Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

logo 76th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Now a tip o’ the hat to the early 2020 Bethlehem Momentors

logo Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments logo

The Bethlehem Moment — a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s — is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community.

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Click “Bethlehem Moments” under Topics on the right-hand sidebar to see what we’ve done so far.

Gadfly thanks the following residents for stepping up to fill slots in the first quarter of 2020.

Welcome, camaradoes!

———-

Jan 6: Johanna Brams

Jan 21: Ken Raniere/Dana Grubb

Feb 4:

Feb 18: Martha Larkin

Mar 3: Carol Burns

Mar 17: Grace Crampsie Smith

Gadfly is accepting bookings for later in the year.

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

Tip o’ the hat to the 2019 Bethlehem Momentors

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“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

End of the year approaching.

Time to thank those who did Bethlehem Moments in 2019.

We now have done 17 Moments.

2019 was the year that wonderful volunteers took the podium away from the Gadfly.

The Honor Roll for 2019 includes Lynn Rothman, John Smith, Kate McVey, Olga Negron, Jim Petrucci, Joe Petrucci, Barbara Diamond, Stasia Browne Pallrand, Steve Repasch, Rayah Levy, Robert Bilheimer, Alan Lowcher.

Well done, camaradoes!

Have you done a Bethlehem Moment yet?

More on creative placemaking in Bethlehem

As another example of SteelStacks’ position as a model creative placemaking project, Tony Hanna pointed Gadfly to this “how-to” 2017 article (the precursor of the “how-to” manual we mentioned last time), “Five Steps toward Implementing Creative Placemaking.

SteelStacks is cited under step #3, the business case. “demonstrating the stakeholder benefits.”

Look at the distinguished company SteelStacks is keeping in the article — The Parks at Walter Reed, D.C.’s Monroe Street Market, the 303 Artway In Denver, the Union Market District in Northeast D.C.

Tony also provided a link to a 2012 article — “Smokestack Lightning: The Rebirth of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” — that enables us to take a trip down Memory Lane, all the way back to 2004, when Mayor John Callahan presented ” Bethlehem’s design challenge” to the Mayors’ Institute on City Design in Chicago, a group Gadfly first heard about reading Jeff Speck this summer.

“Among the most memorable — and prescient — feedback [Callahan] received” at MICD  “was to leave the blast furnaces as they were.”

And the rest is history, as they say.

So cute is Mayor Callahan’s dream future recounted in the article: “I always had this dream, when I first made the decision to run for mayor, that there was going to be a time in my life when I could load up the grandkids into the car and drive around Bethlehem 30, 40 years later and point to a few things that happened while I was mayor.”

At SteelStack the kids will have to look up.

These two brief articles are worth your perusal.

And worth thinking about how Wind Creek seems to be taking another path to making place.

Which is where Gadfly started this thread yesterday.

SteelStacks the result of creative placemaking

“SteelStacks annually attracts 1 million visitors and delivers $55 million to the city.”

Gadfly doesn’t know much besides nine uses of the comma.

And even that is fading. He’s forgotten what an appositive is.

But he loves to learn new things.

And once again the student teaches the professor.

Gadfly mentioned his intrigue with “creative placemaking” in the context of Wind Creek a post or two ago.

And Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority executive director Tony Hanna — a memorable student of Gadfly’s at Lehigh — immediately jumped in to say that “one of America’s prime examples of [creative placemaking] is right here in Bethlehem — the SteelStacks campus and development.”

Tony said that he has “been working with the Urban Land Institute and their Creative Placemaking project for several years,” that “ULI is getting ready to publish a ‘How-To’ Manual on Creative Placemaking in 2020, and that Bethlehem and SteelStacks will be one of the major examples of successful planning and placemaking.”

In this new ULI publication, SteelStacks will be referenced in three areas: creative financing, operating strategies, and case studies.

Here’s the kind of thing we’ll find in the case studies section:

Bethlehem SteelStacks transformed the 124-acre site of the Bethlehem Steel Corp. manufacturing plant into an arts and culture campus that helped to revitalize and heal the city of Bethlehem. Operating for a century, the plant had produced steel for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Chrysler Building in New York City, but it was shuttered when the steel industry moved overseas. The city debated whether to tear down the steel stacks and create something new but decided to restore the treasured historic assets. Residents who mourned the loss of the plant and the jobs it provided embraced the new complex with a sense of pride. The complex’s design now incorporates the steel stacks–a natural gas flame burns along the spine of the 230-foot-high steel sculptures. Financing included a TIF district approved in 2000, which generated over $100 million in TIF revenues through 2018, with over $60 million for infrastructure, amenities, construction, and maintenance, including a visitor center, performance plazas, a trestle restored as a pedestrian walkway and park, and public parking. Over $35 million funded debt service and principal payments for several bond issues and borrowings that will be paid off by 2020. Another $18 million in TIF revenues is anticipated by 2020 from a casino resort. SteelStacks annually attracts 1 million visitors and delivers $55 million to the city. On-going programming is key to attracting visitors and enhancing economic benefits. The project was recognized with a ULI Global Award for Excellence in 2015.

And SteelStacks won a prestigious placemaking-type award, not only acclaim but a $50,000 prize: the Rudy Bruner Gold Award for Urban Excellence.

Thanks for the info, Tony, and more from him on the Stacks and placemaking in the next post.

Bethlehem’s Catch-22: what attracts can also erode

logo Latest in a series of posts on Airbnb and short-term lodging logo

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,

It’s a “Catch 22” situation in Bethlehem, maybe more than ever before. What is attracting visitors, new residents, and development to Bethlehem is a city with many opportunities and amenities. However, with each of those advances it begins to erode the very quality of life and aura that Bethlehem offers. When will enough be enough? Individually an AirBnB, an out-of-context development, non-compliance may not seem that intrusive. But, when you start looking at the sum total of what is happening, the very characteristics that people find attractive become tarnished, and that sought-after quality of life is no longer maintained. Bethlehem has to be better by establishing standards so that those that come respect those that are already in place in Bethlehem. That is often not happening and is why residents are showing up to defend what they want and like about this town. Unfortunately, greed is often overwhelming what makes sense and builds a sound community, and some politicians are weak-kneed and often influenced by campaign contributions. We who are already here deserve better.

Dana

Concern that our original short-term lodging ordinance isn’t working

logo Latest in a series of posts on Airbnb and short-term lodging logo

In our last post in this series about the Planning Commission consideration of this proposed new Short-Term Lodging amendment to the City Zoning Ordinance, we listened to discussion led by one Commissioner about limiting the duration of a transient’s stay in short-term lodging and limiting the total time annually in which a home-owner could offer short-term lodging. Both questions related to the impact of short-term lodging on the quality of neighborhood life. Good.

Next, to understand the concern of Bruce Haines, managing partner of the Hotel Bethlehem — and “representing a neighborhood” — one has to back up to the passage in 2017 of the original attempt to control the perceived and experienced dangers of short-term lodging to the Northside Historical District represented by Airbnb: Article 1741.

Article 1741 was designed to address the concerns of neighbors about Airbnb (and no doubt similar businesses), and the current proposed zoning amendment requires that short-term lodging hosts must comply with “all aspects” of 1741.

So here’s Haines framing the purpose of 1741:

Haines’s present “beef,” if you will, is that the zoning amendment under consideration by the Planning Commission does nothing to address the shortcomings of 1741 (shortcomings of enforcement?). He identifies, for example, two specific properties in the Northside Historical District that have separate apartments and thus are not single family homes yet are licensed by the City for short-term lodging — even after being reported to the City.

“The ordinance that’s in place has been an utter failure . . . . and this isn’t going to help it. . . . The only time you should allow transient visitors in a residential community should be if they are sharing the space.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Haines seems to have run into the wall of compartmentalization. The Planning Commission chair focused just on the zoning amendment at that moment before the Commission and not this shortcoming of what we might call the “parent” 1741 ordinance.

And thus all Mr. Haines could do was make known his disappointment that persisting problems with short-term lodging in his neighborhood weren’t being addressed.

And so the long-standing “Airbnb” issue in the Northside Historical District is still not resolved despite legislation supposed to address their concerns.

Still wrestling with Wind Creek

logo Latest post in a series about Wind Creek Casino logo

There are some people with whom you just don’t argue.

One is your barber.

While you are in the chair. Especially for your holiday haircut.

Somehow Wind Creek came up.

And Gadfly stupidly said — as he has said several times in these pages — that the Wind Creek desire to make Bethlehem “the #1 destination in the Northeast” with a waterpark troubles him greatly.

Call him “Mohawk Gadfly” now.

Gadfly has taken somewhat of a beating in circles other than that surrounding the barber pole for holding the negative feeling about Wind Creek’s plan, making remarks about it here, and refusing to automatically genuflect to the Economic Deity.

(After all, he hasn’t even seen any plans or heard any details of the Wind Creek project, so how fair is that feeling?)

And he hasn’t quite been able to articulate why he feels that way. But he’s getting there.

Gadfly has the kind of mind where particles float around looking for a point of coalescence.

Particles like Wind Creek’s #1 destination quote, the goal of Festival UnBound, Dan Church’s line “the city has no jurisdiction over architectural style” (except in the historical districts), the “blending” architecture promoted by the Smith women, a line from one of the Festival UnBound panel members that “it matters who is at the table,” multiple posts and conversations about residents trying to control the quality of life in their neighborhoods, and the  “imploring” letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society (remember that one?).

Coalescence occurred when a follower recently used the term “creative placemaking,” a term Gadfly had never heard, and a practice fairly new but apparently well known by people who work to shape public spaces, neighborhoods, cities, regions.

Gadfly did some quick google searches. So he’s no expert on “creative placemaking.” But he liked what he was able to glean from some surface reading.

If Gadfly understands “creative placemaking” correctly, artists are instrumental, catalytic in design processes.  And design comes bottom up, design grows out of the community, design is community-led.

Here’s one description of “creative placemaking”:

Creative placemaking refers to the process in which “partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.” Creative placemaking advocates believe that community development projects benefit from the participation of artists at the onset of projects, and on the planning and design teams that shape our communities. . . . Forget the traditional, staid public meeting format and instead imagine artists engaging community members using multiple languages to generate meaningful dialogues, capturing their creativity and local knowledge to better inform the ultimate design of the project.

Or, again:

Creative placemaking is a process where community member, artists, arts and culture organizations, community developers, and other stakeholders use arts and cultural strategies to implement community-led change.

Wind Creek has bought some space in “our” town and is now going to give “us” a new identity of its own choosing.

(Or at least so it seems. Maybe there was more interactive discussion behind the scenes.)

Gadfly, as your self-appointed and — ha! — maybe self-serving representative resident, feels forced on his back, forearms at right angles, palms facing up, resisting the overpowering and unquestioned weight of economic argument.

Gadfly is soooo dramatic.

Simply put, Wind Creek is telling us what’s good for us.

Gadfly’s having a hard time with that.

It’s not like we are without an identity now.

Steeples and stacks.

It’s not like we cannot evolve a new identity.

That’s what Festival UnBound was all about.

But steeples and stacks and slides?

Gadfly’s learned there was a different way.

What if Wind Creek had engaged in a collaborative process with us of creative placemaking for that several acres in the southeast end of town instead of decreeing our destiny?

When it comes to creating identity, Gadfly would like to participate.

———

Gadfly’s quick google search on creative placemaking:

American Planning Association

Defining Creative Placemaking (NEA)

Approaches to Creative Placemaking

What is creative placemaking?

Historic Day

THE WESTERN JOURNAL

Trump 5

“This isn’t just about Donald Trump,” Scalise said, “They don’t just hate Donald Trump, Madam Speaker.”

“They hate the 63 million Americans who voted for this president — the forgotten men and women of this country who have been left behind.”

Right after Scalise mentioned the tens of millions of people who cast their ballots for Trump, loud booing could be heard echoing throughout the chamber.

Environmental Advisory Council news

logo The latest in a series of posts on the Environmental Advisory Council logo

Lynn Rothman is an Environmental Scientist, having previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently chairs the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Sustainable Energy Fund, among other volunteer activities with non-profit organizations. 

Gadfly interposes here to provide a short clip from last night’s City Council meeting where, on occasion of her reappointment, Lynn is praised for “re-energizing” the EAC. Well deserved. Gadfly also tips his hat to departing members Hillard and Fox — environment warriors extraordinaire!

Bethlehem EAC member news

This month EAC member Brian Hillard resigned due to a move outside of the city limits. Brian has been an invaluable member, bringing forth initiatives, such as the Lehigh Valley EAC Network and the Community Energy Efficiency Committee, and working tirelessly to advance climate action policies.  While he will be missed as a council member, we look forward to his continuing connection with the EAC.

On Tuesday, December 17th, City Council appointed Benjamin Guthrie and Benjamin Felzer to fill the positions vacated by both Brian Hillard and Kathy Fox.  We welcome them and look forward to the expertise and judgment they will bring to the EAC.

At the December 17th council meeting current EAC members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski and Lynn Rothman were reappointed to new terms on the EAC commencing in January.

We have many exciting projects in 2020 and invite residents to join us on the first Thursday of every month, 7:00 pm, at Illick’s Mill, 100 Illick’s Mill Road, to listen, be heard or volunteer.

Lynn

2020 budget approved

logo 11th in a series of posts on the 2020 Budget logo

City Council adopted the 2020 budget. Gadfly found the budget hearings interesting as always but “un-remarkable” in regard to blog-worthy doin’s, so he didn’t post too much about them.

The handy article in the Morning Call this morning provides an overview of the new budget highlights.

Tax bills won’t go up (yay!) but note bullets #2 and #3 below from the article for increased fees (boo!) for homeowners.

Nicole Radzievich, “What Bethlehem taxpayers can expect from next year’s budget.” Morning Call, December 17, 2019.

  • Real estate taxes will stay the same
  • Sewer bills will be going up
  • Expect a new stormwater fee mid-year
  • The new Memorial Pool will open, but it will cost more to swim there
  • Rentals will be inspected once every three years
  • The city will complete a Climate Action Plan
  • And encourage all residents are counted

Gadfly expects to spend the day watching impeachment coverage — can you?

Bethlehem Moment: Seeing the Elephant — The 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Fredericksburg

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Bethlehem Moment 17
City Council
December 17, 2019

Alan Y. Lowcher
438 High St.

Video
Audio

Bethlehem Moment: December 13, 1862

Bethlehem’s Moravian history is well known and its preserved buildings – the Gemeinhaus, Single Sisters house, Single Brethren house, and the Colonial Industrial Quarter, to name a few —  have earned the Moravian Historic District the distinction of consideration as a World Heritage Site.  Bethlehem’s place in the Revolution is enshrined in the patriot graves memorialized in the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier.  The Moravians were pacifists in principle – and were recognized as such by the Continental Congress.  Most of the men paid a fine rather than fight.  During the winters of 1776 – 1777 and 1777 – 1778 Bethlehem’s residents provided care to sick and wounded soldiers.  The Sun Inn hosted many Continental Army general officers and members of the Continental Congress.

By the time of the Civil War, attitudes had changed and many a Bethlehem boy – willing to fight against a rebellion against constitutional authority — stepped forward to serve in the Union army.  The Synod of the Church passed several resolutions indirectly supporting the Union cause, effectively making it a just war.  The firing on Ft. Sumter in April 1861, led to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to serve 90 days and Co. “A”, 1st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, drawn from Bethlehem, was quickly formed and sent to Washington to protect the Capitol.  Pennsylvania answered Lincoln’s call for additional troops as the war progressed, and the conflict widened by filling three-year regiments and shorter term nine-month regiments.  Among those regiments was the 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

Company “C” of the 129th Regiment was recruited in Northampton County and included many Bethlehem men.  The Regiment was organized on August 15th, 1862, to serve for nine months.  Politicians wanted to avoid a draft at all costs and calculated that shorter service commitments would be easier to fill than “three years or during the war.”  After being hastily armed and equipped, Company “C” entrained to Alexandria, Virginia, arriving on August18th.  Two weeks later it was under fire during the battle of Second Bull Run but not really engaged in combat.  Two weeks after that, the 129th marched to Sharpsburg, Maryland, arriving on the field along Antietam Creek, but too late to participate in the fighting.  At the end of October, the 129th marched into Virginia until it arrived opposite Fredericksburg.  On December 13th, the Regiment crossed the Rappahannock River with its division marching through the town to its assault position in full view of an open field.  Advancing, the brigade that included the 129th Regiment halted in low, open ground and was ordered to lie down, where it came under artillery Lowcherfire.  Rising up, the division formed in line of battle with the brigade in two lines, and the 129th Regiment on the left front.

This was the Regiment’s trial by fire (experiencing serious action for the first time) as it advanced over open ground, over the bodies of the dead and wounded, in the face of incessant musketry and artillery fire toward an enemy behind a stone wall.  In a matter of minutes, the Regiment lost 142 killed and wounded.  Among them were the sons of old Bethlehem families such as Benner and Luckenbach.  We should pause to consider the courage it took to make that charge knowing full well that the five previous charges were driven back with heavy losses. They went forward with fixed bayonets without waiting to load their muskets, intent on giving the Confederates “the cold steel.”  The division succeeded in getting closer to the stone wall than any other Federal assault.  Caps from the 129th’Regiment were found within a few yards of that stone wall.  Those “Bethlehem Boys” had “seen the elephant” and showed their mettle. Retreating in semidarkness into the town, the Regiment re-crossed the river under fire and went into camp.

After suffering the misery of Burnside’s “Mud March” in January 1863, the 129th took part in the battle of Chancellorsville, fighting on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, even though the term of service of many of the men had expired.  The Regiment’s term of service having fully expired on May 6th, the remnants of Company “C” arrived in Easton on May 18th to the welcoming cheers of its citizens.

Later that summer of 1863, the Federal troops at Gettysburg, crouched behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge, cried out “Fredericksburg!  Fredericksburg!” as Pickett’s Division advanced across an open field into a storm of bullets and artillery fire.  The butcher’s bill was repaid.

Sources:

Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources. Des Moines, Iowa:  The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.

Stackpole, Edward J. Drama on the Rappahannock — The Fredericksburg Campaign. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1957.

The Coke Works: “a thousand Mexicans came”

Lehigh Review, Spring 1939

read by the Gadfly:

Coco 1
Coco 2
Coco 3
Coco 4

Lehigh University students view the wave of Mexicans working in and living by the infamous Coke Works.

What are you thinking?

Written 80 years ago.

Imagine Gadfly reading this today (with his Mexican accent!) to an
audience of many colors.

What discussion might ensue about the meaning of “history” and
how “history” is written?

What would a poem by one of the Mexicans look like?

Thanks to follower Ilhan Citak for supplying the copy and for permission to print.

The Planning Commission discusses the City short-term lodging proposal

logo Latest in a series of posts on Airbnb and short-term lodging logo

Your tax dollars at work!

Let’s look at the Planning Commission in action.

We looked at the “short-term lodging” ordinance newly proposed for the zoning code last time.

And Gadfly asked if it seemed reasonable, asked if you saw anything discussable.

Let’s suppose that almost all of us reading here are not offering short-term lodging.

One thing for us to think about is how this ordinance would affect you if you wanted to offer short-term lodging.

Gadfly, for instance, has a five-bedroom house. Suppose he wanted to offer two of them per the proposed ordinance for short-term lodging.

Is the new ordinance reasonable for his purpose? Yes, seems so.

But another thing to think about is how this ordinance would affect you and your mainly residential neighborhood if one or more of your neighbors went into the short-term lodging business.

Yeah, now there’s an issue Gadfly is familiar with.

A single woman on the block was offering short-term lodging in the early days of this business, before the others of us were familiar with the concept, and, besides a bit of a crimp in available parking sometimes, we were bothered by the coming and going of strange men at all hours of the night. It gave the neighborhood a different feel. An insecure feel.

Well, what did the Planning Commissioners see?

In this interesting clip, we see the Planning director frame the fair positive purpose of the ordinance (in a time in which affordable housing is an issue, this ordinance allows people to stay in their homes and make a few extra dollars) and then one of the Commissioners (Mr. Malozi) think out some potential problems.

We should note in passing that the Planning director says that when homes are owner occupied, there is no problem with short-term lodging — the problems come in situations when the owners don’t live there — that was the rub in the contentious issue in the Northside Historical District..

Mr. Malozi has two questions, the first being could a “transient” (the language of the ordinance) stay the 30 days allowed, leave for a day, and return for another permitted 30 days, and on and on. Gadfly is not sure he sees the problem here. Actually, he feels longer duration of transients might make the situation more comfortable for neighbors. You could get to know or at least recognize the transients, for instance.

The second question seemed more important to Gadfly. Should there be an upper limit of days that lodging could be offered? For instance, could you book your rooms 365 days a year? Hmmm. No specific upper limit was nailed down, but 90 days and 180 days were floated. Mr. Malozi, laudably, was concerned about the quality of the neighborhood with a high number of transients. Yeah, Gadfly gets that.

The PC seemed to favor a revision to accommodate concerns in regard to this second question and, unable to agree on a limitation, they tabled consideration till the next meeting.

Gadfly wondered about some limitation on the number of short-term lodging homes in a particular area. Gadfly lives near Moravian College, a good market, especially at certain times of the year. What if, for instance, instead of the just one short-termer on his block, there would be five. Now that would seriously change the neighborhood. And would be a great worry.

What do you think of the questions Mr. Malozi raised? See anything else?

We aren’t done yet with discussion at the meeting.

to be continued . . .

“This ordinance as proposed would hinder visitation to our beautiful city”

logo Latest in a series of posts on Airbnb and short-term lodging logo

Dave Ruhf is a retired 35-year veteran of the Bethlehem Fire Department and avid traveler living the dream.

Gadfly:

I believe this ordinance as proposed would hinder visitation to our beautiful city during our festive events.

I for one use Homeaway or AirBnB to visit out national parks in the western portion of our country. My wife and I usually travel with another couple with smaller children requiring at minimum 3 bedrooms.

Under the proposed ordinance someone who travels as I do couldn’t rent a short-term residence.

An example: I rented 5 different residences when I visited the national parks in Utah, and my longest stay was 2 days at any one place.

The two-bedroom rule is detrimental in my opinion.

I suggest the authority having jurisdiction should investigate the average stays that people require when visiting vacation venues.

Dave

City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 17, 7PM, Town Hall

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, December 17, Town Hall, at 7PM.

These meetings are video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Find the Council agenda and documents here: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2019/CityCouncil/40

  • we may hear more about the ethics controversy
  • the 2020 budget will be approved
  • Councilman Callahan is introducing a “wage equity” ordinance

As always, as long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

Be informed.

Here’s the proposed zoning amendment on short-term lodging

logo Latest in a series of posts on Airbnb and short-term lodging  logo

We always go to the primary sources, right?

Here is the short-term lodging proposal for addition to the zoning ordinances that was presented by Ms. Heller, City Planning Director, at the December 12 Planning Commission meeting.

Short-Term Lodging amendment to the City Zoning Ordinance

Here also is the related housing ordinance 1741 currently in place governing short-term lodging.

Article 1741: Short Term Lodging Facilities

And here Ms. Heller goes over the highlights of the proposed zoning amendment for the Planning Commissioners.

  • Short-term lodging is the term we use for services like Airbnb and others.
  • We currently have a housing ordinance that addresses short-term lodging, been in place for 18 months or two years.
  • We do require that anyone operating short-term lodging be licensed.
  • We’re taking the opportunity now to carry some of those same provisions over into the zoning ordinance.
  • We have a definition for a short-term lodging facility and also for hotels so that the two are compatible.
  • We define where short-term lodging will be permitted.
  • If someone is renting out two bedrooms, we would require a third off-street parking space.
  • We are not allowing in this ordinance a rental of more than two bedrooms.
  • We would only be permitting in an owner occupied unit.
  • For a unit not occupied by the owner, we would not allow short-term lodging at all.
  • No more than two rooms can be offered for rent.
  • No exterior alterations.
  • If the unit is owner-occupied and you can meet these parameters, short-term lodging would be permitted.
  • We would not consider short-term lodging for any unoccupied or landlord-type scenario.

Sound reasonable? Whatta you see?

to be continued . . .

 

 

Keeping the heat on the plastic bag ban

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council  logo

Followers know the sad news that the proposed ban of single-use plastic bags coming from our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) under the leadership of Beth Behrend was hit with the pause button because of a one-year legislative moratorium at the state level in order to study the issue.

At the October 15 meeting, however, City Council passed a resolution from the Administration supporting passage of the ban:

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

But Behrend and the EAC are not the kind of people to rest on that laurel and to sit back and wait for the year to tick away.

Behrend spoke before Council December 3 to present 100 signatures from residents in support of “some kind of action” taken by the City to reduce plastic bags. In speaking at the October 15 meeting, for instance, Councilman Reynolds pointed out that the effort to reduce single-use plastic bags would take more than an ordinance and that there were things that could be done before the ban on banning expired. Behrend also requested Council to send a letter in support of another State bill regarding beverage containers.

Gadfly has come to learn that the EAC travels in packs for greater impact (2 other EAC members spoke preceding Behrend) and is far from innocent about political strategy.

To wit: enter Mary Jo Deseridino in Behrend’s wake to call for City Council to pass a single-use plastic bag ordinance now effective date in July 2020, that is, before the 2021 budget is passed and before the opportunity to extend the ban.

You gotta love these people!

Gadfly enjoys every opportunity to showcase such high quality community involvement of his fellow residents.

What they can do, we all can do.

Your non-tax dollars at work!

It’s Monday, December 16, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Good conversation building community at the Moravian block watch

logo Latest in a series of posts about Neighborhoods and block watches logo

“Good conversation builds community,” sayeth the Gadfly.

Block watches are good conversation.

What’s a block watch like? Well, read and view on.

On December 4 Gadfly attended the Moravian block watch in north Bethlehem coordinated by Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith and Katie Regan.

Attending were police officer Kopp, Representative Steve Samuelson, William Penn principal Joe Anthes, and a dozen or so neighborhood residents.

Topics discussed included traffic and growing drug problems.

Here office Kopp responds to a question about speeding:

To which Representative Samuelson added info about times when outside money helped benefit the traffic situation:

The conversation took a dramatically serious turn when resident Eddie Rodriquez opened the conversation to drugs and gang-related activity growing in the northside.

Officer Kopp picks up the conversation and fills the group in on what it takes to make a drug bust these days.

The Moravian block watch usually meets the first Wednesday of the month (2nd Wednesday in January because of the holiday) at 6PM in the HUB Building, Moravian College.

Contact Councilwoman Crampsie Smith at Crampsie150@gmail.com

Gadfly would love to hear about other block watches across the City.

Airbnb . . . short-term lodging: why should we care?

logo Latest in a series of posts on Airbnb and short-term lodging logo

As we move into a series of posts on the short-term lodging proposal just introduced before the Planning Commission, Gadfly would like to recycle part of post from October 6, 2018, fourteen months ago, and just 3 weeks after Gadfly-became-Gadfly.

The Northside Historical District is not Gadfly’s neighborhood. It is not the neighborhood of you, the vast majority of Gadfly followers.

Why should we care what happens in the Northside Historical District?

First things first, why should the general “we” of the City care? Why is Gadfly spending time on this? Why should you read on if you don’t live in the Northside Historical District?

Good question, Gadfly.

And Gadfly answers that it has to do with the perfectly understandable concern over the nature of your neighborhood. Something everybody has or should have. Every time Gadfly uses that word “neighborhood,” he thinks with pleasure of Fred Rogers, “Mr. Rogers” (did you see the recent Tom Hanks’ movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”?). It’s about the quality of life in your neighborhood, about caring for and about your neighborhood, and “control” of your neighborhood. This is or should be a concern across the City and has much wider implications than just Airbnb.

Mr. Gadfly’s neighborhood is changing. Has changed. Of the 15 houses in Gadfly’s block, 6 are now rentals. Porch palings are missing. Parking is harder. Some sidewalks want to hurt you. Mother Nature is sometimes the only sidewalk snow-shoveler. Glaring, spooky feral cats have taken over the once carnival-like street (40 kids playing there at one point). Yards aren’t all that well taken care of. Gadfly’s lawn is “crop-circled” by dogs on leashes. Where have all the flowers gone? Some porches have become utility sheds. We were once a tree-shaded lane; now Gadfly’s tree (“Secundus,” since it is a replacement) stands alone, sole respecter of City ordinance.

Poor maudlin Gadfly. He doesn’t live in the Northside Historical District. But he gets it. We all should get it. Neighborhoods change one rented house, one dog pee at a time. Often imperceptible change. Till one day it’s too late. Gadfly gets it. We all should get it. And be invested in what happens in the Northside Historical District.

It pays to fight for our neighborhoods. Gadfly always says that. You may have noticed.

We must speak up.

Airbnb has provided some of the most dynamic resident-involved meetings in Gadfly’s Council spectatordom history. Take a look at “Our neighborhoods are under attack” (the quote is Frank Boyer’s), about the September 4, 2018, meeting that Gadfly called “one of the best of the year . . . The air crackled. Tension was thick. The issue was urgent, resident commentators were passionate, Council was involved and concerned.”

It’s up to the City to protect our neighborhoods.

Whether it’s First Terrace or West Goepp or whatever, Gadfly will always be following “developments.”

Let’s see what’s going on with this proposed zoning ordinance.

to be continued . . .