The Garrison petitioner: “Community is good for me . . . my tenants . . . the neighborhood . . . the City”

(10th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

October 1 City Council meeting video
minutes 21:50-1:08:43 and minutes 1:11:13-1:34-30

So, as Gadfly hopes you witnessed by watching the video as he suggested in the last post, in their first reading, City Council defeated the proposal to rezone 11 and 15 W. Garrison by a 4-3 vote. Second reading will take place at Council October 15.

Gadfly is going to begin reflection on the Garrison decision presenting the petitioner’s perspective.

(Gadfly will avoid calling Mr. Connell “the developer,” a term that brings with it some baggage and has made him uncomfortable.)

You will remember that in the role-playing exercise two posts back, Gadfly opined that the petitioner had not “made his case.”

Well, then, the petitioner did make his case in this letter to Council, which it is very worthwhile for you to look at it detail:

Petitioner Letter on Garrison rezoning

Here are some of the things that Gadfly sees:

  • his cordial, engaging tone
  • his 50yr residence in Bethlehem
  • he lives and works onsite
  • he plans to continue to do so
  • he is not an absentee landlord
  • he’s a hands-on landlord
  • he sees himself as a good landlord
  • he sees himself as part of the community
  • he is not “a developer”
  • the project is for the good of the City
  • he has done and does City public service
  • the proposed building height is only half of what is allowed
  • no commercial enterprise on Garrison St.
  • no skimping on the buffer on Garrison
  • the purpose of the sketch plan is to open dialogue
  • the concept will evolve
  • a promise that citizen concerns will be taken into account
  • re-zoning is better than variances
  • safety is  factor in project success
  • he has supported community building on Garrison
  • there will be a “community room” in the proposed building
  • he is adding parking that he’s not required to do
  • only 2 or 3 commercial spaces on New St., which has typically had 4 or 5
  • sinkholes are very unlikely
  • alignment with the City’s Comprehensive Plan
  • the letter is very well written

The petitioner did not say much at the meeting. He and his attorney spoke at the end of a long train of powerful, almost entirely negative resident voices — an unenviable position.

(Parenthetically, the petitioner’s comical self-reference to the devil incarnate with horns at the beginning and end of his short remarks probably refers to Gadfly’s depiction of the stereotypical perception of developers in an earlier post.)

  • I created the environment that these people are enjoying, and I am 100% behind what is happening in this neighborhood.
  • No one is going to be displaced because of what I am proposing. Connell 1
  • Community is good for me, it’s good for my tenants, it’s good for the neighborhood, it’s good for the City.
  • I have shown through 36 yrs of ownership of property in this neighborhood that I can create an environment and support the tenants that are there and the neighbors that are there.
  • I don’t intend to change that, I intend to encourage that.
  • I’m approaching this from the standpoint of an open dialogue.
  • The feedback at the hearing last week and the feedback tonight is a part of that dialogue.

The attorney reiterated the evolving process and the petitioner’s desire for dialog, his commitment to community, and his plans to live in the new building.

  • A re-zoning request does not actually commit [the petitoner] to the project everybody is talking about.
  • If we make promises to the Council, it would be something called contract zoning.Connell 2
  • We request this as a rezoning to enable us to move forward and have a dialog with the City and with you and to allow us to incorporate that into the overall plan.
  • If approved, this would still have to go through the Planning Office.
  • [The petitioner] really does care, he intends to live in the apartment he will construct.
  • He doesn’t want to see the neighborhood being destroyed.
  • He wants to help you and promote the continued growth and happiness in the neighborhood .
  • We are happy to listen to any requests.

Gadfly has not been around all that long. He still considers that he’s participating in his first rodeo.

But he certainly has not yet seen anything close to this petitioner’s mode of “making his case.”

And Gadfly appreciates his sense of humor — saying in private communication that heLanternfly was going to have to start calling me “spotted lanternfly.”

Now that tickles Gadfly immensely.

Gadfly likes a guy with a sense of humor and who writes so well.

Let’s move on to a similarly closer look at the public testimony and then to the fullish reasoning behind each of the Council member votes in that tight 4-3 decision.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

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