historic preservation which will be delegated not to the backseat but to the caboose. Mr. Scheirer queried if this building is built will these people come, and what is the occupancy rate at Riverport. He expressed that some of those who do come will be customers for South Side businesses but he said the end result will be higher rents forcing some businesses out. Mr. Scheirer communicated that the South Side could even become another high end district like Main Street, and added Main Street is fine but we do not need another one. Observing that the South Side has something else to offer, Mr. Scheirer said he challenges anyone to walk down Fourth Street and have a cup of coffee at Deja Brew and not feel that there is something comfortable and charming about this area with a down to earth atmosphere that is dependent on the human scale. Mr. Scheirer stated no one is advocating that the land remain vacant. He pointed out that the developer says a 9 story building would be necessary for the project to be viable even though this would be a CRIZ project and even though Ashley Development is only building 2, 3 and 4 stories on Third Street. Emphasizing that Mr. Benner was satisfied with a 7 story building with a much smaller footprint before on this site, Mr. Scheirer wondered was Mr. Benner wrong back then and have market conditions changed so much, and said we just do not know. Commenting he can understand the zeal to deal with this matter before budget deliberations, Mr. Scheirer asserted that Council has not yet demonstrated the fullness of thinking because the choice is not just a 9 story building versus the status quo. He continued on to say why not an 8 story building or 7, 6, 5, 4, or 3 story building. Mr. Scheirer stated that a 3 story building on the new footprint would provide more floor area than the original 7 story building on a much narrower footprint. Mr. Scheirer insisted that this vote is too important to take with only partial information, and if Council has even a glimmer of concern for historic preservation this vote should be postponed until such time as the developer makes public, not just to Council, all of his facts, figures, calculations and assumptions underlying the 9 story building. He thought this should then be vetted by an independent expert who has no other interest involved in Bethlehem so that it is truly independent. Mr. Scheirer noted in the courts there is the concept of discovery, where each side views the evidence of the other side. Remarking that City Council is, of course, not a court Mr. Scheirer said the decision is a legal one and the importance of the vote dictates a process like that of discovery. Mr. Scheirer stated that Council could then take the matter up after the budget decisions, and the developer could wait a little longer since these proposals go back at least a year. Mr. Scheirer said if you approve this building without doing due diligence you will be repeating mistakes of urban renewal.
Heather Doll, 315 West Packer Avenue, informed the assembly that she got the chance to talk to someone who lives and works in South Bethlehem, and for whom she was babysitting, about this development and how she feels about it. Ms. Doll mentioned this person does not know a lot about it but she just said it was a shame to potentially be giving up so much progress that we have made incrementally in the past 15 years in South Bethlehem. Expressing that is something we need to look at, Ms. Doll observed that this development will lead to more money, but she questioned who will get the money. Will it be the developer who already has money, or will it go around to the South Bethlehem residents. Ms. Doll said she knows that the developer’s concern is with students and with making money with them and that is what a developer should be doing. She asked Council if they were the City Council or the Developer Council because she is wondering what kinds of decisions they have been making that lead them to decide to let this go this far, especially with paperwork not being done correctly as it has been. Ms. Doll, acknowledging she does not know much of the details on this and she is not trying to be a sensationalist at all, asked Council if they would do this development on Main Street in North Bethlehem. Ms. Doll expressed that she wants Council to really think about this because if the answer is no, she has been in South Bethlehem long enough to know that it is the ugly stepsister of North Bethlehem. Ms. Doll said she knows that it is treated differently and people are not taken into consideration as much when decisions are made. Ms. Doll asked Council who they are representing, the developer or the small business owners who need that incremental change, and who have had to adhere to the Historical Conservation District guidelines. She queried is Council trying to adhere to the people who have building Bethlehem and have been slowly but surely building it for the past 10 years, or does Council want an individual who comes in saying they want 13 stories or 9 stories or 7 stories. Ms. Doll asserted that demonstrates that Council does not have a very firm grasp on what South Bethlehem is or what it is supposed to be. Ms. Doll communicated that this worries her, and she really just wants to echo that Council wants to do the best job they can do, but look at the rules, and look at the rules and regulations of the district and ask yourselves if they matter. She continued on to say if they do not matter to you then throw them out, be the change you want to see in the world. Ms. Doll stated she is all for the Historic Conservation District, but if Council is just going to completely disregard the rules then throw them out because she would really prefer that we do not have these rules in place than we make a mockery of the public process by not following the right procedures for certain people.
4. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Members of Council
B. Tabled Items
C. Unfinished Business
Chamber of Commerce – Christmas City Village
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 29, 2014 from William P. Leeson, Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a revised proposed Resolution and Use Permit Agreement for Public Property 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 23, 2014, according to the Agreement.
President Reynolds stated Resolution 9 B is listed on the Agenda.
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 30, 2014 from William P. Leeson, Esq., City Solicitor, to which was attached a proposed Resolution and Addendum to Lease between the City of Bethlehem and the Steel City Gun Club, according to the Addendum.
President Reynolds stated Resolution 9 C is listed on the Agenda.
C. Assistant City Solicitor – Article 910 – Trees and Shrubs – Proposed Amendment
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 30, 2014 from Matthew J. Kloiber, Esq., Assistant City Solicitor, to which was attached proposed revisions to Article 910 – Trees and Shrubs.
President Reynolds stated the Bill will be listed for First Reading on the November 18 Agenda.
D. Mayor – Request to Fill Vacancy – Community and Economic Development Department
The Clerk read a memorandum dated October 31, 2014 from Mayor Robert J. Donchez requesting approval to fill the position of Business Retention/Attraction Officer – Department of Community and Economic Development. The position is a pay grade 26 with a 2014 budgeted salary of $44,747.
President Reynolds stated the Resolution will be listed on the November 18 Agenda.
President Reynolds asked the Clerk to read additional Communication 5 E into the record.
E. City Solicitor – Amendment to Section 941.05(c)
The Clerk read a memorandum dated November 3, 2014 from William Leeson, Esq., City Solicitor, requesting an amendment to Section 941.05(c) of Bill No. 33 – 2014 - Amending Article 941 – Parks that is listed for First Reading. Attorney Leeson referenced his memo of October 27, 2014 to Council Member Recchiuti regarding recent state legislation and municipal gun laws, and suggested that the following language be considered by Council:
941 .05(c) Firearms. No person shall discharge, shoot, aim or threaten the use of firearms
of any description, or air rifles, spring guns, bow and arrows, slings or any other forms of
weapons potentially harmful to wildlife and dangerous to human safety, or any instrument that can be loaded with and fire blank cartridges, or any kind of trapping device. Shooting into park areas from beyond park boundaries is forbidden. Exception: Authorized USDA animal control representatives or City of Bethlehem. This ordinance shall not be construed or enforced to infringe upon the lawful exercise of the rights to use, transfer, own, transport or possess firearms to the extent permitted by Federal laws or laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition, this ordinance shall not be construed or enforced to regulate firearms to the extent regulation is prohibited by 53 Pa.C.S . § 2962 and 18 Pa.C.S . § 6120.
President Reynolds stated the Amendment will be considered at the November 18 Council Meeting.
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Thomas John Shillea – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor Donchez appointed Thomas John Shillea to membership on the Fine Arts Commission effective November 2017. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution No. 2014-215 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Robert M. Blum – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor Donchez appointed Robert M. Blum to membership on the Fine Arts Commission effective through November 2017. Mr. Callahan and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution No. 2014-216 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Mayor Donchez stated he wanted to take this opportunity to briefly comment on the development in South Bethlehem on Fourth and Vine Streets. Advising that as one who grew up on the South Side and still frequents many businesses on the South Side, Mayor Donchez noted people have talked about a rebirth of South Bethlehem for the last 30 years. Mayor Donchez continued on to state that today, being a CRIZ designated City and with interest from numerous developers, the City has the opportunity to revitalize South Bethlehem, especially along the Third and Fourth Streets corridors. Mayor Donchez believed it is imperative to have some new development with a housing and residential component to it. He added that foot traffic and people are needed in South Bethlehem for the existing businesses to survive. He denoted that the City has lost some good businesses because of the lack of people coming to the South Side. Mayor Donchez believed it would also be an incentive to entice new businesses to open. Mayor Donchez stated that he supports Mr. Benner’s project at Fourth and Vine Streets, and pointed out Mr. Benner has worked with the City and the Historic Preservation Officers on the design of the building. He advised that Alicia Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development, could give more specifics on this matter if requested.
7. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL READING.
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, on Final Reading.
President Reynolds reported the Law Bureau has confirmed that the necessary easement agreements have been signed so the Final Reading can take place this evening.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 32 - 2014, now known as Ordinance No. 2014-32 was adopted.
8. NEW ORDINANCES.
A. Bill No. 33 – 2014 – Amending Article 941 – Parks
The Clerk read Bill No. 33 – 2014 – Amending Article 941 – Parks, sponsored by Mr. and M, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 941 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
Chairwoman Reuscher addressed concerns that were brought up at the last Parks and Public Property Committee meeting regarding dogs in Monocacy Park. Ms. Reuscher communicated her concern was to make sure that places are safe but that people would still able to bring their dogs. Ms. Reuscher confirmed she contacted Mark DiLuzio, Police Chief, about what can be done and if the current laws were being enforced. Ms. Reuscher expressed she did not see the need for any new laws if it could be ensured that the current ones are being enforced. Ms. Reuscher reported what she heard was that possibly more signs would be effective.
Police Chief DiLuzio, communicating his agreement with the changes, affirmed that enforcement would not be an issue, and most dog owners are responsible. Police Chief DiLuzio advised that, if the City is going to change the laws or add to them, he would say the City should re-sign the parks because some are old, rusted out signs and some are obsolete. Chief DiLuzio pointed out the first thing that needs to be done is to advertise the regulations, and make sure people understand them. He explained that education is the first part and enforcement is the last part.
President Reynolds, mentioning that the matter was reviewed, advised that an email was received inquiring about how the new Ordinance would affect the Little League fields. He inquired whether an answer was obtained and whether there should be an amendment, adjustment, or if it is a signage issue.
Ralph Carp, Director of Parks and Public Property, said in following up with Chief DiLuzio’s comments this is a matter of education, signage, and enforcement.
Mr. Evans commented this was a long time coming and it is a big revision to the Parks Ordinance that is being accomplished. Mr. Evans recalled that revisions to Article 941 started with Mr. Carp a few years ago. At that time Mr. Evans stated he was liaison to the Recreation Commission and had attended the meetings when the City started to take a look at the Parks Ordinance. Mr. Evans noted that, since then, it might have been four years the matter has been under review on and off, with making proposed changes and amendments in order to finalize something that can work for the whole City. Mr. Evans thought what is in front of Council now is a nice, updated Ordinance. Mr. Evans noted it covers things brought up in previous meetings, and things that were brought up at the Recreation Commission. He pointed out that, generally, the Law Bureau drafted many verbiage updates and addressed different areas it was thought needed updating. Mr. Evans commented that, with regard to dogs, he likes the change but said his question would be if this would allow dogs in the parks if they are on a leash and curbed and cleaned up after, and would this be a universal policy for all Parks. Observing that most citizens will follow the Ordinance, Mr. Evans pointed out it is important to have the signs that state no dogs on the ball fields in order to keep dogs off the fields. Mr. Evans advised that at the City Line Little League games people bring their dogs, and the dogs can stay as long as people follow the rules that dogs must be on a leash and secured. Mr. Evans thanked the Law Bureau for taking care of the loitering section, and the explanation of that matter. Mr. Evans highlighted the fact that the noise section was changed, and it was excellent that something has been added that states there cannot be amplified sound systems. Previously the Ordinance addressed boisterous behavior but it is known that can be just kids playing and the City did not want that not to happen. Mr. Evans explained the City wants people to enjoy the parks, and pointed out that amplification Sound Systems must be approved by the Parks Director. Mr. Evans noted that changing the language of the park hours to state from dusk to dawn was a good addition because it makes it much easier for the Police to ask people to leave the parks when they are closing. The Ordinance also addresses the Greenway issue because it is a linear park where people walk so that closing hours do not pertain to the Greenway. Mr. Evans explained that former language from 1970 that stated the Director of Parks or an attendant can take or seize confiscated property from someone was removed because that belongs in the hands of the Police. Mr. Evans highlighted the fact that there were a number of revisions that took a lot of work from many different Departments, he wanted to address some of those, and thanked Mr. Carp for the initiative to get this going. Mr. Evans pointed out this will affect many people because there are a number of parks in the City which are great, and the new Ordinance will make them a better place for everyone.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. Bill No. 33 – 2014 was passed on First Reading.
A. Approving 2015 CDBG and HOME Programs; 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2014-217 that approved the Five Year Consolidated Plan for 2015-1019 and the Annual Action Plan for 2015 for the period from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Use Permit Agreement for Public Property – Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of
Commerce – Christmas City Village
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2014-218 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between the City of Bethlehem and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, by and through its Downtown Bethlehem Association and Franklin Hill Vineyards (as SubPermittee) for use of Nevin Place (adjacent to the Sun Inn Courtyard) and Main Street from Broad Street to Church Street for the Christmas City Village for the time period November 21, 2014 through December 23, 2014, according to the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
C. Authorizing Addendum to Lease – Steel City Gun Club
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Recchiuti sponsored Resolution 2014-219 that authorized the Addendum to Lease between the City of Bethlehem and the Steel City Gun Club, according to the Addendum.
Mr. Recchiuti, affirming that Attorney Fox who represents the Gun Club was at the Meeting earlier in the evening, asked if the Gun Club is in agreement with the proposed changes.
William Leeson, City Solicitor, replied they are. Acknowledging it took some time to put the proposal together, Attorney Leeson advised it extends the term, sets a term certain, and gives the Police Department the exclusive authority to exclude access to the Gun Club members if the City wanted to use the entire range for the Police Department. Attorney Leeson restated the Gun Club is in agreement with the Addendum.
D. Approving Hiring – Maintenance Worker I – Bureau of Streets – Public Works Department
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-220 that approved the hiring of Maintenance Worker I – Bureau of Streets, Department of Public Works in accordance with the provisions of Resolution No. 2014-83 adopted May 6, 2014.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolution passed.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 West Fourth Street - Demolition
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-221 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish the existing two, vacant buildings at 24-30 West Fourth Street contingent upon the approval of a new building of appropriate scale.
President Reynolds stated that, before any discussion from Council, he will turn to the Administration for comments. Denoting there have been many questions about the process with Resolutions 9 E and 9 F as far as coming before City Council, President Reynolds asked the Administration to speak a bit about the process and also about the position of the Administration on the issue.
Alicia Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development, commented this is not the first time complaints were heard about the project. She recounted that earlier this year there was a Certificate of Appropriateness contemplated by Council relating to the demolition of one of the two parcels or properties that was the first pass through the Historic Conservation Commission with the City. Ms. Karner addressed the rules of the process and the way the City contemplates projects. Mr. Karner informed the assembly that the first project was presented as a 7 story building, and the Historic Commission unanimously supported the demolition of that structure at 30 West Fourth Street. At that point, the project went a little quiet until there was a resubmission of the larger structure to the City a few months later. Ms. Karner noted at that point the City sat down with the developer and wanted to entertain several components of the project including height and design. Ms. Karner explained there were certain things the City felt were important to modify, and the developer was agreeable to doing those modifications. Ms. Karner continued on to advise it went before the Historic Conservation Commission again, and was again entertained in a two part process, the demolition of a different structure, and then the approval of the replacement structure. Ms. Karner said the demolition was again unanimously approved and the replacement structure was approved with a vote of 5-2.
President Reynolds asked if the demolition vote was 5-2 as well.
Ms. Karner replied it was unanimously approved for the demolition of the property. Ms. Karner continued on to say after that process it came back to Council for the Certificate of Appropriateness, and added that as all understand it the design of the structure is what is primarily contemplated at this stage. Ms. Karner advised there will be also other steps in the process that include review by the Planning Commission who will consider things such as traffic circulation, utilities, plantings, landscaping, building layout, lighting, and other issues generally contemplated by the Planning Commission. Ms. Karner stated that, in talking about the economic analysis of the project, it will be reviewed by another body within the City that is the CRIZ Authority as it is commonly referred to or BRIA. Ms. Karner noted that BRIA will look at the project for highest and best use, and they will look at it for CRIZ eligibility. Part of the project is designated as a CRIZ project, but designation does not mean approval necessarily, but it is designated. There is the subsequently acquired property that is adjacent and has been incorporated in the project that will need consideration for additional designation. Ms. Karner said the project has followed the rules of what the City has laid out when contemplating a project in the Historic Commission for preservation district, within what is expected to be the CRIZ process, and the planning process. Ms. Karner stated it is notable that there will be additional passes through the Historic Conservation Commission. This is not the only time they will contemplate aspects of the design of the project. This has been seen with other projects like the Charter School that have gone before the Commission two or three times. Ms. Karner thought there continues to be an outstanding issue relating to signage. Ms. Karner advised that in the review of a project like this it is very much reviewed by both City staff and the volunteers of the community.
President Reynolds asked at what point would those outstanding issues go back before the Historic Conservation Commission.
Ms. Karner stated it all depends on what stage of the process the project develops. Construction and design need to be looked at, and what the outstanding issues are. Ms. Karner mentioned with the Charter School it will come out of the ground before it comes back on the last component of that project.
President Reynolds noted as Mayor Donchez said before the Administration is supportive of this project, and queried if Ms. Karner or Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, would want to make some general comments about how the Administration’s support is consistent with other projects. President Reynolds noted a lot has been heard about studies and the fruition of some of these projects. He asked if Ms. Heller could speak about the consistency or inconsistency that she sees with this project as it relates to some of the general things in planning.
Ms. Karner noted there are many aspects of this project that are contemplated, and a variety of plans and analysis that the City does consult on in a regular basis when considering a project. Advising that at different stages of a project different plans are consulted, Ms. Karner explained the market feasibility analysis of housing will be contemplated when the CRIZ Authority entertains the project, and whether or not it is a good CRIZ project to support the additional much needed housing as identified in that study. Ms. Karner noted Ms. Heller may speak about the planning but it is not always about the planning of a project at this point. Ms. Karner stated it is relating to design and it has been found that this project has been able to achieve a number of goals of the Conservation District that with working with the developer he has been much more agreeable than originally presented on making modifications to the project.
Ms. Heller commented when people really love their community that is when they come out to a meeting and she remarked this is wonderful. Although many of the people who spoke did not speak in favor of the project, Ms. Heller thought they had many excellent things to say about the planning of the community and she feels really good about this. Ms. Heller related they complimented many of the components the City has in the Comprehensive Plan, the Historic Preservation Plan, and the South Side Master Plan that have all been done within the last several years. Ms. Heller advised she has been working with the City since that time, and she knows the City has done those projects with a significant amount of public input from the Mayor’s South Side Task Force, South Side Vision, and CADCB that have all been very helpful in gaining public support and public input from South Side residents and South Side businesses. Ms. Heller believed they are very successful plans, and highlighted the fact that a few weeks ago the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission issued Regional Planning Awards for the first time and awarded the City of Bethlehem the Community of Distinction Award for the planning the City has done within the last 10 or 15 years. Pointing out they were able to cite some very specific instances, Ms. Heller said she believes there has been a huge transition in the City in the last 15 years or so and much of it has occurred within South Bethlehem. While observing she does not think anyone within the Department or within the Administration would say that the City still does not have a long way to go, and has a lot of work to do, Ms. Heller thought the City has accomplished a lot and has been able to do it with a lot of support from the public. Ms. Heller noted one thing to remember is the role of the Historic Conservation Commission that is very important, and added historic preservation has been very good to the City of Bethlehem over the last several decades. Ms. Heller said the role of the Historic Conservation Commission is limited. They do not review a project against whether or not it benefits small business, that is not their role, and they do not look at a lot of things. Ms. Heller pointed out what they look at is the architectural integrity of the buildings that exist, whether or not they contribute, structural integrity, and for infill projects they look at design, architectural style, and compatibility, for example. Ms. Heller noted much of what was discussed at tonight’s Meeting would not have been within the discussion or within the decision making process that the Historic Conservation Commission members would have gone through. She thought one thing to remember also is they are volunteers, and are very qualified to be in those seats. There are professional architects, one of the City’s building inspectors, people who work in the real estate market, small business owners, and South Side residents. Ms. Heller noted they have been doing this for years, month in and month out, they work hard, and the City has seen many good projects be developed within the Historic District. Those include the Third and Polk office building, the Charter School, and some very significant projects that have been very well received. Ms. Heller reported they also work with an Historic Officer who has been working with the Commission since its inception and who also works on the North Side and has been for a few decades, and she is well respected within the community. Ms. Heller added they rely on her recommendation and they review the project closely. Affirming that Council has this in their packets, Ms. Heller read from the findings of the report that was submitted. She said it states those voting in favor of the project did so because they thought the building was not out of keeping with the Historic District which has several tall buildings, the pedestrian experience of the building would be primarily at the street level, and that it had appropriate scale and detail. The building is appropriately sited on the property, the applicant reduced the height of the original proposal by three floors, and the architect incorporated recommendations made to help reduce the perception of the height. Ms. Heller pointed out that was one of the findings within the report that was submitted by the Historic Officer. Ms. Heller stated each project is viewed on its own merit and that would be for any Board or Commission, so this does not open the door to anything else because as projects come before the Historic Conservation Commission, the Planning Commission, the CRIZ Board, and any other Authority each project is reviewed on its own merit. Ms. Heller noted that Council has a project before them that comes to Council with a recommendation of the majority of the Commission, they did scrutinize the project at more than one meeting, and there was public comment at the meeting as well. Ms. Heller believed that Council has all of the information before them to support the project.
President Reynolds thanked everyone for coming to the Meeting this evening. Noting there is one thing that has been eluded to a lot with this project and process, President Reynolds stated he can say this has been no different with this project than with any other project. President Reynolds, mentioning there was an opinion that somehow someone on City Council pressured someone on the Historic Conservation Commission, said he can guarantee that he had no conversations with anyone on the Commission and he does not believe anyone else on Council has either. He communicated that the idea that they would somehow listen to Council is not correct, since Council has disagreed and has agreed with the Commission in the past. President Reynolds noted this is not the first time in which the Commission has come forward with something that was not unanimous. It is an important part of the process as far as understanding that they came to an independent decision free and clear of anything that anyone on City Council had anything to do with. President Reynolds thought it also needs to be mentioned that everyone here loves the City, everyone that came out to the Meeting included, and everyone on City Council and the Administration love the City. While commenting he is not going to get into the details, President Reynolds stated the idea that anyone on City Council or the Mayor would do anything but what they believe is in the best interest of the City of Bethlehem is ridiculous and it is insulting.
President Reynolds communicated that over the past several years there have certainly been a lot of disagreements between people on City Council, between himself and the Mayor when he was on City Council, or during campaigns outside of City Council. The idea that anything would come out of the Administration other than what they thought was the best idea for the City of Bethlehem is ridiculous and is insulting as he said before. President Reynolds noted, if one looks at the people here who grew up in the City of Bethlehem, who walked to school, and care about the City, people do not agree on every issue, and certainly come from different places and say different reasons for different things, it needs to be mentioned that the idea that either the Mayor or City Council would not do what is they believe is in the best interest of the City of Bethlehem is insulting. President Reynolds continued on to note, when one looks at many of the studies that have been seen for years as far as walkability and what Ms. Heller had referenced, many of the Members before starting on City Council attended many of those public process meetings. President Reynolds affirmed the Members were elected to City Council, with the exception of Ms. Reuscher who was appointed, by going out and talking to people, and listening to them, and the Members have all done their due diligence. President Reynolds expressed the Members have taken input for years when thinking about what to do about projects and what there is about a project that may or may not be beneficial to the City of Bethlehem. The things the Members hear as was heard tonight such as walkability, mixed use, people living downtown and on Fourth Street, President Reynolds said he understands the different opinions but that is why people do this, and why they get together. President Reynolds thought when one looks at this particular project it is consistent with many of the things that have been heard for a long time, although he understands people have a difference of opinion about that and that is okay. President Reynolds commented he does think more feet on the street are needed. He added that, after talking to people, some business owners have concerns, some are supportive, and that is what happens with any project. President Reynolds, affirming he has been a Member of City Council for 7 years, said before that he watched several big development projects over the past 10-15 years in the City. When Bethlehem Steel shut down and people were looking at what could be done as a City to change and move forward, and what could go on at the BethWorks site, and other parts of the City, President Reynolds highlighted the fact that the big development projects have not been unanimous. President Reynolds observed there are always going to be changes, there are always going to be concerns, and people all have their own concerns as well, especially with anything this large. At the same time, President Reynolds pointed out we all choose to live in a City and we all choose to live in a City because we want walkable neighborhoods, places where people can walk around, and go to businesses, and walk to school, and added part of that is population density. President Reynolds, acknowledging there is a difference of opinion, there are differences about which type of projects the City needs and which it does not need, said when he looks at this project and the idea of putting people in the downtown this would be a good thing. He recounted it has been heard for years from many of the merchants on Third and Fourth Streets throughout the South Side that not only are more people needed living down, but more people are needed working there. President Reynolds thought this project fits those parameters. He said one needs to look at what the City invested in as well on the South Side as far as BethWorks and infrastructure are concerned, the Skate Park, the Greenway, the time the Planning department has put into this, and the studies the City has followed through on. Reiterating that the City has invested time and energy in studies that have been followed through on, President Reynolds pointed out that the City does another study one year, and several years later there is another study that is 70% similar and 30% different, and not everyone agrees but it has to be remembered this is investing in the downtowns. President Reynolds remarked people can disagree here without being disagreeable, and added this is part of a longer process, it does go before the Planning Commission, and will probably go back before the Historic Conservation Commission as well as far as input is concerned. President Reynolds stated he will be supporting the Certificate of Appropriateness for both of the Resolutions. President Reynolds stated it is important to mention the Administration came to their conclusion on their own, and City Council when the Members vote on this came to their conclusions on their own. President Reynolds continued on to say the Historic Conservation Commission came to the conclusion without any influence from City Council, the Members did not have conversations with them, Council has agreed and disagreed with them, and that is part of the process. He observed Bethlehem did not get to be the way it did by everyone agreeing or by not having some type of conflict with change.
Mr. Recchiuti thanked President Reynolds for his comments and pointed out he agrees 100% with what he said. Mr. Recchiuti remarked that City Council does love the City and there certainly is not a Member here who would do anything that is not what they believe is in the best interest of the City. The Administration and Mayor Donchez support the City 100% and they are doing everything in the best interest of the City. Mr. Recchiuti noted one of the things always heard is that the City needs to continue to expand its tax base, and to develop properties on the South Side and the North Side. Mr. Recchiuti pointed out this is heard from residents all of the time. Council Members go to block watch meetings and public meetings and hear that property owners and taxpayers want an expanded tax base. Mr. Recchiuti observed this development does a lot of that, it is increasing the tax base, it is helping in a City where, as former Mayor Callahan would say, our experience is in delayed gratification. The City has the TIF and now the CRIZ and is trying to develop vacant land, infill development, and create density in the downtowns and this project does that. Mr. Recchiuti believed this is a good project, it has gone through the process, it has been scrutinized by the Planning department, two City Administrations that are Mayor Callahan’s Administration who were supportive of it and Mayor Donchez’s Administration who are also supportive of it. Mr. Recchiuti stated it has not been done in a vacuum, it has been done in public, and as Ms. Heller stated this has been vetted by a number of boards and will continue to be vetted by a number of boards and commissions going forward. Mr. Recchiuti asked whether under the new Zoning Ordinance the project will be permitted by right, and if actually the height restrictions are much higher and about 150 feet.
Ms. Heller replied that is correct.
Mr. Recchiuti, affirming the building is permitted by right by zoning regulations, wondered if it will have to go through Zoning review.
Ms. Heller explained the height is permitted but the City has not completely looked at the matter from a zoning perspective because it just has the submission, and she does not know at this point.
Mr. Recchiuti stated he will with Mr. Reynolds be supporting this project tonight.
Ms. Reuscher said when she was appointed she knew there were going to be some really hard decisions, and this is one of them because she wants the South Side to prosper and be successful. Affirming that she knew there was opposition to the proposal, Ms. Reuscher advised what she promised herself to do when she had a hard decision is to talk to people Ms. Reuscher informed the assembly that she spoke to many business owners, specifically on Fourth Street and on Morton Street, and in the general vicinity of the proposed development. Ms. Reuscher stated while she did not hear unanimous opposition, it was absolutely in the majority. She reported some of the things people were concerned about were scale that was brought up, sunlight being blocked, and the idea that this might bring in chain stores that would push out small businesses like Deja Brew or Tulum’s. Ms. Reuscher continued on to say one of the things she heard about was parking during construction, and people are worried if this does go through it will push people out of that neighborhood. Ms. Reuscher asked what the City could do to mitigate that problem or what could the City do to make it easier and improve communication with the business owners.
Ms. Karner responded any time there is a project in the downtown the City looks at it comprehensively and depending on what the issue is will try to present the least impact on the downtown as possible. Ms. Karner, expressing she is a big fan of communication and uniform communication with business owners, said what she would expect to see is working with the developer to understand the various staging of the project, and what will happen when. She said the City needs to make sure it can get that information out and will probably rely on the Chamber somewhat to help with that. Also, she pointed out the South Side Ambassadors should be fully educated on the various components of the project, and when they will occur, so those who are on the street every day are a resource for not just the business owners and residents but for visitors to the South Side.
Ms. Reuscher, noting she heard many people reference Article 1714, wanted to clarify what are we voting on when we vote on a Certificate of Appropriateness, is it historical appropriateness we are talking about.
John F. Spirk, Jr., Esq., City Council Solicitor, stated the Historic Board is relatively limited in what they look at, zoning is not part of it, and other aspects are not part of it. It is limited to the appropriateness or propriety relative to the architectural and historical content.
Ms. Reuscher stated that is also what we are voting on tonight.
Solicitor Spirk noted that is all.
Ms. Reuscher related, based on that and the recommendations from the South Bethlehem Historical Society and from recommendations within the South Side Bethlehem Regional Master Plan and other reports, she would have to say she will not support this tonight. Expressing she understands other Council Members will, Ms. Reuscher said if this does go through it is her utmost hope that it will be successful because she cares about nothing more than the success of the City, and added she is a resident of South Bethlehem. Ms. Reuscher noted if this happens she wishes this the best of luck but she is not going to support this tonight.
Mr. Callahan thanked everyone for coming to the Meeting tonight, and highlighted the fact that it has been a long night but he does appreciate all of the comments. He observed that everyone at the Meeting, citizens, and City Council have a great love for the City. Mr. Callahan mentioned when he was thinking about running for office, his younger brother was getting out of office, and he had been thinking about running for Council for a while but was not sure he wanted to be on Council with his brother as Mayor. With his brother leaving office, he looked at the good that his brother did over the period of 10 years as Mayor, and with his children graduating high school and moving on, it would be a great time to do something good for the City. Mr. Callahan noted one of the things he talked about for his campaign was some of the tough choices that have come to the prior Council. When one looks back on that some of them drew a lot more attention and a lot more negative feedback than what has been seen here tonight. Mr. Callahan pointed out one of those was the Durkee site, that is now the Lowe’s on Eighth Avenue. Mr. Callahan advised that this chamber was filled with people who did not want the Durkee site developed. At that time, there was a discussion that one could not even buy a piece of wood in the City of Bethlehem but had to go to Home Depot in Bethlehem Township. Mr. Callahan stated when he was running for Council one of the people he spoke to, who he believes his name was Gene Mayer, told him he was one of the people who led the discussions and lawsuits against the Lowe’s opening and he admitted he was wrong on that. Mr. Callahan remarked they had a good discussion and he even admitted he goes to the Lowe’s all the time now. Mr. Callahan note if one looks at the development that is there, it was done in a smart way, including the condominiums at the back of the Lowe’s building. Mr. Callahan related when he looks at that decision there were people upset about it, but he said we need to look at the tax base and try to keep taxes down. He said when we look at this now, it was a smart move. Mr. Callahan further recalled if one looks at the opening of Broad Street, this chamber was filled once again. People did not want Broad Street opened up and wanted to see that whole area as a walking mall. Commenting it was a great idea at the time, Mr. Callahan said but over the years it did not work and as it is seen now it opened up and extended the Historic Bethlehem area, the Farr’s building is striving now, and the occupancy rate there is high. Billy’s Diner, Rosanna’s Restaurant, and One East Broad are there. Mr. Callahan pointed out if one looks at the opening of Broad Street it was very controversial but when one looks back it was the right choice. Mr. Callahan added the Sands Casino was another one. He was in the room when discussions were going on with not only residential developers but also commercial developers who went on the Sands property, did soil samples, and walked away because it was not economically feasible for them. Mr. Callahan remarked when the Sands came it was a golden opportunity and that again filled this chamber. Acknowledging there are probably people against it, Mr. Callahan said when one looks at what it brought to economic development if it was not there the City would still be looking at a rusted area. Mr. Callahan noted it brought in $9 million every single year to the City coffers just on the host fee, and the City is not even collecting the taxes on that yet, since that will happen in 2020 when the TIF runs out. Mr. Callahan noted that people are here about historical preservation and that is a great thing but is a small sliver and one of many things the Members have to look at as a Council. He said we need to look at the economic impact and the businesses. Mr. Callahan stated he has done a lot of walking around Third and Fourth Streets in the past week, has talked to many business owners, and they all say the same thing -- when is the South Side going to get something, and why does the North Side get everything, and when will something be done for the South Side businesses. Mr. Callahan remarked his barber is on Third Street and is always saying that if there is another bad winter the businesses on Third and Fourth Streets will not survive. Commenting that everyone thinks the South Side is doing great because of the Sands Casino and the Levitt Pavilion, Mr. Callahan said it is not affecting the western edge of the South Side. Mr. Callahan continued on to say the other comment is when is the City going to do something to get the Lehigh University students off the mountain and to Third Street to spend money, and why are they going to the Lehigh Valley Mall and to the Promenade Shops. Mr. Callahan believed if one looks at this as a whole which is the job of Council this is $100 million in economic development, $50 million in labor itself, and that would grow the tax base so the City would not have to raise taxes. Mr. Callahan pointed out he does not want to pay more taxes and he is sure no one else wants to either, but what it does for the economic development in that area is important, and he does understand the concerns with the height. Noting that the Rooney building was brought up this evening, Mr. Callahan pointed out it is 3 stories higher than the proposed building. Affirming that the proposed building does meet Zoning already, Mr. Callahan highlighted the fact that the height is under that allowed in the Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Callahan noted someone spoke about the 13 or 14 businesses that have closed, that is a fact, and said although they are no longer there the goal is to help everyone and try to do the best for the overall good of the City, and because of that he will support this project. Mr. Callahan informed the assembly that he went to the Pennsylvania Municipal League conference and listened to Jeff Speck who talked about the urban core, the revitalization of the urban core, making a walkable City, and putting feet on the ground for businesses. Mr. Callahan noted Allentown just spent $200,000 on a study. Mr. Callahan stated that Benny Carlson who is a director of urban design for Moody, Clancy and Associates just spent $1 billion for the NIZ in Allentown but it is all businesses, and this study says these businesses will not survive just on the business aspect and that the City needs weekend and evening clientele. He noted their recommendation is to get 1,000 to 2,000 people living in the urban core and that is what you have to do to make things successful. Mr. Callahan mentioned if you look at the history of what has happened, the North Side is going through a boom right now, it is walkable, and that is the goal for the South Side to help it thrive and continue to thrive. Mr. Callahan stated because of this he will be supporting the project but that does not mean he has not heard the concerns and again said he does appreciate everyone coming out to the Meeting tonight.
Mr. Evans, mentioning it is late, said there is not much he can add to what has already been said. Mr. Evans stated he appreciates the time and thoughts put into arguments on both sides. Mr. Evans commented development is always controversial, whether when putting something up or taking something down. He remarked the City has seen plans that are inappropriate before and this Council has stepped up a number of times whether it was the Conservation District with Holy Family Manor in the Mount Airy section, or the Broadway Social Club when Council stepped up and blocked something they felt was inappropriate. Mr. Evans added when there were zoning issues and it was felt the Zoning Hearing Board may have overstepped with the Ordinances Council got involved. Mr. Evans recalled that Council sent its Solicitor, Christopher Spadoni at the time, to defend what Council thought was the City’s best interest at the time with the Elias Market, as well as the rehabilitation centers that were proposed at Center Street and Elizabeth Avenue and a few other spots. Council stayed on the matters and went after the things they thought would not fit. Mr. Evans informed the assembly he spent a lot of time thinking about the project at Fourth and Vine Streets, and many others have as well. It has worked its way through the process with many people with different expertise. He observed that all live in different parts of the City but come together to make decisions, and all of those other groups do as well. They volunteer and are selected because of their area of specialty. Mr. Evans commented that, hearing as much as has been heard on both sides, there is a lot to think about, and he has been looking for the best answer for this. Noting there was support for this along the way, Mr. Evans commented the previous Administration and the new Administration from time to time do not see things the same way but they both support this. Mr. Evans pointed out this is something the Conservation Commission also saw that same way. Mr. Evans advised that he, like many on Council, made a lot of phone calls this past week and a half and believes he has done as much homework as he needed to do to get answers. Mr. Evans acknowledged that Council Members are not experts on everything and know that so they take in as much as they can from as many people as they can who they have faith in. Mr. Evans believed this area of Fourth and Vine Streets is at risk, and the City needs to take everything into account and look at the big picture. In 2011 and 2012, they sat and had great discussions with Ms. Heller about the Zoning Ordinance and what is wanted in the downtowns. Mr. Evans expressed that at times there are competing plans. The City has an overlay that looks at things from an historic perspective with a Zoning district that tells us a certain area is a Commercial Business District, the City wants growth in the area, and this is where economic impact is needed for the City to grow. Mr. Evans highlighted the fact that the City is landlocked, and cannot sprawl into areas that maybe townships can. The City needs to look for ways to develop smart development. Mr. Evans said this overlay gave the City the opportunity to add some great things to the City, and modifications and compromises were made. At this point, Mr. Evans denoted the project is supported by the Administration, is within the Zoning guidelines, and has been approved by the Historic Conservation Commission. Mr. Evans stated he also supports the project.
Mr. Waldron stated he spends time on the South Side at least once a week and many on Council do as well, all want it to succeed and all might have a different idea of how that will happen. Mr. Waldron noted one cannot disagree with getting more people living and spending more money on the South Side because that would definitely be beneficial. Emphasizing the question is what shape will that take, Mr. Waldron said there are a few things he saw that he is concerned with. Mr. Waldron mentioned from the HCC guidelines it states in South Bethlehem where 2 and 3 story buildings are the norm buildings that digress from these standards by any great degree seriously impact the Historic Conservation District, and he believes that carries some weight. If large scale construction is considered, particular attention should be given to location, siting, setbacks and so on, it states. Mr. Waldron thought particular consideration has been given to the project, and obviously someone is not going to invest $100 million if they do not think it will be successful. Mr. Waldron commented the developer has all the best interests for the City of Bethlehem and for the South Side, specifically, to help reinvent it, invigorate it, help it form a new positive identity, and move it forward. Mr. Waldron advised he is very receptive to all the feedback received got tonight, specifically about the height. Mr. Waldron mentioned if one follows the guidelines, a 4 story building would be appropriate, but a 5 story building would be inappropriate, so a 9 story building is considerably above and beyond. However, Mr. Waldron explained the question he has been wrestling with is does that potential economic development outweigh the historic and general feel of the South Side and he is not sure. Mr. Waldron related if Council is considering a Certificate of Historical Appropriateness he thinks this proposal fails that test. Mr. Waldron expressed he does want to see development there, but is just not comfortable with a 9 story building as proposed, so he will not be supporting the project tonight.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Reynolds, 4. Voting NAY: Ms. Reuscher, and Mr. Waldron, 2. The Resolution passed.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 West Fourth Street - Construction
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-222 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a nine story mixed-used building conditional on the approval of details and materials at 24-30 West Fourth Street.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Reynolds, 4. Voting NAY: Ms. Reuscher, and Mr. Waldron, 2. The Resolution passed.
Considering Resolutions 9 G through 9 L as a Group
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Recchiuti moved to consider Resolutions 9 G through 9 L as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The motion passed.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 503 East Fourth Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-223 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a vinyl window sign at 503 East Fourth Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 17 East Third Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-224 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to install decal signs in storefront windows at 17 East Third Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 201 East Mechanic Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-225 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to install two black awnings on the front windows at 201 East Mechanic Street.
J. Certificate of Appropriateness – 120 East Third Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-226 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the signage installed at 120 East Third Street.
K. Certificate of Appropriateness – 29 East Third Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-227 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the windows on the rear of the building and install muntins on the side windows to recall the original window configuration at 29 East Third Street.
L. Certificate of Appropriateness – 205 West Fourth Street
Mr. Callahan and Mr. Waldron sponsored Resolution 2014-228 that approved a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate and repaint the front façade at 205 West Fourth Street.
President Reynolds asked the Administration about a gentleman who wanted to make some type of change or comment on one of the certificates. President Reynolds wanted to know if Council needed to be aware of something before voting on the Certificate.
Mr. Waldron pointed out for Certificate of Appropriateness 9 I at 201 East Mechanic Street the applicant approached him during the break to make an amendment to the application in order to change his awning to read his business name on the awning. Mr. Waldron said he did not know if it could be done tonight or if it would have to go back to the HCC.
President Reynolds turned to the Administration to see if it should be removed from the group of Certificates that were just read.
Ms. Karner suggested that Council pass the Certificate that is front of them and if there is another consideration on signage then it should go back to the HCC.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 9 G through 9 L: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, and Mr. Reynolds, 6. The Resolutions passed.
M. Filling Vacant City Council Seat
President Reynolds stated he would like to turn to Council Solicitor Spirk to discuss the process as far as what has occurred, and what City Council will be undertaking.
Council Solicitor Spirk confirmed that City Council set up a process involving applications and deadlines to assist them in the task of filling the Council vacancy. The question has arisen in what way does that limit the way a Council Member may vote. Council Solicitor Spirk mentioned the answer is that, under the Pennsylvania Law and specifically the Third Class City Code, every Council Member is free to vote for any qualified person. That is what the Third Class City Code says. A qualified person under the Third Class City Code means a person who is over 18 years old and lives in the City and has continuously lived in the City of Bethlehem for one year prior to the election. Council Solicitor Spirk noted similarly under the Roberts Rules of Order Council Members may vote for any eligible person even if that person was not nominated. Council Solicitor Spirk reaffirmed that Council did set up the process, every Council Member has the absolute right to follow the process, to limit their choices to those people who followed the guidelines and deadlines, but no Council Member can be forced to limit their vote in that fashion.
President Reynolds noted the City Clerk has passed along to him similar information as Council had received when they had filled a vacant Council seat with the appointment of Ms. Reuscher about 10 months ago as far as the process. President Reynolds reviewed for Members of Council, as Solicitor Spirk stated, that Council did set up the process, and there were 12 candidates for the Council seat as far as resumes, letters and responses were concerned. This includes Basilio Bonilla, Michael Colon, Dennis Douvanis, Julie Edgar, Earl Kingsley, Esther Lee, Olga Negron, Lynn Rothman, Grace Smith, Christopher Spadoni, Louis Stellato, and Thomas Stoneback in alphabetical order. President Reynolds advised the Members also received information from David Sanders on Monday and, as Solicitor Spirk said, although Council had those guidelines for what Council wanted to consider, Mr. Sanders meets all of the standards as far as being at least 18 years old and living in the City for one year. President Reynolds forwarded that information to the rest of City Council so they could make their own decision as far as what to do with the information. President Reynolds then turned to Members of Council.
Mr. Callahan thanked everyone who applied for the vacant Council seat and noted the Members can only pick one individual so a number of people will be disappointed. Mr. Callahan said he would highly encourage everyone with the May primary coming up that now is the time to ramp up and announce that they want to run if they are still interested. Mr. Callahan encouraged them to start knocking on doors, get a website set up, and do the things they need to do if they still have an interest after tonight. Mr. Callahan stated he was on the record at the last Council Meeting prior to getting anyone’s resumes that his preference was to vote for someone who would just fill in the term time frame and not run next year, and said that is still his preference and is his personal opinion. Mr. Callahan said he would rather leave this up to the voters when election time comes. He did not feel Council should be giving an edge to any individual candidate in May. Mr. Callahan communicated that, by appointing someone who would want to run, Council would be giving them a huge upper hand in running for the May primary. Mr. Callahan advised that he still stands by what he said, he has looked through the resumes and a few jumped out to him, but there is one in particular.
Mr. Waldron thanked everyone for staying at the Meeting. Mr. Waldron noted that over the past few days he had the opportunity to speak to all 13 candidates, he was impressed with the slate this time around, and it is comparable to the slate Council had in January. Mr. Waldron stated again that the Members could make a full second City Council that might be better than this one out of the 13 applicants. Mr. Waldron wished the best of luck to all the candidates.
Ms. Reuscher also thanked everyone who put their name in for the vacant Council seat. Ms. Reuscher advised that, of anyone on Council now, she knows how hard that is and said all appreciate the candidates sitting here until midnight. Ms. Reuscher pointed out they saw Council make an extremely difficult decision, and are still interested in doing this, that says a lot for their passion and enthusiasm for the City. Ms. Reuscher stated if she could she would pick all 13, and said there is not a single person on the list who is not qualified or does not love the City.
Mr. Recchiuti thanked the 13 applicants for applying and noted they were all impressive but wondered if all 13 still want to be on Council after waiting 5 hours for this point in the Meeting, and added he saw many interesting backgrounds. Mr. Recchiuti thanked everyone for responding to the questions Council asked, and said it helps them form an opinion. While all on Council have different preferences about what a candidate should or should not have, Mr. Recchiuti stated he would agree with everyone else that everyone on the list has the qualifications to be a City Council person.
Mr. Evans acknowledged the fact that there is a great collection of applicants who bring a variety of experience. He stated it does make it difficult to narrow it down to one person, especially with this type of talent gathered together. Mr. Evans thanked all candidates for offering their time and talents, not only just the biography and the answers to the questions, but also their offer of a 14 months commitment to Council and all of the organizations they have represented and worked with. Mr. Evans said he wanted to make a point of the distinguished careers of Dennis Douvanis, and congratulated him on his recent retirement, Esther Lee who all are familiar with, Lou Stellato, and Thomas Stoneback all of whom have had impressive careers. He stated that each of these four candidates in their own way have quite long resumes and dignified backgrounds. Mr. Evans, commenting he was intrigued by Michael Colon who applied the last time for the vacancy, said he is an up and comer who is committed to City Council, and he has been at Council and Committee Meetings. Mr. Evans pointed out that Mr. Colon has taken on roles within the City, has been well spoken, has great thoughts for the City, will have a great future, and hopefully will stay involved in the City. Mr. Evans pointed out there is no way Council cannot be impressed with Earl Kingsley, the work being done by him, and the intellect that he carries to do what he does. In looking at another candidate who also applied for the last vacancy, Lynn Rothman, Mr. Evans highlighted her strong education and work experience that would be an asset to City Council. Mr. Evans reported that Christopher Spadoni, who was the Solicitor for City Council for 16 years, is a candidate who has insight and sat through more nights like tonight than anyone else in this room, only maybe the Mayor. Mr. Evans pointed out that Olga Negron, of course, is someone who all are familiar with, who carries a lot of high energy, and is well respected throughout the community. Noting she is clearly in the running for the Council seat in the Spring, Mr. Evans said he is excited about that, and added she would be a great candidate for City Council. Mr. Evans mentioned he would be happy to support a campaign like that when it is time to get that going. Mr. Evans also thanked the School Board Member, Basilio Bonilla, who had the opportunity to speak tonight, as well as Grace Smith and everything she offers to her students, and Julie Edgar and her service to the community. Mr. Evans noted the 13th candidate is David Sanders who has been a candidate for City Council before, and is a well-known businessman. As a liaison to the Bethlehem Housing Authority, Mr. Evans said he has had the opportunity to see Mr. Sanders’ work for the City and he knows his love and passion for the City is positive. Mr. Evans pointed out that adding all of this to the mix makes it real difficult to work through a list like this. Mr. Evans explained he took a few things into consideration to help him frame his decision. As Mr. Callahan has stated, Mr. Evans noted the Members did talk about filling the position with someone who would not be campaigning two months from now for the seat. He remarked this has been an issue, Council has dealt with it before, and it is something that would be too ripe for political drama if Council put themselves in a position to nominate someone who then runs for Council. If Council can avoid that, Mr. Evans advised he does support it. Mr. Evans thought it is very important that the citizens make the decision to put someone on Council for 4 years, and that Council does not aid in that decision or be seen as aiding in that decision. Mr. Evans noted another consideration is the fact of the Democratic party. Mr. Evans affirmed that Karen Dolan who has resigned was a Democrat and was elected by the citizens of Bethlehem so it is important that Council would replace the seat with someone of the same party to respect that decision so that the person seated would be a Democrat. Mr. Evans thought about the fact that it is a 14 month position and is bookended by two budget cycles, that means Council needs to have someone who is not campaigning and running in the election in a month or two. Mr. Evans added in the end Council needs someone who can strengthen City Council. Mr. Evans stated when he ran through the considerations, the person he thought of is Louis Stellato, and believes he is a strong choice. Mr. Evans enumerated that Mr. Stellato is a Democratic, made it clear he would not run, will not build a campaign, has a business degree with 30 years of experience in the business world, and is a senior citizen. Mr. Evans noted when Gordon Mowrer was on City Council he brought a special blend with a calm and steady approach to City Council. Mr. Evans said there were other Members, including Jean Belinski, and these members have given Council that perspective, the perspective they do not have. Mr. Evans noted this was a difficult decision, and he agrees with Mr. Waldron that Council could certainly put together another City Council with all of the candidates, and it was hard to disqualify anyone. Mr. Evans added Mr. Stellato was involved dating back to the 1970’s with the Northwestern Steelers days to still today at the Notre Dame Church, the Booster Clubs, the Judge of Elections, and is a person who has been involved in the City for a long time who fits all of the requirements he was looking for.
President Reynolds stated he agrees with his colleagues in that this is an impossible decision when you look at the 13 people who came forward and would do a great job on City Council. President Reynolds explained what he had done was to be available to anyone who called or wanted to see him. Noting some people sent emails of support or called to give their support of a certain candidate, President Reynolds said that speaks more to the pool of candidates. President Reynolds communicated the Members are looking for someone who will bring something that Council does not have, or a perspective they currently do not have. President Reynolds pointed out the problem is that about 8 or 9 of the candidates bring that perspective. He continued on to say that, if there is someone Council is looking for who has the best business background, or the best community development background, or the best regional background, as he went back and forth he thought of one person one day and another person on another day. President Reynolds explained this is something he was struggling with, and something Council struggled with. President Reynolds stated it came down to a situation expressed before that it was in the best interest of City Council to make a decision that the Members would not play politics and appoint someone who wanted to run next year. He said what is fair is to let the voters decide and that is why there are elections. He noted that many people look at the fact that when Council is approving the Certificates of Appropriateness, for example, that they all will agree, but as has been heard tonight people approach these things in different ways. President Reynolds noted as any good democracy does, it will let the citizens decide. President Reynolds highlighted the fact that if the person who is chosen wants to run for election, it is their decision, even if Council said they want someone who does not run. He affirmed if the people who do not get picked want to run, and if anyone wants to run, there is a process that everyone needs to follow and it is a fair process. President Reynolds stated he would recognize Members of Council for nominations, and reminded Council that no second is required.
Mr. Evans nominated Louis Stellato.
Mr. Waldron nominated Lynn Rothman.
Ms. Reuscher nominated Olga Negron.
Mr. Recchiuti mentioned he would like to nominate more than one person because he thinks these 3 people deserve consideration. Council Solicitor Spirk advised that under Robert’s Rules of Order if there is one vacancy to be filled each Member of Council can make no more than one nomination. No one can nominate more than one person for a given office, if any objection is made, until every member wishing to nominate has had an opportunity to do so.
Mr. Recchiuti nominated David Sanders.
President Reynolds noted, with no further nominations, the nominations are closed, and asked the Clerk to read the names of the candidates who received nominations.
The City Clerk read the names of the candidates who received nominations, as follows: Louis Stellato, Lynn Rothman, Olga Negron, and David Sanders.
President Reynolds asked Council Solicitor Spirk if a Member wishes to vote for someone who has not been nominated can they.
Solicitor Spirk replied yes they can vote for any qualified person 18 years old and who has been a resident of the City for a year.
President Reynolds asked the Clerk to call the roll of the Members of Council and noted the Members will vote on the nominees.
Mr. Evans voted for Louis Stellato.
Mr. Recchiuti voted for David Sanders.
Ms. Reuscher voted for Olga Negron.
Mr. Waldron voted for Lynn Rothman.
Mr. Callahan voted for Louis Stellato.
Mr. Reynolds voted for Louis Stellato.
President Reynolds believed that is 3 votes for Mr. Stellato, and asked Council Solicitor Spirk if another vote is needed to get 4 votes.
Council Solicitor Spirk stated 3 votes are sufficient as long as it is more than anyone else. He reported the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that is sufficient as long as it is a majority of the quorum requirement, so the quorum requirement is 4. He said even if there are more than that a majority of the quorum requirement is required, and if that is more than anyone else that elects.
President Reynolds asked if that is the case even with a vote of 3-1-1-1 and Council Solicitor Spirk replied yes.
President Reynolds asked the Clerk to read the Resolution with Mr. Stellato’s name.
The Clerk read Resolution 9 M to appoint Louis N. Stellato to fill the vacancy on City Council as a result of the resignation of Karen D. Dolan effective Saturday, November 1, 2014 and who shall serve until her successor is elected and duly sworn into office on Monday, January 4, 2016. Mr. Evans and Mr. Callahan sponsored the Resolution.
Voting AYE: Mr. Evans, Mr. Recchiuti, Ms. Reuscher, Mr. Waldron, Mr. Callahan, Mr. Reynolds, 6. Resolution 2014-229 passed.
10. NEW BUSINESS.
2015 Budget Hearing Schedule
President Reynolds announced the 2015 Budget Hearing Schedule, as follows:
Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 6:00 PM – Town Hall
First Budget Hearing:
Community Development Block Grant
Community and Economic Development Department
Water and Sewer Resources Department
Water Fund Revenue and Expenses
Water Capital Budget
Sewer Fund Revenue and Expenses
Sewer Capital Budget
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 – 7:00 PM - Town Hall
City Council Meeting
First Reading of 2015 Budget Ordinances
Wednesday, November 19, 2014 – 6:00 PM - Town Hall
Second Budget Hearing:
Tuesday, November 25, 2014 – 6:00 PM - Town Hall
Third Budget Hearing:
Parks and Public Property Department
Golf Course Enterprise Fund
Monday, December 8, 2014 – 6:00 PM - Town Hall
Fourth Budget Hearing:
Public Works Department
Liquid Fuels Fund
Non-Utility Capital Fund
Council, Mayor, Treasurer, Controller
Department of Administration
General Fund Revenue
General Fund Expenditures
Thursday, December 11, 2014 – 6:00 PM – Town Hall
Final Budget Meeting
Tuesday, December 16, 2014 – 7:00 PM – Town Hall
City Council Meeting
Final Reading of 2015 Budget Ordinances
11. PUBLIC COMMENT.
PennEast Pipeline - Construction
Jane Srygley, 414 Grandview Boulevard, stated as a resident of the City of Bethlehem she is voicing her opposition to the construction of the PennEast Pipeline. She hoped that Council will do all in its power to prevent the pipeline from being built. Ms. Srygley pointed out, while the proposed pipeline will not go directly through the City of Bethlehem, it will cross the Lehigh River in two places. One is east of Bethlehem and the other is north closer to the river source. Ms. Srygley stressed that any leaks or explosions have the potential to poison drinking water, and endanger private property and human life. Ms. Srygley said she is also very concerned that the pipeline will coincide with Route 33 between Routes 22 and 78. Ms. Srygley informed the Members that another site that will coincide with the proposed pipeline is the Anderson Campus of St. Luke’s Hospital located in Easton. She said that while unlikely the risk of leaks or explosions anywhere along this pipeline is very real. Ms. Srygley noted the industry that will profit from the pipeline says it will be good for the Lehigh Valley because it will bring in more cheap natural gas. They also say it will create local jobs and make America more energy independent. Ms. Srygley asserted their claims are mostly untrue. Commenting that it will bring more natural gas into the area, Ms. Srygley stated the company’s executives admit that the bulk of the natural gas is intended for export to China, India, and other parts of the world. She remarked that their claim that it will make us more energy independent is very misleading. Also, she said the jobs that are created will not necessarily be for local individuals. Industries often bring in cheaper workers from other areas, and even if some local people are hired these jobs will also mostly be temporary in nature and will not positively impact the economy in the long run. Ms. Srygley noted the bottom line for her is that the PennEast pipeline’s purpose is to make a profit selling most of the natural gas it transports overseas. Meanwhile our communities will assume all of the risk of an enormous pipeline that will have to be maintained as long as it exists to prevent corrosion. Ms. Srygley communicated even if the industry does everything right now can we really be confident they will do everything they can to protect our community into the future. Stating that corporations figure the cost of potential accidents in terms of how they affect their bottom line, Ms. Srygley said she personally cannot put any price on the purity of drinking water, the beauty of the natural areas in this State, or on the lives of citizens.
Amending Article 941 – Parks
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, stating he is disappointed with Article 941 said as he mentioned at the Committee meeting, two people spoke, one about dogs which was valid, and he talked about almost doubling the alcohol content allowed in parks on City property. Mr. Antalics said we know where that came from and that person is no longer on Council because the involvement of that person was with a non-profit which was serving alcohol, when only 7% beer was allowed. This was proposed to accommodate that and only five States in this country allow drinking in public places and Pennsylvania is one of the five. Mr. Antalics informed the Members that he checked with the MADD people and Alcoholics Anonymous and they were very supportive but they would not come here because they do not want to get political. Mr. Antalics stated he is extremely disappointed that the issue was not brought up when it was voted on. The dog issue was brought up but not the alcohol issue. Mr. Antalics thought this is much more serious than stray dogs. He noted doubling the alcohol content in places where you will not have police supervision can cause problems.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Stephanie Aperdomo, 711 East Fifth Street, stated she is sad about the approval of the building at Vine and Fourth Streets. She hoped Council will change their mind and bring this up again. Ms. Aperdomo hoped Council will listen to the people and will go to the doors of people who live in Bethlehem and even try to discuss history, value and feelings of people. Ms. Aperdomo reiterated she is sad and hopes that Council changes their mind and re-votes on this. Ms. Aperdomo said she is trying to speak for her neighbors and her community.
Amending Article 941 – Parks
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, stated regarding the changes to the Parks Ordinance he can only hope that enforcement of dogs that are leashed in the parks is done better than enforcement of no dogs in the park. Mr. Grubb pointed out he spends a lot of time doing photography at Monocacy Park, and on a number of occasions people have had their dogs running loose and he has stepped in dog dirt. Mr. Grubb noted he does a weekly editorial column for a local newspaper and spends a lot of time at the dog park and that is not policed either because there is also a lot of dog dirt there. Mr. Grubb added that he wishes the Police Chief good luck, and said hopefully things will be stepped up because people do not read the signs or do not listen to the signs. Mr. Grubb, commenting about the vote on the development at Vine and Fourth Streets, noted the Planning Director mentioned other tall buildings there. Mr. Grubb stated none of those buildings were built when that was a National Register Historic District, and there were no regulations concerning historic preservation. Mr. Grubb stated the same thing applies to the Hotel Bethlehem. He said it is very disappointing tonight because it is apparent that the community is better educated on some of these issues than the people who are representing them, or working for them in City government. Mr. Grubb, remarking he does not know what can change so that people who show up with a great deal of passion and information can get their point across, said but something really does need to change in Bethlehem City government.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Peter Crownfield, 407 Delaware Avenue, pointed out even he was surprised when 4 out of 6 Council Members basically ignored the statement by the Council Solicitor who said only historic appropriateness is appropriate for the decision tonight, and then people went on to say the economic development reasons. Mr. Crownfield said it is mind boggling how Council not only ignored what the people said but their own laws.
Recycling – Businesses
Julie Edgar, 534 North Circle, noting she is not sure what the requirements are for businesses to recycle said she is aware residential recycling is actually a financial benefit to the City. Ms. Edgar advised she has worked in places in the City where an insane amount of recyclable materials get thrown out. She explained she is talking about endless amounts of glass bottles, even if the City does not do anything with plastic numbers 1-7 but glass. Ms. Edgar, restating she is not sure what the rules are on this, expressed it bothers her to watch this day after day. Explaining that every day she goes to work and sees this and believes the City would benefit from people recycling, Ms. Edgar commented if that is not something in place maybe it is something that should be in place.
President Reynolds encouraged Ms. Edgar to ask Ms. Karner and her Department after the meeting.
Certificate of Appropriateness – 24-30 W. Fourth Street – Benner Project
Kim Carrell-Smith, 833 Carlton Avenue, stated she agrees with Mr. Crownfield in that she was astonished to hear the ruling by Council’s Solicitor was that you were discussing historic appropriateness and not economic development, and yet the discussion seemed to revolve around economic development and the needs of the South Side rather than historic appropriateness. Ms. Carrell-Smith thought in that light she would also like to set the record straight from something that was said, and maybe it was Ms. Heller who said that at the Historic Commission they debated based only on historic appropriateness. Ms. Carrell-Smith stated she was at that meeting as were the two members of the media who reported on this who also reported what she saw. Ms. Carrell-Smith advised that was that they did debate economic development and the appropriateness of economic development, and whether that was something they needed to take up, and whether they should, and that they had in the past. Ms. Carrell-Smith noted they actually did, so she just wanted to set the record straight. She continued on to say, much like the City Council did this evening, they went well beyond the specific item on hand which was historic appropriateness. Ms. Carrell-Smith expressed her dismay that Council had one person speak to them tonight and had no idea what she talked about the first time she spoke. No one translated, you did not ask anyone to translate, so when you say you listen to the community you need to find other ways to listen to the community. Ms. Carrell-Smith noted this young girl said some things but she has no idea what she said but she wants to find out. Council might not have expected that but there are ways to remedy that and Council did not hear her. Ms. Carrell-Smith commented she also lastly would like to say how disappointed she is in the discussion of creating an equal playing field for the candidates because there are differences between equality and equity. One of the things we know is that there is not always equity, and equality does not necessarily mean the same thing for everybody. Ms. Carrell-Smith pointed out how hard it is to get elected in the City of Bethlehem if you are Latino or Latina, and added look at what the record has showed in the past. She said sometimes it is not a bad idea to say let’s pick the best person for the job and let’s see if they can get elected or not. She believed Council shirked their duty by taking the easy way out. Ms. Carrell-Smith thanked Ms. Reuscher for nominating Olga Negron, and stated it is clear she has amazing qualifications. She continued on to say what happened with your comments on the development when you could not even understand one of your own constituents, when there were others struggling to be heard and felt uncomfortable, and then to have the decision made to disregard that much like the other comments that were made tonight. Ms. Carrell-Smith said she is very disappointed by her City government for doing that. She hoped that in the future Council will think differently about all portions of the community and how they can build equity into the system.
Jeffrey R. Zettlemoyer, 1304 East Sixth Street, asked if anyone has looked into the deeds of this property that is being proposed for development at Fourth and Vine Streets. He queried whether Council knows that this is the former site of Mr. Lehman, as well as the home of a celebrated athlete, Don Rodenbach, who also maintained a law practice there. Mr. Zettlemoyer explained a reason why he became a member of the historic commission on the south side was to start putting markers on houses like those of Charlie Bednarik, Petey Carrill, John Schweder, Billy Packer, and so on. He said they were all on the wall of fame at Liberty High School and he believes they deserve historical markers for where they lived. Mr. Zettlemoyer stressed that the site should be researched. He said it was very serendipitous the night the meeting took place that in Nazareth they were digging the foundations of the former Peter Baylor house which was where Reverend Whitfield built his first house and he discovered a brass bell. Mr. Zettlemoyer remarked he would bet it was a Peter Layman bell that usually was hung at Christmas below the Star of Bethlehem.
Letina Garcia, 1324 Montrose Avenue, stated she wanted to second what Ms. Carrell-Smith said about the young woman who spoke Spanish. Ms. Garcia explained she was very surprised when the young lady and the other were talking Spanish, and she looked around to see what was going to happen. She assumed that Council knew there were people in the audience who spoke Spanish and would ask someone to translate. Ms. Garcia pointed out this young woman has a vote, and a lot of Spanish speaking people have a vote, and would like to know they can talk to you and you will listen. Ms. Garcia stressed that to disregard what they said just because you cannot understand is outrageous. Ms. Garcia said she is glad Ms. Carrell-Smith brought it up and wanted to second her opinion so Council will take into consideration at least what the young man who came first and started talking in Spanish said, or at least have a translator on hand so that if anything like this happens again you will understand what was said because we do vote. Ms. Garcia pointed out once Ms. Negron runs we will mobilize many more people so Council may want to be able to communicate with those people and hear what their concerns are. Ms. Garcia, noting she does not usually get involved too much, stated she does pay attention, will continue to come to the Meetings, and will be listening and stating her opinion. Ms. Garcia wanted Council to know that people do count, and said whether you understand or not you need to pay attention.
Breena Holland, 379 Carver Drive, said in listening to the comments and seeing who is at the Meeting tonight it is obviously a big night for white men, unfortunately, but white men are clearly the winners this evening. Ms. Holland, explaining her comment is directed at anybody who is a white male, said in case it is not obvious there were in fact many women in the room who speak Spanish. In the situation where somebody is going to comment in Spanish and Council does not understand it, Ms. Holland said there were at least 10 people she could see from where she was sitting who spoke Spanish, so in the future if that happens Council could ask someone to translate. Ms. Holland remarked she is baffled like everyone else when the Council Solicitor made the comment that the decision tonight about the Benner building was supposed to be about historic appropriateness. Ms. Holland said she did not think in your entire comments, Mr. Callahan, that you even mentioned the word, she would like to go back and listen to it, but she does not think he even mentioned the words historic appropriateness. Ms. Holland stated this seems like a very good thing to get rid of in the process because she only heard two people talk about it tonight in any significant way. Ms. Holland said she heard the rest of the Council Members sort of say, appropriateness whatever, I am going to talk about economic impact. Ms. Holland noted many of the things, including based on the Mayor’s comments, that were brought up in the presentation that we were all trying to help you all get some information about, the difference between walkability and why this building was not going to solve the goals, were not even addressed. It seems ridiculous for us to come here and try to talk to Council. Saying she knows she complains about this all the time, it is not deliberation, but Ms. Holland stated she does not understand the point of having the rules and guidelines if no one will listen to them. Ms. Holland stressed even when the Council Solicitor said two minutes before Council talked that we are talking about historic appropriateness, and Council just went on about the economic impact. Ms. Holland commented so let’s just call it about the economic impact, that is what we are doing. She continued on to say then at least if that had happened we could have presented arguments to you that were about economic impact. Ms. Holland pointed out they showed up at the Meeting thinking Council would talk about historic appropriateness, and if they did not stay on target they would be told to sit down and not speak. Ms. Holland noted if Council wants to talk about economic impact the group would love to come back next time and tell Council why this particular building is not going to get the economic impact you want.
Filling Vacant City Council Seat – Louis Stellato
Michael Colon, 215 West Broad Street, thanked Mr. Evans for his kind words and congratulated Mr. Stellato on getting the appointment. Mr. Colon stated for everyone else who applied he encouraged them to put a campaign together if you do feel prepared and ready to serve the City. He noted this is obviously a very uncommon circumstance finding one’s way on City Council via these means. Mr. Colon said he hopes to see a lot of people putting campaigns together and trying to get on Council the old fashioned way.
President Reynolds thanked everyone who attended the long, five and a half hour Meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 a.m.