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.
July 7, 2009
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
10 East Church Street – Town Hall
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 – 7:00 PM
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President Donchez called the meeting to order. Reverend Dwight Mikesell, of Calvary Wesleyan Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Jean Belinski, Karen Dolan, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, J. William Reynolds, J. Michael Schweder, and Robert J. Donchez, 7.
Citation – Honoring Joseph D. Chernaskey
President Donchez presented a Citation honoring Joseph Chernaskey on the occasion of his retirement from the Fire Department after 20 years of service to the City. The Members of Council and the assembly applauded Mr. Chernaskey for his service, and wished him well in his retirement.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The Minutes of June 16, 2009 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
Authorizing the Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement - HRP Management - Martin Tower
President Donchez advised that, in the event a Resolution is added to the Agenda, he will accept Public Comment on Authorizing the Filing of an Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement for HRP Management for the Martin Tower project.
Administrative Order – Andrew Twiggar – City Planning Commission; Authorizing the Filing of Applications for RACP and Cooperation Agreements
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, noting that he attends Planning Commission meetings, thought Andrew Twiggar, member of the Planning Commission, does an excellent job of representing and serving Mr. Pfenning as a citizen. Mr. Pfenning expressed his hope that Council will approve Mr. Twiggar’s reappointment to another term on the Planning Commission.
Mr. Pfenning, pointing out there are Resolutions on the Agenda this evening that deal with approving pass-through funding in connection with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), stated he was notified that one of the proposals was not approved at the Community Development Committee meeting. Mr. Pfenning highlighted the fact that the funding under the RACP is taxpayer dollars. Mr. Pfenning thought it would behoove City Council to perhaps pass judgment on whether it is a wise use of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Pfenning observed there are a number of different types of applicants for the RACP funding that include non-profits, educational institution, brownfield redevelopment, and for-profit developer. Mr. Pfenning said as a taxpayer he cannot feel good about his money going to a for-profit developer to increase their profit in the development project. Mr. Pfenning urged Council not to approve any RACP applications that deal with for-profit developments, and remarked he does not think it is a wise use of taxpayer dollars.
Authorizing the Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement - Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Chad Paul, Chief Executive Officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, thanked Chairman Schweder and his Committee for endorsing the Resolution for Ben Franklin Technology Partners application for the RACP. Mr. Paul advised that two years ago the group renovated the empty, unused chemistry research laboratory of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation that was located on South Mountain known as Building G, or Homer Research Laboratories. It provided Ben Franklin Technology with three and a half times more space for its business incubator program than it had previously. It was thought that it would provide five years of capacity, but it was filled in a year. Mr. Paul informed the assembly that the incubator program graduates now employ over 3,000 people that gross more than $600 million a year and have attracted over $300 million of additional funding. Over the 26 years of Ben Franklin’s operation of its technology incubator at the Mountaintop Campus it has created in excess of 100 new high-paying, sustainable jobs. Mr. Paul explained that an expansion of the facility on its site is proposed to take advantage of the investment already made in the building and not duplicating those services. Mr. Paul, continuing on to advise that the building will be green, said it will produce 7.5% of its own electrical power, save in excess of 60% of the energy that would ordinarily be used for lighting, save almost 30% in its heating and ventilation system, and will reduce the carbon footprint of the operation of the building by 59 tons per year. To address any concerns about the aesthetics of the building, Mr. Paul notified the Members that he brought an architect’s rendering of the South Mountain viewscape. Mr. Paul pointed out that, in looking up towards the facility, most times of the year the tree tops will completely obscure its view from the City. Mr. Paul, stressing that more high paying technology jobs are needed in Bethlehem, highlighted the fact that Ben Franklin is prepared to create them at its environmentally responsible Tech Ventures II facility. Mr. Paul communicated that he would very much appreciate City Council’s support of the Resolution.
Authorizing the Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation
Agreement –ArtsQuest and
Attorney Maxwell Davison, representing PBS 39, said he believes that both Jeffrey Parks, President of ArtsQuest, and he signed up to speak and have agreed that neither one of them has anything further to add to the proposed Resolution.
Authorizing the Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement - HRP Management - Martin Tower
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, was informed by President Donchez that a Resolution authorizing the Filing of an Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement with HRP Management for the Martin Tower project is not listed on the Agenda this evening. However, there is the possibility that it may be added to the Agenda and President Donchez made an announcement at the beginning of the Meeting that if anyone would like to speak to the issue they may do so under the first Courtesy of the Floor.
Mr. Antalics said he has done extensive research on the issue since the last meeting, and a lot has happened in terms of ownership of the Martin Tower property. Mr. Antalics advised that the Lehigh County Industrial Development Authority appeared before the Bethlehem Area School District Board speaking for Mr. Herrick, one of the owners of the project. Mr. Antalics noted that, according to records he obtained from Lehigh County, Ashley Development sold its interest to another owner. Mr. Antalics stated there are two owners now, Ronca and Herrick. Mr. Antalics commented that he received information from the State of Florida regarding assets of Mr. Herrick. Mr. Antalics thought that to pronounce hardship is beyond the pale, as well as to use State monies to support a multi-billionaire to develop Martin Tower that is a private enterprise in an area that is not blighted. Mr. Antalics remarked the Planning Commission approved the blight of Martin Tower because it was felt they would rather see money come to Bethlehem rather than another area. Mr. Antalics communicated that a similar situation existed in Chicago. Mr. Antalics felt that State and local funding could be spent much more wisely on something that is needed. Mr. Antalics, informing the Members he has data that he can provide to them, said he presented it to the Bethlehem Area School District Board.
Administrative Orders – Andrew Twiggar – City Planning Commission; and Terry L. Marcincin, D.M.D. – Board of Health
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, said he seconds Mr. Pfenning’s comments about approving Mr. Twiggar’s reappointment to another term on the Planning Commission.
Mr. Grubb, noting that dental problems in children are one of the severe health issues in Pennsylvania, complimented the Administration for the nomination of Dr. Marcincin to the Health Board and expressed the hope that Council will approve it.
Authorizing the Filing of Applications for RACP and Cooperation Agreements - HRP Management - Martin Tower; and Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, seconding the comments regarding the use of tax dollars to increase the wealth of private businesses, said it is inappropriate and should not be done.
Mr. Crownfield, noting a number of people spoke at the Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board meetings regarding the Ben Franklin Technology Partners project, observed everyone supports the Ben Franklin Technology Center. Mr. Crownfield pointed out the objection was to bringing another 75,000 vehicle trips a year onto South Mountain that is an area which should be environmentally protected and not developed at all.
Authorizing the Filing of Applications for RACP and Cooperation Agreements; and Administrative Order – Andrew Twiggar – City Planning Commission;
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, commenting that he personally supports the Ben Franklin Technology Center, said it is a shame there will be another 100 employees on South Mountain and a two story parking deck. Mr. Scheirer expressed the hope that this marks the end of expansion on South Mountain because it is an irreplaceable resource and makes Bethlehem special.
Mr. Scheirer noted the thought that all of the RACP would go to ArtsQuest has been deleted, and said he was not comfortable that the division of the funds has not yet been worked out.
Mr. Scheirer offered the thought that the $1.25 million in RACP funds for the parking structure at the former Martin Tower is exactly 2.5% of the $50 million that was going into the development project, and was not going to make a difference one way or the other.
Mr. Scheirer, stating that he knows Mr. Twiggar from the Planning Commission and from the Zoning task force, echoed the previous comments and said he is one of the more sensitive developers in the City.
6. OLD BUSINESS.
A. Tabled Items
B. Unfinished Business
1. Bill No. 28 - 2008 – Amending Zoning Ordinance – Various Sections
2. Establishing Article 1716 – Landmarks and Properties of Historical Interest
C. Old Business – Members of Council
A. Police Commissioner – Reimbursement – Police Training
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 2, 2009 from Randall P. Miller, Commissioner of Police, in which it was requested that a Resolution be considered for the purpose of the City’s receiving reimbursement from the State for 60% of the salary during the 20 weeks time that four individuals will be attending the Allentown Police Academy.
President Donchez stated that Resolution 11 M is listed on the Agenda.
B. Police Commissioner – Special Event Parking Resolution – Musikfest 2009
The Clerk read a memorandum dated July 2, 2009 from Randall P. Miller, Police Commissioner, requesting that a Resolution be passed covering Special Event Parking during Musikfest 2009 from 12:00 Noon on Friday, July 31, 2009 through 12:00 Midnight at the end of Sunday, August 9, 2009.
President Donchez stated that the Resolution will be listed
on the July 21, 2009 Agenda.
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Andrew Twiggar – City Planning Commission
Mayor Callahan reappointed Andrew Twiggar to membership on the City Planning Commission effective until April 2014. Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2009-129 to confirm the appointment.
Mrs. Belinski, with reference to a past meeting at which was discussed making Wyandotte Street and Broadway one way streets, recounted that business owners and residents requested that it not be done because it would destroy them and run them out of business. Mrs. Belinski noted that when the matter came before the Planning Commission, Mr. Twiggar recused himself from voting. Mrs. Belinski continued on to communicate that when Mr. Twiggar spoke at the Committee of the Whole meeting on March 11, 2008, he said he was in favor of the one way streets but failed to acknowledge that he owned a property at Five Points. Mrs. Belinski said that is why he was approving of the one way streets. Mrs. Belinski stated she will not vote in favor of the Resolution.
Mr. Reynolds, echoing comments of residents who expressed their belief that Mr. Twiggar does a very good job, noted it has been made clear about Mr. Twiggar’s recusal in the matter of the one way streets. Mr. Reynolds thought that Mr. Twiggar does an excellent job on the Planning Commission and said he will vote to support Mr. Twiggar’s reappointment.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, 1. The Resolution passed.
2. Administrative Order – Terry L. Marcincin, D.M.D. – Board of Health
Mayor Callahan appointed Terry L. Marcincin, D.M.D. to membership on the Board of Health effective until January 2013. Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2009-130 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer,
Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution
Food Vending Carts
Mayor Callahan provided an update on the matter of food vending carts. Mayor Callahan, affirming he is not at all against food carts, pointed out the comments of the Administration in the newspaper have been about the appropriateness of food carts and where best to put them. Mayor Callahan observed that food carts can add a lot of vibrancy and energy to street life. Mayor Callahan added that the consultant who did a walkability analysis of Bethlehem recommended food carts and their delineation in areas of the City. Mayor Callahan recalled that high school students who attended the Governor’s School at Lehigh University in the summer of 2007 came up with recommendations on food carts in the City. Mayor Callahan explained the Administration wants to make sure that the food carts are done well, the food is safe, there is uniformity of design, the space were they are permitted is appropriate, and the number of carts and types of vending items are addressed. Mayor Callahan advised that a recommendation for an Ordinance will be forwarded to be read into the record by the next City Council Meeting. Mayor Callahan added that last Friday he did speak with Mr. Padilla who is operating a food vending cart on the South Side to explain the status of the matter.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, advised that the Administration has been attempting, on Mr. Padilla’s behalf, to find a location where the property owner would give the appropriate permission pursuant to the current Ordinance whereby the Public Works Department can issue right of way permits for a mobile vending operation in response to Mr. Padilla’s current operation of a food vending cart taking place on the street. Mr. Hanna continued on to say there have been discussions with the owner of the Rooney building but there is no conclusion at this point. Mr. Hanna added that other locations are being reviewed as well.
President Donchez confirmed that if the proposal is received to be read into the record at the next City Council Meeting on July 21 it will be referred to Committee and scheduled for review. President Donchez further advised that those who signed up to speak this evening would be notified of the Committee meeting date.
C. Community Development Committee
Chairman Schweder presented an oral report of the Community Development Committee meeting on June 24, 2009 at 7:00 PM in Town Hall on the following subjects: Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) – Authorizing Applications and Cooperation Agreements for ArtsQuest and PBS 39, Ashley Development (Two West Broad Street Development LP), Ben Franklin Partnership, HRP Management, Lehigh University, Majestic Realty, and Northampton Community College. Chairman Schweder advised that the Committee reported out six Resolutions that appear as Resolutions 11 A through 11 F on this evening’s Agenda.
D. Public Safety Committee
Chairman Mowrer presented an oral report of the Public Safety Committee meeting on July 1, 2009 on the following subject: Establishing New Article 314 - Security Cameras. The Committee recommended that Bill No. 10 – 2009, Establishing Article 314 – Security Cameras, be approved by City Council, with an amendment to Section 314.07, Exceptions, to be drafted pertaining to the composition of the Appeals Board. In addition, in Section 314.09, Effective Date, the effective date is changed to July 1, 2010.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – ArtsQuest and PBS 39
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-131 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for ArtsQuest and PBS 39 to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $12.25 million for the purpose of assisting ArtsQuest and PBS 39 in the construction of SteelStacks.
Mr. Leeson stated that he will abstain from voting on the Resolution because he is a member of the Board of Directors of PBS 39.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 6. Abstaining: Mr. Leeson, 1. The Resolution passed.
B. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – Two West Broad Street Development (Ashley Development)
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution No. 2009-132 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for Two West Broad Street Development, LP to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $300,000 for the purpose of assisting Two West Broad Street Development, LP for the Farr Building Redevelopment.
Mr. Leeson inquired whether Ashley Development addressed the issues regarding the condition of the building that were discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting.
Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, responded that an e-mail was received this afternoon from Lisa Pektor on behalf of the ownership of the building advising that the plywood will be taken out of the windows and replaced with glass, as well as washing the windows, putting black mesh inside the windows to shield the exterior view from the work going on, removing some debris inside, removing decals from windows, cleaning leaves and litter out of exterior foyers, painting ceiling on corner foyer, and exterior landscaping.
Mr. Schweder, noting that he voted in favor of the proposal when it came before the Community Development Committee, observed that Ashley Development is not the owner of the building as was stated at the Committee meeting when Ms. Pektor advised she could not speak for the owners. Mr. Schweder pointed out that the contractual agreement that would be signed by the City and that Council would be approving tonight states that the City of Bethlehem and its taxpayers are ultimately responsible for the payment of the improvements if they are done and deemed not to be reimbursable by the Commonwealth. Mr. Schweder communicated it seems the City is committing to pay for anything that might be a shortcoming for a building that is vacant, and is unlikely to have any tenants in the near future as was discussed at the Committee meeting, for an owner of the building who did not appear before the Committee but who will be the recipient of the grant. Mr. Schweder stated for those reasons he will vote against the Resolution.
Mr. Reynolds commented that Ashley Development in the past has done many projects that have been very important to the City. Mr. Reynolds said he is completely comfortable voting for the Resolution. Mr. Reynolds communicated that he held a more optimistic view about when tenants might be in the building when he heard the discussion at the Committee meeting.
Mrs. Belinski, expressing her agreement with Mr. Schweder’s comments, stated she will be voting against the Resolution.
Ms. Dolan denoted that Two West Broad Street Development, LP is stated in the Cooperation Agreement.
Ms. Dolan advised she had asked the Administration, in the event any of the properties listed in the various proposed Resolutions were sold, whether the RACP funding is going towards a project, or an individual, or a partnership. Ms. Dolan noted that normally a State grant goes towards a project. Ms. Dolan, further pointing out that changes can be made in a grant application, observed they must be submitted to the City as is stated in the Cooperation Agreement and the City has the right to approve or disapprove. Commenting the City is responsible for the project, Ms. Dolan communicated if the City and the State are comfortable with the project, then that is the project being backed.
Mr. Hanna explained that Two West Broad Street Development, LP is the owner of the building, as listed in the Cooperation Agreement, and Ashley Development is acting as the agent on behalf of the owner. Mr. Hanna noted that Ashley was used as a reference point since Council was familiar with Ashley Development and not necessarily with the Limited Partnership that was created. The two principal owners of the Limited Partnership are Lou Pektor and Leo DeLong. Mr. Hanna, addressing the issue relative to the responsibility, affirmed these are reimbursable grants and the money would not be reimbursed to the developer until after the expenditures are made, the City is satisfied, the Commonwealth is satisfied, the Commonwealth’s consultant is satisfied, the Office of Budget is satisfied, and the auditor assigned to the project is satisfied. Mr. Hanna continued on to say there are a number of steps that protect the City, including internal staff review, every step of the way for any requests for reimbursement. Mr. Hanna highlighted the fact that the money is reimbursed only after the appropriate steps are taken and documentation submitted.
Mr. Reynolds noted that, as he had stated at the Committee meeting, if one looks at these Resolutions they are a historic investment in cities. Mr. Reynolds remarked that the grantees, the Administration, the Legislative Caucuses and the Governor deserve credit for taking a look at where in the cities investments are needed. Observing that at the present time the Governor and the Legislative Caucuses cannot agree on anything, Mr. Reynolds pointed out one of the things they have been able to agree upon previously is how important the SteelStacks project is. Mr. Reynolds communicated that people should be thankful for the State’s investment into the City and into these projects that are all worthwhile economic development projects.
Mr. Mowrer noted that Ashley Development has a track record that is significant, and they have already started to comply with what they were requested to do at the Committee meeting. Mr. Mowrer said he will vote in favor of the Resolution.
President Donchez communicated that Bethlehem has been very fortunate during Governor Rendell’s administration with the amount of RACP money the City has received, and the amount of money that the caucuses on both sides have invested in the cities, especially Bethlehem.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 5. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, and Mr. Schweder, 2.
C. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-133 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for Ben Franklin Technology Partners to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $2.8 million for the purpose of Ben Franklin Technology Partners in the expansion of the existing incubator for the Ben Franklin Tech Ventures.
Mrs. Belinski, affirming she is supportive of Ben Franklin Partnership, said she is upset that Ben Franklin will take another piece of South Mountain on which to expand. Mrs. Belinski remarked there is enough room in LVIP 7 for the organization to move, and they should let South Mountain alone.
Mr. Mowrer, expressing his understanding of Mr. Scheirer’s comments and the concern about South Mountain, pointed out that Ben Franklin has been there and if they would have to build a new facility at another location the cost would increase substantially. Mr. Mowrer communicated that the project makes sense to him, he supports the Ben Franklin Partnership, and he supports their addition at this location at this time. Mr. Mowrer thought the City does have to take a look at the future of South Mountain. However, Mr. Mowrer observed the project is doing what the City wants it to do; i.e., creating opportunities for new employees, jobs, and income, and it is being created on the South Side. Mr. Mowrer stated he will vote for the Resolution.
Mr. Reynolds pointed out that many individuals are very proud of what the Ben Franklin Partnership has done. Noting this is another example of the City trying to help such entrepreneurial endeavors, Mr. Reynolds expressed the hope that the Ben Franklin Center will be in the City for a long time.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
D. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – Lehigh University
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-134 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for Lehigh University to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $1 million for the purpose of assisting Lehigh University in the construction of the Science, Technology, Environment, Policy, and Society (STEPS) Building Project.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
E. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – Majestic Realty Development
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-135 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for Majestic Realty Development to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $1 million for the purpose of assisting Majestic Realty Development in the construction of the Majestic Bethlehem Center.
Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolution passed.
F. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – Northampton County Community College
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-136 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for Northampton County Community College to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $100,000 for the purpose of assisting Northampton County Community College in the rehabilitation and development of a job training center at the Fowler Family Southside Center.
Motion – Considering Resolutions as a Group
Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson moved to consider Resolutions 11 G through 11 L as a group. Voting AYE: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The motion passed.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 15 East Fourth Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-137 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the awning and install a window sign and a wall sign at 15 East Fourth Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 322 East Third Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-138 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install an aluminum sign over the front door at 322 East Third Street.
I. Certificate of Appropriateness – 832 East Fourth Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2009-139 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install two awnings above the front windows at 832 East Fourth Street.
J. Certificate of Appropriateness – 437-439 and 441 Wyandotte Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution 2009-140 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a handicap ramp on the Broadway facing façade at 437-439 Wyandotte Street and 441 Wyandotte Street.
K. Certificate of Appropriateness – 417 Wyandotte Street
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-141 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install a sign at 417 Wyandotte Street.
L. Certificate of Appropriateness – 459 Old York Road (Luckenbach Mill)
Mr. Schweder and Mr. Reynolds sponsored Resolution No. 2009-142 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to repair and modify the existing front steps and ramp at 459 Old York Road.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 G through 11 L: Mrs. Belinski, Ms. Dolan, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Schweder, and Mr. Donchez, 7. The Resolutions passed.
M. Request for Reimbursement – Training of Police Officers
Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 2009-143 that authorized the City to obtain reimbursement of monies for expenses incurred for Officers Christopher Kopp, Stephanie Molnar, Shawn Pfister, and Gretchen Kraemer pursuant to the training provisions of the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Act, and agreeing that while receiving funds from the Commonwealth pursuant to the Act, the City shall adhere to the rules established by the Commission.
Motion – Suspending Rules and Adding Resolution 11 N - Authorizing the Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – HRP Management, LLC
Mr. Reynolds moved to Suspend the Rules of Council to add Resolution 11 N, Authorizing the Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – HRP Management, LLC. Ms. Dolan seconded the motion.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr.
Donchez, 4. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Leeson, and Mr.
Schweder, 3. The motion passed.
N. Authorizing Filing of Application for RACP and Cooperation Agreement – HRP Management
Mr. Reynolds and Ms. Dolan sponsored Resolution No. 2009-144 that authorized the application and Cooperation Agreement for HRP Management, LLC to obtain funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant Program (RACP) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that will be passed through the City in the amount of $1.25 million for the purpose of assisting HRP Management, LLC in the construction of the Martin Tower project.
Mrs. Belinski, stressing that one of the people involved in the project is a billionaire from Florida who also owns property in New Jersey, questioned why this person should pay only 30% of the taxes he should pay that would save him $11 million over several years, if a Tax Incremental Finance District would be adopted. Mrs. Belinski said she is against this.
Ms. Dolan affirmed that the Resolution to be voted on is for a pass-through of RACP funds for redevelopment of a portion of Martin Tower on Eighth Avenue, and it does not impact at this point whether or not HRP Management receives tax incentives through the TIF Program. Ms. Dolan highlighted the fact that Council just passed a Resolution giving a grant of a similar size to Majestic Realty which is owned by someone who is probably four times as wealthy as one of the principals in HRP Management. Focusing on the concept of whether the City should participate in passing through money to for-profit companies, Ms. Dolan pointed out that the money already left the pockets of taxpayers by paying taxes to the State. The State in its judgment chose seven projects in the City to receive RACP grants. Ms. Dolan stressed that if the money is not passed through by the City, thereby creating Bethlehem-based jobs, supporting Bethlehem-based projects, assisting in reducing unemployment, providing economic benefits to the City, County and region, then the money will not go back into taxpayers pockets. In view of the effort that goes into RACP grants and the competitiveness of the applications, Ms. Dolan emphasized that the City would be reducing its ability to earn these grants in the future if the funds are turned down. Ms. Dolan communicated that, as much as she respects the philosophy regarding not providing grants to private developers, as a practical matter she would much rather see these funds come to Bethlehem projects. Ms. Dolan continued on to question, if State funds are not accepted to assist with the project, whether or not someone philosophically agrees with the concept, then what is going to be done with Martin Tower. Adding that no one else has stepped forward, Ms. Dolan commented that to demolish the building would be one of the most environmentally unfriendly things that could be done in addition to the approximate demolition cost of $20 million. Ms. Dolan said the City needs to move forward with Martin Tower and the other projects, and stated she will support the Resolution.
Mr. Leeson, while stating this is a very good project and
he wishes the developers every success, remarked the project
plans are for 75%residential properties for high income individuals.
Mr. Leeson communicated his belief that it is inappropriate
for the City to be a party to financing housing for high income
individuals in the current market and economy when many people
cannot even afford to pay their mortgage and are losing their
homes. Turning to the proposed financing of the project, Mr.
Leeson pointed out that two of the major components involve
public funding which is the proposed $1.25 million in RACP
funding and the proposed TIF plan that is identified in the
application to the State as a key component in order for the
project to succeed. Mr. Leeson observed that, coincidentally,
the RACP funding amount combined with TIF funding that takes
public tax dollars and puts them into a fund to help fix Martin
Tower almost equals the purchase price of the property. Mr.
Leeson stated if the Resolution is adopted and the TIF proposal
is approved then the taxpayers will have bought the Martin
Tower property but do not own it. Mr. Leeson felt the State
acted imprudently and mismanaged public funding when it agreed
to fund high income residential property components. Commenting
this is the wrong use of public money, and the City should
not be a party to it, Mr. Leeson said he will be voting no.
Mr. Mowrer said he has no problem helping private enterprise to restore, rebuild and develop property in the City that later will be turned into taxable income producing properties and provide employment opportunities in the City. Mr. Mowrer stated he will support the Resolution.
Mr. Reynolds thought it was premature to talk about a TIF for the property. Noting the scope of the project has changed many times, Mr. Reynolds commented the City is waiting to see the latest change to the project. Mr. Reynolds stressed he is not agreeing with a TIF, and is not agreeing to the plans, and communicated these are conversations that were held with the developers before about the project. Affirming the City wants to see something happen there, Mr. Reynolds said at the same time just because the RACP grant would be approved as a pass through it does not necessarily mean there is agreement with everything that will be developed at the Martin Tower project area. He added when the time comes if there is disagreement, then it will be discussed. Mr. Reynolds said the idea that a tax break would be given if the TIF is approved so that the taxpayers could have bought the project means that would be the case in a lot of projects including the BethWorks site. Pointing out the Members of Council approved the Resolution for RACP funding for Majestic Realty that the City is glad to have come to Bethlehem, Mr. Reynolds commented he thinks it is safe to say the private developer is a billionaire from California. Mr. Reynolds reiterated the City should be thankful that Governor Rendell and the Legislative Caucuses who often do not agree on many things were willing to fund these projects. Mr. Reynolds remarked there was not this type of investment from the previous State administrations. Mr. Reynolds communicated this is the first in many steps in trying to find a way to get the Martin Tower property back on the tax rolls and help the City and its residents economically in the future.
Mr. Schweder asked what was the response from the Lehigh County Commissioners to serving as a pass through for the RACP funds.
Mr. Hanna replied the Administration chose not to address the question to them.
Mr. Schweder pointed out the City is not the only option to provide the pass through of the RACP funds, and noted that Lehigh County, Bethlehem Area School District, and perhaps other authorities could serve as the pass through. Mr. Schweder communicated that since Lehigh County was interested in the TIF then perhaps Lehigh County would also want to be the sponsor of the RACP proposal.
Mr. Schweder, emphasizing that the plans for the project have constantly changed, questioned why is that allowed. Mr. Schweder recounted the proposal that came before City Council three and a half years ago was very explicit in what was going to be done to the property. The developers sought the most dense rezoning of the area for residential property that exists no where else in the City. To be able to put approximately 900 additional townhouses on the property located at Eighth and Eaton Avenues, Mr. Schweder highlighted the fact that the driving lanes in the project area are more narrow than driveways at houses in the City. In addition, Mr. Schweder advised it was in violation of the fire laws and Sprinkler Ordinance and it was required that be taken care of but it has never been done. The property owners have sought delays and exceptions to the Ordinance. Mr. Schweder recounted the reason the zoning was sought was because the developers committed to keeping the Martin Tower building. Mr. Schweder continued on to say the zoning was approved so that the developers could afford to recoup the finances necessary to refurbish Martin Tower. Mr. Schweder remarked now it is found out three and a half years later that not one thing has been done to the Martin Tower building. Mr. Schweder stressed that other private developers in the City have made investments and have advanced their projects, but the Martin Tower project has sat since it was presented to City Council almost four years ago. At that time, City Council voted unanimously in favor of the project on First Reading and asked the developers to come back with a final proposal of what was going to be done before Final Reading on the Ordinance to approve the rezoning. Mr. Schweder recounted that by a four to three vote the Members of Council decided that was not necessary, and that the developer would be able to do whatever they wanted. Further recalling that Council was told the property would not be put up for sale, Mr. Schweder pointed out the property was put up for sale 45 days after the Ordinance was passed. Mr. Schweder remarked that if the owners had advanced anything they said was going to be done, he would be supportive of it. However, today $1.25 million is being sought for a parking garage that was never in the proposal. Communicating that the Committee made the right decision, Mr. Schweder expressed his disappointment that the Committee process is broken down, and Committee action does not really mean anything. Observing this might be one way that action can be taken to help ensure there is follow through on a project as proposed, Mr. Schweder said as he has watched over the last 5-6 years there has been a degradation of the process and the responsibility of checks and balances, and Council accedes to the wants and needs of the well-to-do at the expense of the many.
Mr. Reynolds, turning to the Committee process, observed that on a daily basis in his job working for a State Representative he has seen bills kept in Committee when it appears as if the will of the full assembly in Harrisburg would like to pass it. Mr. Reynolds stated the idea that things can be defeated in Committee rather than letting the full elected body have their say is something he does not want to see happen. Reiterating that the TIF or other aspects of the project are not under discussion, Mr. Reynolds highlighted the fact that under discussion is the $1.25 million in RACP funds as a pass through from the City to the developers for the project. Mr. Reynolds said with the exception of BethWorks and the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation site he does not think there has ever been a project that has been this challenging to get back on the tax roles. Enumerating that among the issues are asbestos, no sprinklers, and other factors, Mr. Reynolds stressed that no matter who develops the site, or when it is developed, someone will have to make an enormous financial outlay. Mr. Reynolds pointed out that the building cannot just be knocked down due to the fact that there is asbestos in it and it is located in an area where there are neighborhoods. Mr. Reynolds thought it would be an irresponsible thing to do by taking away an option as a way to help pay for the project. Observing it is not being said that this is the ideal situation, or that no one wants to have to deal with it, Mr. Reynolds stated by not doing anything the problem will be made worse. Mr. Reynolds, focusing on checks and balances, communicated that taking the item out of Committee is a check on a few Members of Council who tried to keep it in Committee without letting all seven Members of Council vote on it. Mr. Reynolds continued on to say the way the process is designed allows a procedure if the will of Council is in disagreement with what a few individuals think who are on a Committee.
Ms. Dolan commented she is not sure it is still true that the project is 75% high income, and as the market has changed because of the recession it is not the project that it was at the outset. Stating the purchase price is irrelevant, Ms. Dolan said it is not the purchase price of the building that makes any difference since to purchase it was one small piece, and it is the redevelopment that is paramount. Ms. Dolan, questioning who would want to gamble on the project to redevelop Martin Tower, exemplified there is asbestos, insulation, and sprinklers to address that are not problems that the developer created, and laws have changed since Martin Tower was built. Ms. Dolan stressed it is a very expensive and daunting project. Ms. Dolan, communicating she admires the purism of saying no to using taxpayers funds for private development if that is someone’s philosophy, noted if the funds are turned down maybe they will not go towards redevelopment in the City or any other city in Pennsylvania. Ms. Dolan observed development has taken place on the greenfields because it is cheaper, and much less expensive to pave over farm fields than to redevelop in the cities. Ms. Dolan continued on to remark that State officials have realized that in order for cities to be vital and to protect greenspace then funds are needed to provide incentives towards redevelopment in the cities versus continued development in the suburbs. Commenting that next to the redevelopment of the Bethlehem Steel brownfields the Martin Tower redevelopment is the most difficult project, Ms. Dolan reiterated that if the assistance is turned down the money will go someplace else and the credibility of the City as a partner in the redevelopment of its most difficult buildings so they can be turned back into assets will be lost. Ms. Dolan, affirming she supports the Resolution, said she supports the redevelopment of buildings and development in cities.
Mr. Schweder, recounting that Ms. Dolan made those comments when the rezoning for the Martin Tower project came before City Council several years ago, recalled at that time it had been discussed that the developers were inheriting the problems of asbestos and a sprinkler system, and they were being given zoning that no one else had so that economically they could correct those problems. Mr. Schweder continued on to say now, four years later, none of that has been done. Mr. Schweder observed he cannot imagine that the businessmen would not have been involved in due diligence before the purchase of the property. Mr. Schweder reiterated that four years ago there were the same arguments and tonight the same arguments are here again, and nothing has been done. Mr. Schweder remarked if a better solution than this is desired, he will be happy to join in sponsoring an Ordinance that returns the property to its original zoning, and then it can be seen what other options are available. Mr. Schweder asserted the way the Martin Tower property is zoned now it is locked in so that nobody else can come forward with another proposal.
Voting AYE: Ms. Dolan, Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Reynolds, and Mr. Donchez, 4. Voting NAY: Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Leeson, and Mr. Schweder, 3. The Resolution passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Hot Dog Vendor – South Side
Mr. Mowrer advised that he went to the South Side to try the hot dogs from the vendor who had set up his cart there and he stood in line for over a half hour and had delightful conversations during that time. Noting that the hot dog vendor and others did not know he was a Member of Council, Mr. Mowrer related some of the questions he asked students and various individuals, and further noted the number of people walking around town that he thought was exciting. Mr. Mowrer commented that he thinks the idea of vending carts is healthy for the City.
President Donchez noted the Administration will forward a proposed Ordinance for the next City Council Meeting on July 21 and he will refer it to Committee for review. President Donchez stated that those who address City Council this evening will be notified of the Committee meeting on the issue. President Donchez, expressing his agreement that the idea of vending carts is healthy for the City, expressed the belief that the City needs to regulate the number and location of vendors.
Mr. Reynolds, recognizing all those in attendance regarding the matter of the hot dog vendor on the South Side, stated the City is not trying to eliminate anyone from making a living. Mr. Reynolds explained one of the things that the City must do is often balance the interests of different parties in the City. Mr. Reynolds, while observing the situation has been challenging, advised everyone wants to find a compromise solution by which the various concerns can be addressed.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Hot Dog Vendor – South Side
T. J. Walker, 250 Flagstone Drive, expressed appreciation that the City is approaching the issue of food vending carts positively and trying to find solutions. Mr. Walker said when he and his partner, Jan Kleckner, first heard about the story they started a Facebook group that now has 2,351 people who want to save the Bethlehem hot dog man. Mr. Walker commented they were taken aback by the comments of some of the business owners. Expressing his opinion that vending is a way to build a community, Mr. Walker expressed the hope that the City will work on supporting the matter and finding a way to make it happen.
Jan Kleckner, 1423 Montrose Avenue, said she is at the meeting to support Edwin Padilla and the concept of free market enterprise. Ms. Kleckner expressed her appreciation to the City for allowing Mr. Padilla the right to earn a living for him and his family, for responding to the South Side business signatories, and for considering constituents’ viewpoints on the matter of sidewalk vendors. Ms. Kleckner quoted from U. S. Supreme Court Justice Steven Johnson and from Ayn Rand’s “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” and commented that Mr. Padilla’s enterprise should not only be permitted but encouraged so that the City can continue to thrive and prosper.
ADA Regulations – Lack of Enforcement
Rachel Thompson, 716 Sixth Avenue, expressed concerns about the City’s lack of enforcement relative to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations, and parking issues. Ms. Thompson recalled that several years ago she addressed City Council to advise that construction equipment was parked in a handicap parking space on Main Street near the Social Security Office, and the City’s response was to ensure that a parking fee was collected instead of requiring the man-lift equipment to be moved to a non-ADA parking space. Ms. Thompson noted she suffered mobility issues in the past and also had overseen ADA enforcement as a former construction manager. Stating that the City discounts and ignores the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Thompson enumerated several personal observations: a required raised bump warning device was not installed at curb cuts at various locations; lack of curb cuts in many residential areas; pervasiveness of sidewalk safety issues; non-authorized vehicles parked in handicapped spaces at banks, convenience stores, and the Bethlehem Area Public Library; Bethlehem Housing Authority car parked in a handicapped space on West Broad Street; and police cars parked in handicapped spaces. Notifying the Members that she has taken dozens of photographs of illegally parked cars throughout the City, Ms. Thompson questioned why the City is not making a greater effort at enforcement. She pointed out that enforcement would provide money that would surpass other parking violation revenues, and also noted that the potential for a Federal civil rights violation lawsuit is huge. Ms. Thompson stressed that enforcement would be a win-win situation providing money to the City and protection for vulnerable citizens.
Michael Alkhal, advising there was a ten year program in which all the ADA ramps were installed, explained that since then there have been changes including detection devices and alignment, grade, and installation. Mr. Alkhal added the project is done except for a few isolated spots for various reasons.
Hot Dog Vendor – South Side
Edwin Padilla, 602 Wyandotte Street, noted he talked to the Mayor last Friday about the hot dog cart situation and was told there are matters related to food that the City wants to regulate, and aesthetics of the cart. Mr. Padilla informed the assembly that he met the Health Bureau requirements. Mr. Padilla stated that, as far as the location, the City is trying to work with him on the issue but he was surprised the issue came up because prior to his being on the street, there were vendors operating at a paid meter. Mr. Padilla related it was not until after a newspaper article appeared concerning business owners opposed to food vending carts that the issue came up about his vending cart being illegally parked at a parking meter. A few weeks later the City stated he was not there legally, and he cannot operate there without the permission of the Public Works Department. Mr. Padilla explained that at a meeting with the Public Works Department Director he was notified where to go in order to obtain permits, and said he does not understand why it was not an issue then but it is now. Mr. Padilla, noting the City wants him to operate from a sidewalk area rather than from the street, advised right now he has the same permits to operate from a street as does an ice cream truck vendor. Mr. Padilla said he does not see how he is violating any Ordinances. Mr. Padilla asked that, when the new Ordinance comes up the City takes into consideration the fact that it is now summer but his plan is to obtain a bigger cart in which he could sit inside during the winter. However, Mr. Padilla pointed out if he is required to operate from the sidewalk then his bigger truck would be blocking more space on the sidewalk. Expressing his agreement that a limit should be set, and there should be space in between vendors, Mr. Padilla said prior to beginning his operation he was approached by the Department of Community and Economic Development and was told not to set up near any stores that have hot dogs with which he complied. Mr. Padilla stressed he has done everything in his power to accommodate City rules on this matter. Mr. Padilla asked that he be taken into consideration when the new regulations are proposed.
President Donchez notified Mr. Padilla that a copy of the proposed Ordinance would be forwarded to him, and he could offer suggestions.
Edwin Rodriquez, 1845 Linden Street, commented that the rules and regulations should apply to all vendors, and noted that he has a copy of the Ordinance. Mr. Rodriquez observed that the Administration would be modifying the Ordinance, and those rules will have to be abided by. Focusing on health issues, Mr. Rodriquez stressed that if water is to be dispensed the health rules must be followed. Turning to the asbestos in the Martin Tower building, Mr. Rodriquez questioned why there was no concern in the past, and stated that his mother worked there years ago. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that the individual who has property in the Five Points area should have recused himself from voting at the Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Rodriquez thought more people should be involved in the One Way Pairs traffic issue.
Robert Pfenning, 2830 Linden Street, referring to House Bill 21, the table games legislation, said in the currently proposed legislation the two cities would share a $5 million floor in gaming revenue, with $4 million going to the City of Bethlehem. He added that some revenue trade-offs would need to be looked at since the table games would have to go in the same space as the 2,000 extra slot machines. Mr. Pfenning stated another issue is whether or not the industry will accept the legislation that is proposed in terms of tax rates and fees. He continued on to say that currently in H.B. 21 the tax rate is 21% of the revenue. During the most recent years of table games revenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey there was only one casino in the best year that came up with $311 million in table game revenue. Mr. Pfenning observed that in order to reach the $5 million floor, $500 million in revenue would be needed. If Sands reached $250 million they would need to make up $2.5 million in fees so there would be an effective rate of 22%. Mr. Pfenning added that, according to industry studies, a 12% tax rate was used as an example because table games are labor intensive. Mr. Pfenning calculated the City should be getting about $558,000 in the Second Quarter as its local share assessment, and said it would require only a $145 win per slot per day versus the previously estimated amount of $255 win per slot per day. Expressing his thought that the Sands Casino numbers seem to be tracking the way the industry has gone in the past, Mr. Pfenning informed the assembly that last year gross terminal revenue from Memorial Day to the July 4 holiday period trended down. Mr. Pfenning commented that expectations are different in view of the fact that the hotel and retail components of the Sands Casino have not yet been built.
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, communicated that Council Member Belinski should keep working to get the Ordinance for preservation of historic structures passed. He added that the historic resources in the City cannot afford to wait for a year. Mr. Grubb, referring to a newspaper article on jaywalking, applauded the City’s efforts to address the issue of pedestrian safety. Mr. Grubb related that he recently saw three people run the stop sign in front of City Hall, and stressed there should be enforcement to prevent a pedestrian accident. Mr. Grubb, turning to the RACP funding that was voted on this evening, suggested the only thing that is hypocritical is the selective disregard for Council’s Committee process. He said if a Committee chooses not to report out a matter then that process should be respected. Mr. Grubb remarked that the State first took tax dollars and then decided to give it back in the form of RACP funding for Martin Tower. Mr. Grubb said he found it ironic that there is concern about a vendor taking away a parking space on the street when the City formerly gave away a parking space to a restaurateur on Main Street. Mr. Grubb, observing that street vendors add to a community, commented that the pedestrian traffic on the South Side is a fantastic thing. Mr. Grubb expressed his opinion that retail vendors are not what are needed in Bethlehem, and the vendors should be limited to food and beverages, and regulated. Mr. Grubb added that spaces should be found for vendors, and the Parking Authority should be compensated accordingly.
Food Vendors – South Side
Santiago Rivera, 1349 Lynn Avenue, said he is in support of Edwin Padilla and the street vendors. Mr. Rivera commented that street vendors bring vibrancy to the community, bring people out, increase safety by having more people on the street, and provide for community interaction. Mr. Rivera encouraged the Members of Council to consider placing some of the vendors along the Greenway.
Murdock Saunders, 727 Hillside Avenue, pledged his support for vendors on the South Side. Mr. Saunders said he is invigorated by what is being done in the City, and encouraged the entrepreneurial spirit in Bethlehem.
Kerry Singh, 4900 Country Top Trail, advising that her father is the owner of Nawab Indian Restaurant at 13 East Fourth Street, said there should be focus on where vendors should be located. Ms. Singh questioned whether it is smart to put vendors in front of small businesses that do not have a franchise and are working hard making a living day by day, or whether it is smarter to put them by businesses that will not be affected by vendors. Ms. Singh highlighted the fact that there are now three vendors on Fourth Street.
James Costello, 2372 Main Lane, Allentown, said he supports the hot dog vendor, and communicated when he is at the vendor’s cart he feels like he is in New York where he formerly lived. Mr. Costello advised that Mr. Padilla worked with him as a construction worker through his company, and affirmed that Mr. Padilla is a good person.
Food Vendors – South Side; Walkability
Bill Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, stated that he supports the concept of street vendors and added they bring vibrancy to the City. Mr. Scheirer observed, however, there are a lot of considerations that have to be worked out. Noting that a recent newspaper article in the New York Times about gourmet vendors involved the issue of competition for a particular spot, Mr. Scheirer informed the assembly that in Washington the more popular spots are auctioned. Mr. Scheirer pointed out that if vendors are selling from the street or sidewalk they are getting something for free versus business owners who operate in a building and have to pay taxes, etc. Mr. Scheirer, turning to the issue of walkability in the City, highlighted the fact that this evening applications for RACP funds were approved for the parking structure at Martin Tower, in addition to the two-story parking deck at the Ben Franklin Technology Center.
Food Vendors – South Side
Tina Kowalski, owner of The Fun House on East Fourth Street, stated that 90% of the merchants who signed the petition since they do not want vendors or vendor carts are in the South Side Business District for 10-30 years or more. Some signed it for personal reasons, and some signed it in support of the good of the neighborhood. Ms. Kowalski highlighted the fact that the merchants took a rundown neighborhood and made it into the thriving business district that it is today. She pointed out there are several new young entrepreneurs in the business district and they are facing hard economic times, have families to feed, have mortgaged their homes for loans, and are financially obligated more than vendors could ever imagine. Ms. Kowalski asserted that to tell the merchants that vendors are paying $10 a day in parking tickets to sell their products is a slap in the face to the merchants. She continued on to say the vendors should have to pay $1,000-$2,000 in monthly rent. Recalling that safety issues were discussed at the last Council Meeting, Ms. Kowalski restated that a vendor on Fourth Street is on an emergency route parked between cars. She pointed out that delivery trucks double park, fire trucks go up and down Fourth Street, in addition to LANTA buses, and it is too congested. Noting there is an open flame at the vending cart, she queried what would happen if someone hits the cart, and further questioned what would happen if the cart that is parked on an incline is hit, or a pedestrian is hit who is trying to get around the cart. Ms. Kowalski stated that vending carts should be on flat ground and away from traffic so there is a safe place for the vendor and the customers, rather than on the streets or on narrow sidewalks. She highlighted the fact that business owners must meet historic requirements but silver carts with bright umbrellas are allowed to set up in front of the merchants’ business. Ms. Kowalski said the carts take away from the beauty of the buildings. Ms. Kowalski said, according to an article in the New York Times, food vendors do not create foot traffic but rather go where foot traffic is. Ms. Kowalski advised there was foot traffic at Fourth and New Streets before the vendors were there, and that is why the vendors are there. Ms. Kowalski, noting the vendors have options such as going to the Greenway or Third Street, advised the vendors do not want to go there because of lack of foot traffic. Ms. Kowalski explained the vendors should be at appropriate locations that would be compatible with that type of business such as festivals, parks, municipal buildings, baseball fields, and college campuses but not in front of established businesses. Ms. Kowalski denoted that some of the merchants sell the same foods as the vendors.
Chris Kowalski, one of the owners of the Fun House at 5 East Fourth Street, stated the merchants do not want to put the vendors out of business, and want the vendors to go somewhere where they can have a great career. Mr. Kowalski, noting he has had his business for 26 years, advised that before the issue of the vendors came about he had stood outside of his business and observed the bumper to bumper traffic and people walking everywhere that reminded him of where he came from in Long Island, New York. Mr. Kowalski added that the vendors came because of the foot traffic that was there.
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, commenting that the focus this evening has been on differences instead of what people agree on, said there is agreement on the right of people to make a living. Ms. Pongracz said a plan is needed that specifies what is required for a vendor to operate, including insurance, health permit, specified location, and so on. Communicating that the City supports Mr. Padilla’s venture, Ms. Pongracz stated the City needs to know that Mr. Padilla and his customers are protected. Ms. Pongracz remarked she would like to see a hot dog vendor on the City Center plaza. Ms. Pongracz asserted the problem is that all of the businesses need to be regulated, whether in a building or on the streets and sidewalks. Ms. Pongracz expressed that the vendors show what America is all about.
Louise Valeriano, 3114 East Boulevard, noting she was raised in a house on the South Side that is now about 125 years old, wondered why the hot air heating pipes that were coated with asbestos were not a problem then. She further noted the pipes were simply taken out along with the asbestos around 1950 when a different heating system was installed. Ms. Valeriano questioned why taxpayers should be paying for the removal of asbestos in a building that is going to be owned by other people. Ms. Valeriano asked where the children will go to school who will be living at the approximately 900 residential units at Martin Tower. Stating that the developers should be forced to build about three school buildings on those grounds to accommodate the children who will be living there, Ms. Valeriano questioned why taxpayers should pay for three more schools to be built. As an alterative to the School District floating an $11 million bond to destroy Northeast Middle School and Broughal Middle School, Ms. Valeriano thought the School District should not have the two schools razed but instead should institute a busing system from Martin Tower to Broughal School, and then only a high school would be needed. Ms. Valeriano, stressing that the schools should not be destroyed, remarked it is foolish to have to pay to build new schools. Ms. Valeriano, asking who designed the handicapped corners, highlighted the fact that people in wheelchairs have to try to negotiate between raised borders. Ms. Valeriano pointed out that the handicapped ramp area at Hayes Street and Fourth Street has a steep slope that could lead to a wheelchair going into the traffic. Ms. Valeriano further denoted that pedestrians could easily trip on the elevations at the handicapped ramps when they are looking at the traffic lights.
Five Points Traffic Plan – One Way Pairs
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, affirmed that he distributed to the Members of Council copies of his article entitled, Five Points in Bethlehem – An Example of Poor Urban Planning. Mr. Antalics, expressing that people who live in the area were outraged with what they were hearing, said City officials are required to respond to the welfare and needs of the community, and he felt that City officials have not acted responsibly. Mr. Antalics communicated that doing the right thing would be to look again at the plan and respond to the needs of the community. He added that fire vehicles would have trouble navigating the streets with the one way pairs traffic plans. Mr. Antalics, observing that use of the Greenway as a roadway or for light rail could be the answer to the problem, asked that Members of Council come up with an alternative if the current plan to change the traffic pattern to one way pairs is not the best solution for the Five Points area.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.