(7th in a series of posts on Banana Factory Expansion)
Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.
Gadfly is aware of much interest in plans for the Banana Factory.
ArtsQuest came the second time to the Historic Conservation Commission last Monday December 17. The meeting sounded quite positive to Gadfly. Still a bit uncertain seemed the question of demolition of the house that is part of the site and some concerns about the plaza.
Here are a few bullets from Nicole’s above article:
preserved: the one-story gallery on W. 3rd St.
demolition: 1950s warehouse expansion in disrepair; non-historic garage, 19thc. home
smaller scale than last time
more of an industrial feel than last time
demolition of the house at issue: lost historical character, too much to renovate and move
need more info on plazas
possible return in January, possible break ground in 2020
The new complex will be called the South Bethlehem Cultural Arts Center. The question of retaining the “Banana Factory” name was raised but Gadfly couldn’t catch the answer. He did hear that the Fowler name will still be visible.
Gadfly video’d the meeting, but since Historical officer Jeff Long was the only one using a microphone consistently, Gadfly is only including here his opening 20-minute presentation, which concerned the new plan ArtsQuest brought and should answer some of your questions about the nature of the current plan. You will probably still have to strain to hear.
So the second-round vote was 4-3 in favor of the 2 W. Market petition, just like it was the first time. No change there in the final tally.
But, except for CM Colon, we have another round of supporting statements that give us a window into the voters’ minds. Which is precious information.
Gadfly has said that one of the goals of his project is to be a more informed voter.
All of the Council members will no doubt run again, and some may even have higher ambition. In fact, CPs Martell, Reynolds, and Van Wirt end their terms in 2020.
When it comes time to vote, Gadfly wants a better basis of judgment than he’s had before. Which was basically no basis at all. He wants to know better who is intelligent, thoughtful, visionary, fair, hard-working, articulate, caring for the City, and so forth.
And through me, some of you might have a better basis as well. I’m already being asked who’s good, who’s not so good. You know, “Gadfly, you go to all those meetings, who are the good Council people.”
So, as you listen to the supporting statements below (the dang video bummed out on me at voting time – no video), I’m suggesting that you look for the models of behavior exhibited by our Councilpersons, just like you looked for models of behavior in the residents making comments.
Who meets and exceeds your expectations of our elected officials, and who doesn’t?
And this doesn’t mean whom you agree with and whom not on this 2 W. issue. The vote doesn’t necessarily tell you anything. It might be totally mindless. That’s why Gadfly was upset at Council President Waldron for going completely dark in the first round as the swing vote in a tight, hard-fought controversy. Gadfly is perfectly capable of recognizing and respecting an argument that differs from his own. The supporting statement tells you the quality of mind. And that’s worth discovering. Regardless of what side of an issue a person is on.
In order of appearance. Note and don’t miss CM Callahan’s second commentary. He asked for more time at the end. So you’ll see a CM Callahan (2). Don’t miss it.
Speaks her mind and speaks on behalf of the people who elected her. Moved by Mary Toulouse’s statement to allow residents to decide about their communities, but that is what the Zoning ordinance is already all about – and many residents served on the committee that formed it, were part of that decision-making. All we have to do is follow them and the ordinance. What you want was done already. She lives on the Southside, and it has changed. Admires people who live in the Historical District who have enough money to buy there and maintain the houses and are doing it on their own without needing a text change. Playing off Beall Fowler’s comment that Zoning should be permanent – that’s what it should be, but not in Bethlehem, it seems. Depends on how deep your pocket is. Doing what I believe I was elected to do in voting no.
CM Callahan (1)
Mixed-use neighborhood. All Council has done due diligence. Upset by accusations of rubber-stamping, ethics violated, play-to-play, never taken a dime from Mr. Rij. Always a commercial aspect there on that property. Financial services on that block already. Mixed-use neighborhood. Nothing shady has happened. Psychoanalysis of his comments from last meeting and even of the Council member who made no comments. We try to do our best. This job is a tough job. Always try to do what’s best for the city as a whole.
CW Van Wirt
Asked Darlene Heller for list of potential properties (non-conforming + residential) affected. 64 possible. We have not done an analysis. Mayor put planning dept in a bad position. Council in a bad position of voting on something without full knowledge. Lots of questions for Darlene, “flabbergasted” that she’s not here. Advice from professional city planner indicates the language in the amendment can be construed in an opposite manner. She has many questions, not any answers. Did exhaustive homework then met with Mr. Rij. Mr. Rij, contrary to testimony, did make “threat” in personal conversation of a drug or rehab center. Should we be notifying the 64? What if Quadrant vacates or creates a subsidiary? No study of impact. Vote allowed on an illegal terrace in South Bethlehem. Asks Council to consider city as whole. Historical concept in operation is that any development is good development. Like the building at 3rd and New is better than a vacant lot, as if that’s the only choice we have. Benner and Perron development are the only players. Other developers steer clear. Rules in Bethlehem have become muddy. Inappropriate grants. Illegal terrace. Variances with no safeguards. Reads citizen email about why rules are important. Developers blowing through red lights. Eviscerating rules. Don’t have to accept what the developers hand us. Makes a motion to table till there is the city analysis to determine the impact of the amendment. Applause. Failed 2-5.
2 kinds of people living in the HD, with differences of opinion. Thinking more about corner conversation. Must take emotion out of this. Don’t drive decision about Mr.Rij, whether positive or negative. Went back to conversations in 2012, what corners meant to the city. Corners are distinct and different – can look at them differently. Nobody back then argued that this would affect other properties on the street. What do we want on our corners and what is the process? Non-conforming uses make the city. Wonders about negative connotation. Some flexibility necessary. Looks at actual corners, and there is positive there. Planning Commission 4-0 against recommendations back in 2012, because the code was too restrictive. And not flexible enough. Council voted against the PC. Anecdotal evidence indicates a lot of the interesting things about Bethlehem relate to corners. Individual non-conforming uses create character. In front of us is an opportunity for flexibility that has a back-drop as far as the Zoning Hearing Board is concerned, as far as precedent, as far as a large community process talking about corners. Public process allows City, Council, ZHB to say yes or no. Need a system that allows flexibility to move forward while at the same time the ability to say no when need be.
All of us run our campaigns on protecting the neighborhoods. Look at the basics. Unique property on the corner of a busy intersection. It abuts a commercial district. It’s surrounded by non-residential uses. The Schadts testified how difficult it was selling the property. There’s a commercial and residential use tied to the property. Three arguments against passing the amendment: 1) detriment to the neighborhood, but the business has been operating for a year and there is no mention of detriment even by the opposition, 2) problems down the road, precedent, and 3) effects on other properties, but the language of the amendment is sufficiently strict, and any use would go to the Zoning Hearing Board where conditions would apply. We have several different lists of possibly affected properties, but they strengthen the argument because a large part of them are currently operating as respected businesses. A lot are obviously non-residential uses and are of value in the neighborhoods. It provides flexibility for unique properties and can promote smart and sensible investment. Benefit to the property, the neighborhood, and throughout Bethlehem.
CM Callahan (2)
Something bothering him. Last meeting some criticism about stuff going on in the Southside. Every time there’s a controversial topic there are people who come out listing uncertainties. Fortunate to have developers in the city: Pektor, Ronca, Benner, Petrucci, Perruci. We don’t rubber-stamp. We look at everything on its own merits. Mr. Rij has used the legal process. We are fortunate to have people who invest. We don’t have people jumping to develop in Bethlehem. Easy to attack Benner, etc. Know this – if it’s so sure-fire a deal, why did the property sit there for 10 years? Why didn’t you all get together, put your money up, and do the project? We spend $65m in investment in the Southside, and we have a regular speaker here who rips the Southside every meeting. A Councilwoman too. Talked to the “mayor of the Southside” Joe D’Ambrosio and asked when was the euphoric state of the Southside? Better 10 years ago? etc. When did the utopia Southside occur? In his 45yrs, never saw the Southside better. Thriving. Vibrant. Lots of effort by many people/administrations. People against 3rd and New etc, what about 1 E. Broad? Sands bring in $9.5m. Naysayers. People doing due diligence for the city. Who’s paying the damn bills? 300 professional people with disposable incomes brought in and people bitched. CAVE people: citizens against virtually everything. There’s always a group coming out of the woodwork. Doing our best. Shame that people are being attacked. Stop it. It’s nonsense.
Direct quote of entire statement: “Maybe I can put a bow on this conversation as we approach Christmas. I think it’s easy to sit up here or stand up at the microphone and speak in certainties and say if you don’t do this, this thing will happen that’s bad, or if you do take this action, I guarantee this other thing will happen. And I think that is a simplistic way to look at it. And it’s easy to say that the other side is wrong. What I am choosing to do is to approach this with the idea of faith. Do I have faith that Quadrant will be a good neighbor, and I think the answer to that is a resounding yes. Do I have faith that only a few properties are affected by this change? Again, I am choosing to look at that as a yes. And do I have faith that the Zoning Hearing Board will stand by to protect our neighbors in the event that somebody comes to them and, again, yes, yes, yes. I have faith in the process that has been laid out here, and I have faith for all those who are involved in that process. It may be a bit naïve, perhaps, and some of you may criticize me for that, but I am choosing to have faith in the better nature of all of us. And, for that reason, I’ll be supporting this amendment.”
As usual, listen, think, then let’s come back and share some thoughts.
(10th in a series about Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)
Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.
Yes, I think it is noticeable that more voices are joining the call for climate action.
Unfortunately, there are also many comments deriding the advocates of climate action—and the national government is showing no leadership. The Democratic leadership is a big part of the problem, refusing to make a strong push for the “Green New Deal” that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been pushing. (In fact the Dem. leadership is actively undermining it.)
At the state legislature, there is almost no discussion of or planning for climate action. Pathetic.
Locally, Easton has a good start on developing a CAP, but it seems to be stalled at the moment. In Bethlehem, there is talk about developing a CAP, but little or no public discussion of methods to be used or possible goals. Allentown has been talking about it, but I don’t know what’s happening with that.
It seems so painfully obvious, but if we don’t stop “business as usual” and make some dramatic changes, the news will continue to get worse.
When deniers opine that white, frozen, reflective surfaces in the Arctic and northern regions can simply melt away and flow into the oceans with no drastic complications for humanity, they sound like the biblical people jeering Noah.
Fifty years ago this Christmas Eve, three incredible Apollo 8 astronauts flew to the moon. They spent about 20 hours circling the moon, photographing landing areas. But their most stunning photo was the Earth rise from the moon. It showed a planet without borders. That photo also showed that blue dot in the cosmos is our fragile home, and if we do not take care of it, it will not take care of us.So far we humans have failed. My assessment is we will leave a climate in crisis for our children to fix.
Just when the news on global warming couldn’t get much worse, we have Gov. Wolf to thank for a holiday gift in the form of proposed new regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas development and infrastructure. No lump of coal from the governor — instead, a breath of fresh air and stark counterpoint to the Scrooge in the White House, who continues to dismantle much-needed environmental regulations.
In 2015, the EPA released the Clean Water Rule clarification. Recently, that clarification was dismantled and a proposed a new rule that significantly diminishes these protections was submitted. . . . please join me in standing up for our right to clean water and tell this administration to maintain 2015 protections for headwater streams and wetlands.
However, some members of our government (including our president) are still in disbelief that our planet is in danger. Instead of pushing to reduce carbon emissions, many of them continue to support big business over all else. How do you think that history is going to judge our leaders who stand by while Mother Nature continues to cry for help? It is imperative, now more than ever, that we continue to call our representatives and senators and ask for their help in making our planet great again.
Problem: Wildfires, droughts, asthma, floods, diseases, extinctions, famine. These are effects of rising temperatures. They are and will continue to occur. Our poor children and grandchildren will suffer because of worldwide inaction.
Unfortunately, we have a rather large issue of climate change approaching us, and if we don’t act things can get dangerous. One of the simplest and easiest things we can do to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions is to stop eating beef or to cut down on the amount of beef we eat.
Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.” These insightful words by the Lakota chief, Sitting Bull, remind us that we all bear the responsibility for the welfare of future generations. Regardless of our cultural heritage, religious beliefs or political leanings, it is common sense to care for the well-being of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
It’s Saturday, December 22, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?
Two days ago Gadfly could only give you the headline:
City Council voted again last night 4-3, just like at first reading, to approve the text amendment regarding 2 W. Market St.
Now let’s start a few posts getting behind the headline. Usual procedure for Gadfly, you all will recognize by now (ho-hum), is to lay out all the information first.
So here Gadfly will give you the arguments pro and con presented to the Council members before their second and final vote. Gadfly will roughly summarize each testimony, but, as you also will recognize by now, Gadfly wants you to go to the primary source. So he’s making it possible for you to watch and to listen to the actual testimony.
It’s almost like being there!
Take advantage. When have you ever had the opportunity to do this on a Council decision? The video and audio lift the veil. Take advantage.
Gadfly has another motive, which you may not have yet recognized, in wanting you to watch and listen. A deeper motive that goes far beyond this, though quite important 2 W. Market issue.
Gadfly wants you to see models of democracy in action. The overwhelming majority of Gadfly followers have never been to a Council meeting. Some of you have said to Gadfly that you could never in the world imagine speaking in Council.
Gadfly wants you to engage in the political life of your city. Watch how some of your fellow residents are engaging. See how it’s done.
Imagine your butts in those seats.
Imagine yourself at the podium.
Speaking for the petition were Kori Lannon, Sue Glemser, Jerry Kindrachuck, Lorraine Schadt, Mark Schadt, Jean Sieman, a man from Bridlepath Rd., John Ruhle. Mary Mulder, Mike Gosling, Ken Atchison. All but two had spoken before. Several of the presentations were very short. Several character-witness type statements rather than argument per se.
To represent the supporters of the petition, Gadfly has included the presentation by Kori Lannon, daughter of the Rijs and principal in Quadrant, and Sue Glemser and Mark Schadt.
Three salient first-hand truths: 1) substantial opportunity for the house to sell but it didn’t 2) always a mixed-use property 3) fate of historic green building in your hands. There’s activity at the house all times of day, all days of week, all year. With luminaries the house made a beautiful continuum with other houses in this historic neighborhood. Amendment that encourages this kind of stewardship and investment in an awkward property is good for the house, neighborhood, historic district, and good for the city. Thank you for your realistic and level-headed consideration.
Quadrant has made no threats. House up for sale for two years with no buyers. One prospective buyer was chased away by the need for a commercial loan. Who is going to pay a commercial loan for a residential lot. Banks have determined it’s commercial. House on a busy corner in downtown Bethlehem will be maintained beautifully for the next 40 years. Even if somebody buys it now, they have to bethinking about the difficulty of selling it to the next person.
Mixed use, not sub-dividable, unique property. Doesn’t see an avalanche of problems as opposition does. Seems to be no middle ground. Others won’t be satisfied. Heels dug in. No compromise. Majority of neighbors have agreed by petition. Commercial area.
Speaking against the petition were Bruce Haines, Romeril father and son, Stephen Antalics, Barbara Diamond, Gadfly, Beall Fowler, Steve Diamond, Tim Stevens, Mary Toulouse, Ron Yoshida. As you might expect, faced with the previous vote against them, the presentations by the opposers were more vigorous, and Gadfly gives them all to you. Mr. Fowler’s has already appeared as post #67.
Comparison with White Plains, NY. Don’t move into a city. No protections. Urban blight. People lost heart and sold out. Lost confidence in their government. People spooked by threat to most important investment. The city improved. Basis is a strong zoning ordinance. More of a covenant, a promise – governing body and community. Governing body must protect that covenant. In return, people have confidence to invest money and time. Right now the zoning code here seems to be up for grabs. Vote the petition down. Keep the covenant. If change necessary, ask city to put forward process where community is involved. Don’t autocratically make this change.
Mr. Rij proceeded while suit still in process. Should have waited till case was adjudicated. We all make mistakes, things don’t turn out way we hoped. This is remedy to his poor mistake. An end around. Opportunities that can be exploited. Table it till investigated? Idea that there are safeguards violated by what happened later in Dec 4 meeting – the issue at 306 S. New. Contractor knowingly submitted plans in violation. Citizens dubious about claim that all will be well. Start of slippery slope, no, first step already taken.
Basic question: how many properties affected by this change? Still haven’t answered that question. Waldron himself called voting without this info would be irresponsible. Can’t take petitioner’s list. Did City do due diligence? No. Did Ms. Heller do the job? Why did City not attempt to answer the question? Wants to see how the study was done – Sunshine kind of info to see if the story was valid. Is city lazy or negligent? How could Waldron vote if his question not answered? Why did this not come through normal channels of city? City not truthful. Not giving you all information. Malfeasance. Not totally investigating.
Schadts were meticulous keepers of the house. If chop up the house, yes, it will need repair. Painted every summer. Not completely surrounded by other things. Would make a very fine residential property. Sound piece of property, residential, in a residential block. Schadts raised 4 children there. You can raise a family in this lovely house.
Don’t want a lawsuit. Though sometimes necessary. Threats of group home, etc. Not neighborly. Heller’s Dec 3 memo focus – we differ from what she said. Not based on sound premise. Sees problem with current wording. Not fully vetted. Irresponsible. No clarification of true impact on wider city. Other properties are affected. Procedural defect. Other properties should have received notice.
Darlene Heller conveniently absent and cannot answer question. Not just one choice, the choice of rewarding of a saved property. Bullied, threatening, holding you hostage. This business doesn’t deserve special treatment. The unasked question is why an intelligent business man would buy this property after being defeated. Bad business. Only one answer: had to be another buyer who wanted to use it as a single-family home. Another buyer forced his hand. Political promises made as well to reinforce totally illogical business decision? Our neighborhood totally mischaracterized. Gives specific examples. Deconversions going on for years. Never gave the property a chance to sell. Destroyed the single-family character of the home. Asks for demonstration of integrity of the zoning ordinance.
Gave the Council a handout. About the zoning code not about people involved. Discusses list given to Council for December 4. Shows properties that would be affected by the new ordinance. Potential widespread use of the ordinance in many neighborhoods. List obviously deficient. Shows more properties that could be affected. Nothing to disqualify these properties under the new ordinance. Shows properties that can be converted to single family. Residential uses can be eliminated. New info presented each meeting. How vote under this situation? Disagrees with the city planner – shows evidence from his list. Can’t make property more non-conforming. Simple question: who is the 1% now.
Ethics. Concerned about action tarnishing city reputation. Benefit for one well connected individual without due diligence about wider impact. 1) Quadrant turned down twice at Zoning but received approval a third time after making a substantial contribution. 2) Zoning ruling overturned by Commonwealth court and now operating illegally. 3) Proposed change eviscerates the Zoning proposition to make the one property fit in. 4) Mayor at a late time backed the amendment without study. 5) City did no extensive analysis. 6) Planning Commission did not recommend the petition, for the 2 approving members gave no reason. 7) Arguments are subjective, irrelevant to a decision to change Zoning. 8) Public will wonder how “business” is favored. Recent favorable decision to Benner at the same meeting. Questionable grants. Refusal to fight Mr. Brew and Airbnb. Distinct pattern of favorable treatment evident.
Supporters of the amendment – not regular attendees at Council — based their views on work done and saw the opposers as attacking them. Opposers are independent, attend meetings, and their interest is welfare of the community. Interested only in negative impact. Used charts, maps, statistics. Never made personal or subjective comment. Those voting no did so with simple short confident comments. The yes votes are a study in elaborate rationalization. Yes voters not comfortable, long in justifying. Yes voters should examine conscience, place hand on a Bible. Urge you to recant and say no.
Basis for a great movie. Mr. Rij is living exemplar of the American Dream. Came as immigrant in the bottom of a boat and has risen to great wealth. But this is a court of law, so to speak, and not a theater. And decision must be fair, impartial, objective. Decision must be based on quality of argument. Those opposed are far superior on that score.
Now we’ll move on to presenting the votes by Council members and, maybe even more importantly, their supporting statements. And we should be thinking about models of behavior there as well. Not that you might run for office. But you will be voting.
“Taxes will rise by 3.8 percent, or about an additional $34 for the average homeowner, next year under a $78 million budget Bethlehem City Council unanimously approved Tuesday”.
“The increase will help defray the rising cost of pensions, contracted salary increases and debt payments, according to Mayor Robert Donchez’s administration.”
“Meanwhile, city departments will dial back their spending to 2017 levels and the city will employ 590 workers, a historical low.”
“The workforce was reduced because the city is transferring its 911 operations to Northampton County and changes in the labor contract at the golf course.”
“The city also will save about $750,000 when the operation of its 911 center is turned over to Northampton County by June of next year.”
“Donchez is also looking to invest $24 million over the next couple of years in bigger-ticket projects: repairing more streets, buying two firetrucks and an EMS vehicle and renovating Memorial Pool on Illicks Mill Road.”
As reported earlier, Gadfly and Mr. Haines seemed to be the only spectators at the five budget discussions between the Administration and City Council — a sad fact wryly noted by President Waldron. But perhaps quite understandable. No question such hearings are on the long side and by nature on the dull side too. (But not to Gadfly!) Unless there is some fight. But there was none of that. Discussion, yes. Some back and forth, yes. But all cordial.
So our City budget is going up 3.8%, not so much as several others around us. Gadfly has heard no squawking. Might be too early. And this post might awaken a few. But several hoped-for requests did get in or on a kind of wish list for Casino sale tax dollars – Rose Garden, pedestrian bridge study, Food Co-op, Northside 2027. And Gadfly isn’t aware of a major “want” that didn’t get noticed.
Gadfly glazes over quickly when numbers are thrown about and will try to be more knowledgeable next time around. But he has heard during the current sessions that a good deal of the budget is fixed cost that can’t be tinkered with, so there’s not much discretion involved with a high percentage of the budget. Gadfly would welcome comments by knowledgeable budgeteers.
In a previous post, Gadfly published some clips from the last budget hearing. At final passage December 18 the approval process went quickly. But here are some clips from Council members commenting on the process.
CM Callahan’s is most interesting to Gadfly – explaining the need for the tax increase.
Administration did well holding the line. Not easy to find fat. Money goes to personnel costs for public safety, pensions, health insurance. What would you cut? Streets, snow, parks, Christmas tree lights? Lots of practical conversations like this. Great budget that shows willingness of all sides to work together on what is ultimately a compromise. Thanks to all.
Makes the announcement of County money coming for the pedestrian bridge study.
Lot of investments in there we should be proud of. Thanks to the Mayor, Mr. Evans Mr. Sivac for painful decisions. Good comparison with Allentown. We would never have the kind of Administration/Council shenanigans that occurred there. Collegial debate. But Mr. Donchez would never do what the Allentown mayor did, and same with Council. Again, there’s a lot in here that we should be proud of.
CM Colon and CW Negron
CW Negron notes a “healthy and passionate discussion,” especially on taking the fake tree out of the budget. She makes a strong pitch for the Rose Garden and pedestrian bridge on the “wish list” when Casino money is definite and appears.
No room to cut anymore except for public safety. Doesn’t take the increase lightly. Only the first time he’s voted for increase. Remembers people struggling in the Kaywin neighborhood in which he grew up. A lot of people still struggling. Always conscious about raising taxes. Lots of people not living a high life style, living on tight budgets. Raising taxes on them is really a hardship. He’s pro-economic development. Only 2 ways to raise taxes. If we don’t have economic development, the only other way is raising taxes. Need to keep city affordable for middle class. Worries if we keep on raising taxes people won’t afford to live here. Thankfully, we are a desirable place to live, worries about effect of taxes. Examples of Benner building bringing in $250,000/yr in taxes and 510 Flats bringing in $260,000 – that’s real money, police officers and firemen, etc. So it’s economic development or raising taxes, and the latter puts the burden on our residents. Not lecturing, but we have to understand what our priorities are. Recognizes the burden to keep cost down that falls on the City and thanks them for it. This is a tight, tight budget. Wishes more people showed up for the budget hearings. Either everybody is ok with raising taxes or there’s a lot of apathy out there. Please understand how hard we work on this. Tax increase basically due to rising costs of pension and healthcare – that’s it, no additional hiring and no fluff. Show up next year and cheer us on.
“Old, tattered books usually end up discarded at the Bethlehem Area Public Library. It’s not that the library wants to toss books away, but sometimes it’s saddled with the same aged cookbook or numerous copies of a bestseller from a decade age. But staff and volunteers are putting those books to use by turning pages of used books into tree ornaments.Proceeds from the sale of the ornaments will go toward helping to pay off lunch debt and overdue library fees of Bethlehem area children.”
“It’s recycling old books and giving them purpose again as ornaments on a tree.”
“Last year, the state passed a new law that bans schools from stigmatizing children for having debt. Under the law, schools must give every child a meal, regardless of how much is owed on a child’s account. Districts have reported an increase in their debts since the law went into effect. Bethlehem Area saw a 50 percent jump in its debt — the biggest among area districts. In August, the district reported its debt at $154,590. The library understands the debt the district is facing. After library patrons hit a $10 overdue fee, they can no longer check out books. Many times, it’s children who have accumulated debt on their library cards. Library fees add up, too. Children from Thomas Jefferson Elementary in North Bethlehem alone have racked up $1,500 in overdue fees, Berk said. Berk speculates that many families who are struggling to pay their children’s meals are also finding it difficult to pay off library fees.”
Gadfly filed this November story because of its reference to CM Reynolds’s “beloved” Thomas Jefferson School (along with William Penn). It’s one dramatic example of the need for a Northside 2027 plan.
Gadfly kind of forgot about the story till faithful follower “ssider” sent an email reminder that “School lunch is sometimes the only meal children may have, when they live near, at, or below the poverty line” and reminding me of the library fund-raiser.
Gadfly hustled down to the library and bought several ornaments in fact. As shown here, one is tentatively nestled at the top of a small tree ‘neath a picture of Gadfly and his six “boys.”
Gadfly won’t say that they were all readers as kids. But they were always surrounded by books. And the eldest has recently confided that he used to sneak out of bed at night and grab one (probably above his maturity classification!) for midnight reading. Now it makes sense that he had one eye as well as one arm of his glasses going east and one north as I rousted him out of bed. Six boys, one shower. They were supposed to go chronologically, oldest first. He could never make it first. Now I have a better idea why.
Gadfly hasn’t posted on Lehigh for over a month. You may have forgotten the issue he’s been watching out for. (Reminder that you can always catch up on earlier posts on topics through the menu under the image on the front page of the blog or under Topics on the sidebar).
Some recent and planned Lehigh new construction, like the one covered in this morning’s articles, is on parking lots (120 approx spaces lost by this construction), forcing Lehigh to obtain parking from the Bethlehem Parking Authority across the river on the north side of town.
On the face of it, that’s kind of bizarre — 3/4’s of a mile from the closest, lowest edge of campus. But the issue Gadfly is concerned with is whether Lehigh’s lowest class of worker will be forced to park there inconveniently (adding time to the work day, etc.) after testifying at 2 City hearings that their parking studies showed that they could accommodate all the lost parking on campus.
Gadfly has asked that Lehigh discuss the impact of their parking decisions on those workers before construction goes much further so that the City is aware that there might be a significant negative impact on workers who are City residents.
Gadfly thinks that the next major project is the College of Health described in the above articles as opening Fall 2020. Not too far away. So Gadfly assumes there will be presentations at City meetings soon.
It has occurred to Gadfly that bouncing concerns off the Mayor’s Southside Task Force might be a good idea, but he has not been able to work their meetings into his schedule. And he can’t find contact info for chair Roger Hudak — if any followers can help with that, much appreciated.
Gadfly filed Right to Know requests with the Parking Authority for leases on that “Northside Commuter Lot” and was told there were none. Strange. Maybe too early for leases? Just a verbal commitment now?
Gadfly was curious about busing from the Northside lot (on Lehigh St., just west of the Fahey Bridge, adjacent to the Wooden Match). What size bus it would be and where it would stop on the Southside. Would, for instance, the bus go straight on New till stopping at Farrington Square? If so, where would it stop in that narrow stretch along the new building and garage between 3rd and 4th Sts. I could get no answer on that from the Transportation guy. No decision yet.
Also, I wondered about the new bus loop (square?) from Morton to Adams to Mechanic to New to Morton. That will be a Transit-sized bus. Big. I wondered about it turning on some of those streets and where the stop would be. Sounds like the stop will be in the bus pull-off on Mechanic St. Gadfly worries a bit about the left turn from Mechanic onto New. We all have seen the awkwardness of the buses turning right there — trying to get into traffic with a wide turn and often jamming traffic. Getting across traffic with a big bus turning left looks like potential jamming too at times. But the Transportation guy said planning was not definite when I talked with him a month ago.
Are there any Gadfly followers with ears closer to the ground who have anything to add about what’s going on? Is all quiet?
At the City Council meeting last night Gadfly brashly stated that CM Reynolds’s list of professional offices in (7) in his supporting statement for an affirmative vote on the proposed text amendment was deficient.
As I was gently informed by Mr. Fowler.
Gadfly would say that he “eats crow,” except that gadflies probably already eat crow.
Beall Fowler is a retired professor and long-time resident of Bethlehem.
December 17, 2018
Dear President Waldron and members of Bethlehem City Council,
As befits the Christmas season here in Bethlehem, you are being asked to provide two significant holiday gifts to a business, Morning Star Partners, LLC by rubber-stamping a piece of legislation drafted, not by the City, but by the business that seeks to benefit from that legislation.
The first proposed gift to Morning Star regarding 2 W. Market St. has been the basis of nearly all of the favorable testimony on their behalf, namely that the business currently operating in this (now) office building is wonderful, with high-minded principals, and therefore deserves this gift.
But little or no discussion has appeared regarding the second gift that will be realized when Quadrant leaves that site. I use the word “when” here without any knowledge of timing, but this will certainly happen sooner or later. For that is the nature of a business, particularly a dynamic enterprise. A business is temporary, while zoning is permanent. There will be a time when a proper business decision will be made by Quadrant to leave 2 W. Market St., for any one of a number of legitimate reasons. For example, they may well outgrow this site. Or perhaps their business model will evolve. That is the nature of free enterprise.
It is clear that the Morning Star officers have thought about this as well, by including in section (7) of their legislation a long list of 12 permitted uses for this site. This is the second holiday gift that you will grant if you approve this legislation, for it considerable enhances the value of the property by increasing the number and types of businesses that may legally operate there. Such a large range of potential buyers will surely add to a sale price, or the rent if they decide not to sell.
All twelve of these businesses are legitimate enterprises in commercial zones, but none are presently allowed in residential zones. Many of them would involve considerable customer traffic, unlike the Quadrant operation. All could occupy the entire building, as occurs on Delaware Avenue. Even the category of financial services is so broad that it encompasses everything from a bank to a pawn shop or payday loan office.
Yes, but some say the Zoning Hearing Board will protect us. But these 12 uses would be allowed by law and cannot be blocked by the ZHB, only regulated.
The late Ralph Schwarz once said, “We are all here because we love Bethlehem.” As lovers of Bethlehem, we can certainly do much better than this misguided piece of legislation. Gifts to an individual at the expense of the welfare of the City do not show that love.
Democracy in action. Gadfly loves that phrase. And some of you did too when he used it before and at the last Council meeting.
Well, here we are again. Voting time. Final Council vote on the 2 W. Market text amendment is tomorrow.
Since the first vote two weeks ago, we have worked once more through the issues, culminating in a close analysis of each Council member’s vote.
I’ll bet you never saw anything like that before.
But what now?
Gadfly has tried to make you all feel invested in this decision about the essence of neighborhoods whether you are involved in the case or not. But were the last two weeks just an exercise? Or is there something to do now? Something meaningful.
The two-vote system is great. But as Gadfly said even before this recent analysis, changing a vote at this time is hard. Decision-makers lock in, close down, shutter up, get defensive. It’s hard to admit you are wrong. It’s hard to admit that you made a mistake. It’s even hard to admit you had second thoughts. Normal. We all do it.
Experienced beat reporters may have the best insight of anybody, and Doug of the Bethlehem Press reported that “it is likely the vote will remain the same.” Even Gadfly, who opened himself up to as many perspectives as possible, ended up pretty much where he started, though more intensely sure of his position.
Still, it ain’t over till it’s over, and you have the opportunity to shore up those on your side or persuade those on the other side. You have their positions now as your targets for shoring or subverting.
And conscientious Council members should not have stopped thinking two weeks ago. They should have been open, if they are conscientious, to new thoughts – from themselves and others. In fact, in their supporting statements for their votes tomorrow, they should tell us about their further thinking.
But especially if you are challenging the yes voters, you should have a new tack. It might take some dramatic new tack to dislodge that first vote. No time for same old, same old.
You can talk at the meeting and/or you can write. If you write, do so directly to them (addresses below) and not to the Council clerk or the Mayor’s secretary, etc.
But so far Gadfly has been talking only to partisans in the case.
Now he talks to you non-partisans.
What about putting your democracy in action? What about a sort of write-in campaign?
Wouldn’t it just be out of this world if Council members and the Mayor got a flood of verbal and/or written contact from non-partisans? You know, saying something like “I’ve been following the controversy on Gadfly, and I recognize that the decision here is of great import to neighborhoods across the city not just those on Market St., as well as saying a lot about the qualifications of our elected officials, and here’s how I think the case should be judged.”
Post #65 and the links there should enable you to review.
O, my god! Think about that!
Gadfly doesn’t know exactly how many followers blessed him by donating for his Peace Walk, but several hundred dollars was raised.
It was a gesture of involvement.
Would you make a gesture of involvement here too? Whichever “side” you are on.
Let’s break some new ground in public participation.
If Gadfly knew that only one non-partisan “wrote in,” it would warm him for the winter.
And if you wanted to share your messages on Gadfly that would be great too but not necessary.
The meeting starts at 7PM Tuesday – message as early as you can. Or come and talk.
(8th in a series about Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)
Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.
I’d like to add a couple of minor points to this discussion.
It’s important to remember that the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement signed in 2006 included 12 points to guide implementation, many of which apply to the community as a whole; the final point is to “Help educate the public, schools, other jurisdictions, professional associations, business and industry about reducing global warming pollution.”
In the fall of 2006, an intern from Lehigh University developed a detailed set of recommendations to make substantial progress in each of the 12 points in the CPA. Very little was done with these, although Mayor Callahan did, from time to time, mention the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [GHG].
Judging by the recent “update” (see post #5) , I don’t think it’s accurate to say we “have a plan to get a plan.” What we have is the idea of doing a plan + some valuable steps towards a CAP — I haven’t seen anything resembling a plan for how it will get done. This, of course, would have to be public!
The idea that part of the recycling director’s time will go to this is good, although it raises 2 questions: (1) does the new recycling director have strong qualifications in areas of sustainability? and (2) wouldn’t it be more important to set up an office of sustainability than to have a recycling director at all?
And the idea that most of this will be done “in-house” is a pretty clear indication of priority. Budgeting funds for an outside consultant is a start to develop the actual plan, but the fact that it’s only $30K — out of $78-million — is another indication of the low priority attached.
The above-linked PDF contains the implementation points developed in 2006, with a couple of edits to reflect parts that no longer apply + new notes [blue] that would apply today; otherwise it is the same as what was done in 2006
3rd quarter of the Eagles game. Are you serious? Pray for Merrill Reese.
At first reading on Dec 4, Council voted 4-3 to approve the text amendment for 2 W. Market.
Gadfly’s looking right now at the story about that meeting in the Bethlehem Press. There we learn only who voted which way. Nothing more.
Gadfly’s trying to give us something more by enabling you to listen to our Council members and by analyzing the reasons they gave for their votes.
Gadfly has said he wants to be able to vote in a more informed way next time. And analyzing thought processes is a good way to help do that.
What do our Council members sound like? How do they think? Are they intelligent, thoughtful, fair, objective, articulate – and whatever other traits we value in our elected officials?
So here goes.
Gadfly is not happy with the reasons a majority of the votes were cast.
See what you think.
CW Negron “No” (see post 47)
ON bases her no vote on a negative chain of events caused by a minor zoning change designed to accommodate a business interest that has actually happened on the Southside, a negative chain of events that is in her opinion likely to be repeated by this text amendment. She argues by analogy, one of the commonest and most reliable forms of human thinking and action. Gadfly agrees that the analogy is strong.
CM Colon “No” (see post 48)
MC bases his no vote on the fact that this case has traveled through our legal system and been denied by the highest court in the state. It is an eminently reasonable position to take. Gadfly believes that the alternative “Local knows better” approach defies hundreds if not thousands of years of cultural wisdom, invites exactly the kind of random subjectivity that causes people to feel City Hall is for sale, and leads to chaos.
CM Callahan “Yes” (see post 49)
BC bases his yes belief in a blatant, defiant disregard for the zoning code and a blatant regard for the petitioner and the class he represents. Gadfly believes that there are such grave dangers to the trust in and stability of city government in such a position and attitude that if BC’s vote here is representative of his general subjective approach to city issues, he doesn’t believe that he could ever vote for him or recommend that others do so.
CM Martell “Yes” (see post 56)
SM bases his yes vote on the quality of the renovated house, even though it is not clear that those renovations were performed during an authorized time frame. In doing so SM seems not to precisely understand the nature of the opposition. Gadfly also finds that the specific flaws that SM sees in the mode of opposition argument are themselves severely flawed. And the very fact of this long-standing suit would belie his view of a net-positive in the neighborhood.
CW Van Wirt “No” (see post 59)
PVW bases her no decision on “hard” objective realities like the Court decision, the Comprehensive Plan, the zoning code (the function of borders as a “red line”), and the undeniable truth that “precedent is profound,” as well as significant examples on the ground of demonstrated commercial creep. Gadfly sees PVW providing the most comprehensive view of the controversy expressed in Council statements.
CM Reynolds “Yes” (see post 61)
JWR seemingly (Gadfly is not totally sure) bases his yes decision on a belief that the opposers to the text amendment should be willing to accept commercial presences in their zoned-residential neighborhood, even to suggesting that they move out of their zoned-residential neighborhood if they are not so willing. Gadfly finds that attitude totally unacceptable as well the petulance and impatience JWR shows at his necessary involvement in the controversy
CM Waldron “Yes” (see post 62)
AW does not identify the base of his yes decision. There is no way to judge his thought process. The swing vote in a dead-heat contest by the President of City Council is unsupported. That’s disappointing, that’s insulting – that’s unconscionable! Gadfly keeps hoping that there is some political strategy at work here that he as a novice doesn’t understand. But for now AW’s yes vote is — without a rationale — a “novote” and should not be respected but ignored.
Now after the game, we should talk about what this means.
Time for Gadfly to come forward in his own self on 2 W. Market.
Though he has done so twice before. See posts 26 and 39 in this sequence if you want a comparison.
Here’s his third shot.
Gadfly is still for denial of the petition for a text amendment.
Call Gadfly “Straight Arrow.”
He is a law-man.
For a “standard” by which to judge the petition, he looks for a basis in law or something like law.
Thus, Gadfly looks to:
the Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan
the Bethlehem Zoning Ordinance
the decision by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
If specifically argued that the text amendment is a change in law, Gadfly feels that it
has not been demonstrated to be a good for the city
a fact he believes admitted by the petitioner’s attorney Dec 4 in reply to Mr. Walker
The various opposing arguments might be lumped under the general headings of positive characterizations of the petitioner and of the house itself.
The statement of the position against this position that most jumped out at Gadfly came from PVW:
We’re not in the business of judging on the merit to a change in our city zoning code based on someone’s aesthetics, their wealth, their access to connected lawyers. We are in the business of judging the laws we passed are in the best interest of all the city and all of the citizens of the city. Someone’s personal characteristics and aesthetics and impact on that corner and all of that is honestly secondary to what are we doing for the whole of the city.
That seems to Gadfly “right on”! The kind of view that promises fair and objective decisions, the kind that ensures City Hall is not for sale or for favorites.
The irrelevance of the entire set of sub-arguments springing from positive characterizations of the petitioner and the house is clear from this letter to Council from the atty representing those who oppose the petition. The case will be tried and settled on the basis of law.
Here is a slightly edited reprint of post #46, December 10 in this series, the post that introduced Gadfly’s just-finished analysis of Council votes and voting statements on the 2 W. Market petition. Gadfly reprints it here just before sharing his final thoughts on the analyses as a reminder of the purposes of this sequence.
Let’s have some fun. That will also be serious business. Very serious business. Gadfly kind of business.
Let’s take the next step in the full advantage to participate in our local government through the ample time afforded to reflect on and comment on the views of our Council persons.
What a great thing! We actually have three not two opportunities to “read” 2 W. Market, and extended over several weeks: the Nov. 20 hearing, the Dec. 4 Council, and now the Dec. 18 Council.
Even if you haven’t attended any of the meetings, Gadfly has tried to make sure that you have been filled in and have ready, permanent reference to everything going on, all sides.
The best part is that now that the first reading has occurred we have a window into our Councilpeople’s minds.
That’s where Gadfly wants to go. Into their minds!
Let’s go one-by-one and analyze the positions they took to support their votes on first reading.
If you are in a mind-set to use the time-spacing to influence one or another’s change of vote, I do believe that several Council follow Gadfly, but I’m not sure all do.
And, in any event, changing a vote is hard for a person to do, right? Might take some major re-thinking. We all tend to get locked in once we have made a decision. We defend. We justify.
But our democratic process offers the opportunity now to influence a change of vote if you are of a mind to try.
At the very least, though, Gadfly thinks the exercise of mind-looking will be illuminating. He said last time that one of the things he personally wanted to achieve was the ability to vote for candidates at election time in a more informed way. This will be a step in the right direction.
So – make no mistake — Gadfly is not talking about whack the pinata. Let’s go one-by-one in the order of voting at first passage (which was so dramatic!) and describe the thinking processes we see. Judgment might come from that. But pre-judgment not allowed.
Ha! This might be the first time anything like this has happened in the history of Bethlehem (a future “Bethlehem Moment”?!), so we don’t want to mess up. You can imagine how hard it is to sit in front of a packed fairly contentious and rambunctious crowd like that last week confronting a complex issue, and explain a vote. Would freeze my bowels. We could say that’s what you get the big money for, IF there were big salaries!!! A tough job. “Fight the good fight” I always say to Council. Making decisions, especially that influence a whole city, ain’t a stroll along the Monocacy.
(7th in a series about Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)
Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.
Thanks, Kathy (see post # 6 in this series). An analysis of the costs of higher vehicle prices and fuel use should help the city understand the importance of this, especially the impacts on emissions. (Right now, the energy mix in the grid has so much coal power that the actual total GHG emissions should also be analyzed; fortunately, the coal percentage is slowly declining.)
I think infrastructure is something where government has a primary responsibility. Where PPL is going to make money by selling more electricity, smart management would be pushing for this now as a way to encourage that new market. If they’re smart, many of the charging stations could include solar collectors to generate at least some of the energy at the point of sale.
As we have pointed out for years, one step the city could take immediately to show it is serious about reducing emissions is to educate all employees how wasteful it is to have vehicles idling. All too often, workers, including police, leave their vehicles idling while working or while sitting in their vehicles. Idling for more than 60 seconds wastes fuel and boosts GHG emissions; in cars, the breakeven is about 10 seconds. The city’s failure to take action on this suggests that they don’t really consider climate action all that important.
(6th in a series about Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)
Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op. Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health.
Thank you, Gadfly, for posting parts of the audio for the CAP update. I was unable to attend and appreciate your efforts in educating myself and others on the happenings in Bethlehem. Councilwoman Van Wirt bought an excellent point on the subject of electric city vehicles. I’ve been to a couple of presentations where it was explained that a city could pay for an expert to analyze their fleets and make recommendations to reduce the costs by switching to electric vehicles, and the changes would pay for themselves in a timely manner and then save money for the city — less maintenance, less fossil fuels, etc. An RFP for an energy consultant with specific expertise this year and implementation of a plan to transition next year sounds good to me. I’ve written to PPL to ask when are they going to start building infrastructure for electric vehicles. Citywide electric vehicle charging stations are necessary as many residents are like me and live on a small property with no garage. I keep hearing the old adage, it is like the chicken or the egg, which comes first – people buying electric vehicles or building the infrastructure. Some money the state has received from the Volkswagen settlement should be spent on modernizing our infrastructure to include EV charging stations. As for pervious surfaces – could the city recommend this alternative to the public when they are applying for permits to resurface driveways, replace sidewalks, patios, and seek to get contractors onboard? I think much more education of the public needs to be done.
“I agree with a lot of the points made by the speakers, folks who emailed in, and then my own colleagues here obviously have put a lot of thought and time into this vote and where they come down on this side of it. I think Dr. Van Wirt really makes some strong points, and I agree with a lot of what she said, likewise with what Mr. Reynolds just summed up about what are neighborhoods and what is the feeling you want in a neighborhood. So, again, you can come down on either side of this vote depending on whom you’re speaking to and who is in front of you advocating passionately for their neighborhood. So, this is going to be a 4-3 vote tonight, which is a rare thing on this Council because most of the time we vote on stuff more often than not it’s 7-0 because there are really clear answers and clear solutions to problems. This is one where it’s a little bit trickier for sure. Last night we had our 4th budget hearing meeting in which we were discussing a $78m budget for our city including a tax increase of 3%, and we ended the meeting with one person from the public who was here to be part of that meeting. This goes to show you where a $78m budget lines up with how people passionately feel about their neighborhood. I think that shows the level of engagement in a both positive and negative way, depending on how you want to look at it. I think it ultimately comes down to the point of what Dr. Van Wirt said, is this a net positive for the neighborhood and for the city? And I come down clearly on the side that, yes, it is. So I will be supporting the amendment this evening.”
AW doesn’t give us much to work with here. PVW is totally on the other side of the issue from AW, and it is not clear which of her “some strong points” he agrees with only to discount. That would be illuminating. And since JWR summed up only his feelings about his neighborhood, we can only assume AW agrees commercial is good in a residential area. Not much to go on. AW adopts the good-for-the-neighborhood-and-the-city “standard” from PVW but does not share how he applied that standard – which, of course, is the essential step. All of a sudden a “tricky” vote became “clear.” How? We have an empty space at the climax of the voting. A vacuum. AW broke a tie. Without rationale. Leaving us in doubt whether justice was done. That’s frustrating. The Mayor, by the way, did this too before the voting. Both the Mayor and the President of City Council, then, voted “ex cathedra.” (Gadfly #2 Scheirer used this phrase several meetings back, and I know we all looked it up at that time, so I don’t have to define it here.) Not good. We deserve more. And we look forward to a better explanation from AW at the final vote, though then – sigh — it is too late to exercise any influence on his thinking, if one had a mind to do so. And that’s what public participation is all about.
So ends our close examination of Council votes and voting statements on the 2 W. Market petition. We have made sure we have stated and understood each Council member’s position, whether yay or nay. And then we have pushed and poked on them. Our purpose has been – whether we agree with their votes or not – to sense how intelligent and thoughtful the Council members are, how fair and objective. Do they exhibit the qualities of mind we value, we desire, we must have in our elected officials? And beyond that, of course, we want to put ourselves in the best possible position to make the best possible personal decision on this issue of relevance to all neighborhoods if we want to influence Council members’ final votes next Tuesday.
Gadfly will share his thoughts and sum up in the next couple posts, but you should be about making up your mind too. He has tried to make sure you have all the information you need. Up to you now.
We must take the emotion invested by both sides out of this situation as well as the frustration of prior zoning board action, JWR says. He aims, instead, to present a “rational explanation” of his yes vote. He’s heard talk about ruining neighborhoods and opening doors and so forth, but, he asks, “What’s the worst possible solution?” To which he answers, if the text amendment is passed, the worst possible outcome is that a petitioner could go to Zoning and ask for an exception for one of the specified uses in ordinance 1304.04 (b) (7), which — he makes clear later in his commentary — are all acceptable uses to him: “What I see on this list are not things I wouldn’t want in my neighborhood.” Furthermore, JWR trusts our Planning and Zoning groups to manage that petition process enabled by the text amendment. Moving to another “rational” point, JWR asks solicitor Spirk to describe and perhaps give an opinion on spot zoning as it relates to 2 W. Market. Atty Spirk does so, giving clear examples, referencing recent past zoning history, and opines that this text amendment is not spot zoning of 2 W. Market, though he cautions that whether we should pass it is a separate matter. The safeguard against ruining neighborhoods in the ordinance and the lack of spot zoning of the property are the two parts of JWR’s “rational explanation.”
Let’s stop right here, mid-way though the commentary, and turn our practiced critical eye on the above two aspects of JWR’s “rational explanation.”
Spot zoning first. There is a case to be made that the text amendment is spot zoning, contrary to Atty Spirk’s opinion, but the lawyers will duke this point out based on court cases and precedent. Suffice it to say for our purposes that JWR is perfectly solid in basing his decision at this time on the Council solicitor’s opinion – which, in effect, is his lawyer’s opinion.
Now to his first point. The 1304.04 (b) (7) text amendment would allow what we might call “professional” offices only: “medicine, law, architecture, engineering, art, religion, music, insurance, real estate, psychology, accounting, and financial services.” One wonders the source of this list (created by Atty Preston? Or boilerplate zoning language?). In any event, the text amendment will not permit, say, tattoo parlors and the like!!!! HUZZA!!!!! So JWR asserts an in-house protection here to the dramatic claims of cancer and decay, a protection that was not operative in past time when the zoning language that permitted student rentals was operative. He shows, in effect, that the powerful analogy argument of the opposition breaks down. Bottom line: the kinds of businesses that might enter a residential neighborhood are limited: they can only be on corners and can only be high-class.
Note well: that list of authorized business is the key to JWR’s position.
How would the other side argue?
One might imagine that opponents to JWR’s position would continue to argue for the goal of purity (striving for the cup of sugar, eyes on the street qualities) in residential neighborhoods. One could imagine that they might quarrel with JWR’s personal and subjective comfort with the list by demonstrating that all or certain items are or could be incompatible with residential neighborly life. For instance, a negative view of, say, a Nationwide Insurance Agency.
This point is pretty nerdy, I admit, but one could imagine that opponents of JWR’s position might argue that basing a position solely on a worst-case scenario is completely wrong – that law should be promulgating positive outcomes. What do I mean by that? JWR does not offer a positive reason for enacting a text ordinance. He’s offering the best way out of a killer, stale-mated argument. He argues in back-door fashion that the worst-case scenario if we do enact a text amendment won’t be bad. That’s an odd way of arguing. Look, for instance, at the gnarled, double-negative articulation of his position: “What I see on this list are not things I wouldn’t want in my neighborhood” instead of “What I see on the list are things I would want in my neighborhood.” He’s not arguing that it would be good for the neighborhood or the city if those businesses established at certain locations. See the difference?
Finally, JWR’s opponents might somehow argue that allowing high class offices on certain corners might likely produce the dreaded cancer-like gradual decay experienced on the Southside. A pretty hard point for opponents to win. He may have taken the wind out of that arguument.
Conclusion: one could certainly always disagree with or trouble JWR’s position as we’re doing here for the exercise, but his position so far is clear-headed and dispassionate. JWR provides, as promised, a “rational explanation.”
But at this mid-point in his remarks, JWR moves to a different level of discourse, more personal and subjective — more emotional in tone — as context for his pro-petition position. And it’s hard not to feel that the wheels come off his rational attitude.
In the second half of his remarks, for instance, JWR abandons the impartiality one usually connects with a “rational” argument by demonstrating multiple times that he is a partisan commercialist. He hopes for significantly increased commercialism on Walnut St., literally abutting the opposers’ property. “I don’t want all residences in my neighborhood,” he says. “I wouldn’t even mind more commercial uses in my neighborhood,” he says. The commercial uses in his neighborhood are “not a negative for my neighborhood,” he says. His train of thought on commercialism climaxes in what is literally a love-it-or-leave-it pronouncement: “If you don’t want any commercial in your neighborhood, there are townships everywhere that are built on that general idea.” Over the line. Way over the line. Seriously.
In the second half of his remarks, it is hard to crystallize good sense out of several of JWR’s comments:
“If somebody is going to put money into it and make the neighborhood nicer, then I really don’t care what it is as long as it is not a detriment to the place that I’ve lived for forty years”: “As long as it is not a detriment” is the pivotal phrase. The opposers see a detriment from 2 W. Market. Logically, then, Mater Reynolds would agree with the opposers, which is not the way Filius Reynolds presents her words.
Mater Reynolds’s cup of sugar reference is, as Filius Reynolds literally said, “beside the point.” Yes. And better not said at all. Needlessly insults the opposition position.
“If somebody came to the Zoning Hearing Board and said I want to put one of these uses on the corner down the street from me I would probably write an email too or I would say that’s a good idea”: it is not clear what this sentence means. Does it mean that JWR would either agree or disagree? If so, I’m not sure what that means.
“I just think to myself that we are investing a whole lot of time in something that to somebody who doesn’t live here does not look like it’s a problem”: Yes, people who don’t live here wouldn’t understand, maybe wouldn’t even be expected to understand. Yes. Normal. Natural. Nothing unusual. People who know nothing about the guts of a controversy are likely to not understand it.
“What are the motivations of people that have lived in this neighborhood for a long time? . . . That’s the question that I keep coming back to”: Good question. But not answered by JWR. But after all this time, it’s hard to say we don’t know what motivates both sides.
In the second half of his remarks, JWR is “overarchingly sad” about the internecine neighborhood warfare, impatient and desirous of “moving on,” a bit out of control, and dismissive of the significance of the issue – far from the rational tone of the first part. On kind of an emotional roll, JWR will twice tell things that he knows that some [of the opposers] will not want to hear – because “I never can bite my tongue.” One of those things the opposers will not want to hear is that he wants to “move on” – no bones about it — because this issue is trivial; because compared to the kind and type issues in other neighborhoods, 2 W. Market is “not that big an issue.”
It’s just plain damn hard to feel that you are getting a fair shake, or even that there are good persuasive reasons for you to give up the suit, when the judge, in effect, tells you that the whole case you’ve invested five years or so in isn’t worth poopola and that all he wants to do is stop wasting time and get outta there to spend valuable time on more pressing concerns.
“This is not the way that I think things should be handled” – yes, but reporting and scolding are not solving.
I have spent a lot of time on JWR. There’s a lot here. He has a multi-leveled and fast-moving mind. JWR’s remarks are not only the longest but the most intricate and provocative of the Council group. His voice booms. He speaks with authority.
But I must admit that I come away feeling very unsatisfied.
CW Van Wirt has a way of zeroing in on the essential issues and for me #8 is it (post #59). The city went through an extensive process revising the zoning code in 2012. It involved a diverse group of community members including several people who currently oppose passing this amendment. This community input in concert with the city is important because it established a broadly agreed upon standard (recalling here your desire for a standard to aid judgment) by which zoning decisions should be made along with the comprehensive plan. There is plenty in the current zoning code that should guide council to oppose this amendment especially 1323.08 “No non-conforming use shall be extended to displace a conforming one.” That would be the outcome if the amendment is supported. Any change in the zoning code should only be made with ample evidence based on sound analysis that it is in the interest of the city. The interest of an individual, as PVW said, is secondary.
(5th in a series about Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)
“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.” (Kurt Vonnegut)
With that sketch of past doin’s over, Gadfly brings you to the December 4 meeting of the Human Resources and Environment Committee in Town Hall chaired by CM Reynolds, with CPs Callahan, Negron, Van Wirt, and a “green” crowd attending.
CM Callahan spoke of the need to put pressure on national leaders and praised the high quality of our water supply:
CW Van Wirt asked questions about local industry commitment to providing data, the involvement of the EAC, City progress on energy-saving lighting, and the status of thought about electric vehicle. Head of Public Works Mike Alkhal provided information.
CW Negron expressed confidence in industry participation, the shift in the recycling department to sustainability concerns, and local things like grocery stores asking us to bring bags.
Brian Hillard talked about the role of the EAC.
Peg Church, Peter Crownfield, and Mike (?) asked questions about impervious surfaces, availability of records, and rain barrels (!)
It’s Friday, December 14, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?