“Is there enough demand for seven new apartment projects in the City of Bethlehem?”

logo15th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.logo
and 700 block N. New

Garrison St.

Remember that the re-zoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison is, for now, dead.

But the construction of a probably 5-story, 70-some unit apartment building — rendered above — on the 700 block of N. New St. remains quite a bit alive.

5-story did Gadfly say? At City Council last Tuesday Gadfly #2 Bill Scheier said that he’s seen talk of 12 stories.

Alas and alack!

Councilmen Callahan and Reynolds warned the Garrison residents that they could win the rezoning battle, which they did, and still end up with an offensive or even greater offensive project.

Which they might, Scheirer suggests.

Scheirer counts 7 new large apartment projects on deck: 4th and Vine, Wilbur Mansion, the Armory, Skyline West, Boyd Theater, 548 N. New, and this one on the 700 block of N. New.

And he asks:

“Is there enough demand for seven new apartment projects in the City of Bethlehem?”

A question you’ve seen yours truly Gadfly-double zero raise recently as well.

Especially in the context of the need for affordable housing.

Suppose the demand wasn’t great enough, Scheirer asks, which of the seven projects is expendable? Which is most destructive of the City’s character?

The 700 block of N. New.

And he suggests rezoning that block to CL to eliminate the project because the present CB zoning there that permits a large structure is “like a middle finger sticking up into the residential area.”

Whew!

What would you like to see on the 700 block of N. New?

logo14th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.logo

Garrison St.

So this particular case for rezoning is dead.

But there will be new construction of the entire 700 block of N. New St.

Keep in mind the rendering pictured above presented to Council for the rezoning considerations.

Is that or something like it what we would like to see there on the 700 block of N. New St.?

There can be a couple ways to approach answering that question.

First of all, Councilwoman Crampsie Smith’s comments that we talked about last time invite us to ask if apartments are the most desirable way to go.

A good question.

Several days ago, for instance, Dana Grubb made this apropos comment on a post here on Gadfly: “We certainly don’t need more rental units in Bethlehem at the moment with everything proposed. . . . A row of townhouses/condos that offer home ownership opportunities is much more preferable for this location in my opinion. It maintains and adds to the existing residential streetscape.”

And remember that Councilman Reynolds seemed to say that whatever we get there from this owner, it will mean more feet on the street.

So, how about a row of townhouses on the 700 N. New block.?

Gadfly wonders how many there could be in that space.

And is there a Green Eye-Shade follower savvy enough to provide even ballpark figures on the difference to the owner in income and to the City in taxes if townhouses were constructed instead of a mixed use retail/residential building with 70 apartment units?

Gadfly is channeling Councilwoman Van Wirt — He needs data!!!!

Second, if we are to have something close to the mixed use retail/residential building with 70 apartment units as proposed and rendered above, does it have to look like THAT!

Another good question, Gadfly thinks.

Gadfly wants to go back and revisit the 4-part series of posts on thoughtful planning by Kim Carrell-Smith (beginning here) and think about architecture that is blended in rather than stuck in.

And that would be for the Townhouses and/or the retail/residential building.

Gadfly listens to the public voices — and absorbs them.

Here he’s channeling Mr. Vergilio at the September 17 meeting.

How does the building proposed in the rendering fit in the neighborhood?

To Gadfly, it doesn’t.

To Gadfly it looks rather conventional, something that would be functional almost anywhere, but not special, not unique to Bethlehem.

Gadfly multi-channels.

He’s also haunted by this comment by Dan Church from a month ago as well:

“Yet my distress is construction of an apartment block that seems more likely to mirror a mini cruise ship than iconic architecture: entirely inappropriate for such impact. (But the city has no jurisdiction over architectural style.)”

The city has no jurisdiction over architectural style.

A while back Gadfly asked, “Who’s in charge of beauty in Bethlehem?”

Are we dependent on the kindness of strangers?

 

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

Gadfly gets garrulous on Garrison

logo(13th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)logo

Herewith and hereunder the Gadfly reflects on the Garrison case, which provides much food for thought.

  • Whether public testimony matters is always a question. Gadfly knows some followers think it is like pee-ing in the wind. Ye of little faith. The neighborhood turn-out here made a difference. Not just numbers but the quality of the testimony. High-quality testimony. These were clearly good people. Undeniable to all Council members. Mixture of reason and emotion. Effective specific examples of neighborhood culture. Neighborhood past “history” was meaningful context. They communicated a sense of community specialness — “something’s happening here,” like the song says. Council was listening; that’s not always the case with City bodies and agencies. And here Gadfly is just wondering outloud — he wonders if public testimony is more likely to have effect before Council (elected officials) than, say, the Planning or Zoning Boards (appointed members).

 

  • Interestingly, the “yes” votes here (BC, MC, AW) each highlighted the good character of the petitioner. The way he presented himself weighed heavily in the rationales for their decisions. They were clear and vocal about that. Character, not quality of work, for there is no history of the latter by the petitioner on which to judge. But the words and demeanor of the petitioner generated trust that he was collaborative, had a good heart, believed in community, would keep his promises. Frankly, Gadfly has not been a subscriber to the “Trust the Developer” attitude — more “Trust but verify.”  But he had to admit that the petitioner’s approach here seemed natural, genuine, not a put-on. So, on the surface anyway, this was not obviously a classic good guy v. bad guy confrontation. Gadfly is not surprised that several councilmembers responded favorably.

 

  • Beyond the character rationale, the “yes” argument that an influx of apartment dwellers would happily give Garrison residents more people to grow their positive neighborhood culture with did not seem forceful at all (AW). It fact it seems very strained. Their contiguity (good SAT word) would not at all be the same as house to house. The argument that if you like something, you’ll like more of it is not logical. Proper scale is crucial to forming bonds. One doesn’t readily think of apartment complexes as communities/neighborhoods. People who are the cause of parking woes, increased traffic, danger to kids, and so forth are not likely to be seen as neighbor material even for the sake of argument.

 

  • While most of the “no” votes might have agreed with the “yeses” about the good character of the developer, however, they did not feel that he made the case that he absolutely needed that 18% of the space rezoned to do the project. It was not clear that denying the rezoning for the sake of safeguarding a neighborhood would scuttle or restrict the project. So the “no’s” had “hard” reasons for denial as well as the fact that there was no sense of acute hardship for the petitioner. The “no” votes were not acting totally on sentiment. The petitioner failed to make a definitive need for those two parcels, rather than he simply planned the new building rendering with them gone from the get-go. Needing more emphasis were questions like: what would not be possible, what would have to change if the rezoning was denied?

 

  • BC and JWR — especially BC — provided the tonic of realism. Neighbors, you gotta realize that the petitioner is in the driver’s seat here: you may “win” this rezoning but still get a project that you won’t like. Thus, if you win, you may lose. BC recognized that he was swimming against the strong emotional tide in the room, but he bravely kept breasting the waves (how did Gadfly get stuck in this metaphor?). He kept listing unpleasant but possible scenarios in the face of audience groans. For the purpose of asking the residents to have full knowledge of the consequences of their actions. But for what reason was BC doing this? Compromise. Interesting.

 

  • Compromise. Here for Gadfly is the most striking and surprising aspect of the deliberation discussion. Each of the “yes” voters envisioned compromise, “a plan that all of you would like,” a plan that BC even volunteered to broker. That’s a first for Gadfly. Maybe old timers will know of other such examples of direct negotiation brokered by Council that they can share with us. Gadfly wishes that the petition was not withdrawn for the simple curiosity of seeing how such a process might play out. If there was unselfish good will on both sides  — we are not the Middle East, after all — could an equitable and agreeable settlement be worked out? That would be a happy outcome. Gadfly had not seen Council or a Council member take the active step of being a go-between before.

 

  • Another nice surprise: the main basis for newcomer GCS’s “no.” Her refreshing and almost revolutionary stance favoring a cluster of old homes over a cluster of new apartments was rooted both in a sense of history/a sense of Bethlehem culture, ratified by the beliefs of her constituents — and contrary to City policy. It was an example of fresh, independent thought. Nobody else put this rather small rather insignificant specific decision into such a large meaningful framework. She had some reservations about aspects of the new apartments, but a time-honored Bethlehem ideal of home ownership trumped everything. Garrison St. was “us.” Gadfly liked that thinking.

 

  • JWR, though he voted “no,” articulated what should have been the “yeses” lead argument: the businesses want more people on Broad Street. Gadfly perked up at that. But JWR did not seem especially greedy for large numbers like the 70-some apartments the petitioner planned. JWR recognized that whatever decision was made in the instant case would put more feet on the street. That seemed to satisfy him and made the two Garrison St. parcels not so crucial to the important goal of the City/business community.

 

  • JWR has a delightful nerdy streak. He teased giving us a history of zoning. Gadfly was hungry for it. But he teased also that some (many?) of the arguments advanced against the rezoning on Garrison were not appropriate at a Zoning hearing like this — implying, I guess, that they were more applicable to some other occasion, perhaps like a Planning Commission hearing. JWR exposed Gadfly’s great ignorance. He has recognized that ignorance and modestly proposed that the City enlighten us all about the approval processes in the development area by providing a kind of tutorial — that is, following a generic proposal from inception through the train of hoops and approvals necessary before construction begins. That would be awesome. In the meantime, Gadfly wishes he knew what exactly was on JWR’s mind making that statement. A lot of balls were thrown into the air in testimony. JWR, just perhaps for fellow nerds like me, what in your view should have been the narrow foci relating to this rather circumscribed petition? For instance, was safety of kids extraneous testimony in your opinion? Or parking? Gadfly swears, the process is a bit mystical to him. Gadfly feels he needs a better understanding of the process in order to recognize the “sweet spots” at which to aim arguments at each step along the way.

Now this list of reflections has grown legs and is already too long. So Gadfly will save his climactic thoughts — where all of this has been heading — till next time. The better to focus.

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

Council speaks on the Garrison rezoning

(12th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

logo

Douglas Graves, “Zoning map remains same.” Bethlehem Press, October 9, 2019.

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem scuttles rezoning proposal after hearing impassioned pleas from Garrison Street residents.” Morning Call, October 3, 2019.

Sara Satullo, “These Bethlehem residents fought to save their vibrant city block . . . and won.” lehighvalleylive.com, October 2, 2019.

 

Connell photo Douglas Graves

October 1 City Council meeting video
minutes 22-1:08:00

Followers will know that the petitioner sought approval to rezone 11 and 15 W. Garrison as part of a mixed-use residential and retail development to encompass the entire 700 block of N. New St.

The vote-taking here at the October 1 Council meeting was pretty dramatic. Gadfly has presented this part of the meeting below in the order in which it occurred. Note that there were three straight “no’s” followed by three straight “yes’s” — so Councilman Reynolds cast the breath-taking final “no” vote after seeming to lean the other way.

Remember that part of Gadfly’s mission is to help us know our elected officials better, so that when it comes time to vote, we are making informed choices. Probably all of current Council will be running again, and it would surprise no one if one or two (or three) current members run for Mayor in two years. Take the opportunity to hear them and how they think.

No: Olga Negron (video min. 1:12:18) Negron

  • [It was] very refreshing to hear from the requestor that he wanted to hear from you.”
  • “What is best for Garrison St. is not to be rezoned.”
  • “The side of the building on New St. . . . could be commercial as everything else down there is commercial. But Garrison St. .  . . should stay residential.”

No: Grace Crampsie Smith (video min. 1:13:31) Grace Crampsie Smith 2

  • “One concern . . . I think parking is an issue.”
  • “Two driveways entering into the building . . . I think that poses a real safety issue.”
  • “Mr. Connell mentioned that the City has been recently issuing more building permits for apartments than homes and that’s the direction of the City, I I have to say . . . that direction is not where the City needs to go.”
  • “We need to really enhance our neighborhoods, our communities.”
  • “We have to get away from just expanding into apartment bases and look at building more single-family homes.”
  • “I think that our City was built on the backbone of working men and women who wanted one thing and that was a home and a safe neighborhood for their families, and I think we as a City need to really support and enhance that.”
  • “I think that the reason our great City feels more like a small town is because of our neighborhoods.”

No: Paige Van Wirt (video min. 1:15:30) 097

  • “I was so impressed by the community that came out tonight . . . It is exactly what we are striving for.”
  •  “I cannot imagine us doing anything that would harm that dynamic, gouging into your neighborhood.”
  • “I have not been convinced that he cannot build this building without changing the zoning.”
  • “I think you should be so proud of what you have.”

Yes: Adam Waldron (video min. 1:16:27) AWaldron

  • “This is a tricky situation where you have a vibrant, healthy neighborhood . . . On the flip side we also don’t see a developer who seems as receptive as the one who comes before us to feedback from people in that community.”
  • “Often there is a kind of blank, nameless face, a name where we don’t see the person who has spent years living in this community . . . and plans to live in the community after the development as well.”
  • This is a unique position for us where we have a lot of very genuine people coming to us and asking for very different things.”
  • “From what I’ve seen, I think the plan presented to us is a positive one.”
  • “I think there could be some growing pains. I also think Mr. Connell is receptive to the idea of continuing a dialogue and working through some of the issues.”
  • “This could be a net positive for the neighborhood by bringing in some fresh new families, new potential friends and neighbors to your community.”

Yes: Bryan Callahan (video min. 1:19:44) BCallahan

  • “You’re not going to like what I’m going to say, but I want to lay out the truth first.”
  • “We can’t stop him from doing that development.”
  • “He doesn’t have to come back to the City to knock those two buildings down.”
  • “We have a lot of developers who do not take into consideration neighbors, and it seems like Mr. Connell has tried hard to do that.”
  • “A lot of people have verified that he is a very good landlord.”
  • “My concern is this . . . he has the ability to knock those two houses down . . . could put a flat lot there . . . could put garbage dumpsters there . . . could put a buffer there . . . could do a cantilever project.”
  • “My preference is that he work with all of you.
  • “Don’t shoot me. [Gadfly loves this!] I’m going to vote for this tonight . . . That doesn’t mean I’m voting for it two weeks from now.”
  • [Volunteers to meet with residents and walk around the neighborhood.]
  • “I would prefer that we work with him on a plan that all of you would like.”
  • “I know it’s not that you want to hear.”

Yes: Michael Colon (video min. 1:27:07) Colon 2

  • “I’m not going to speculate on a lot of what if, what could be.”
  • “Full transparency. My brother lives in your neighborhood.”
  • “A lot of times when we are making these decisions it is not a matter of all eggs in one basket or the other.”
  • “Taking all things into account . . . I think this project . . . will be a net positive with some disruptions.”
  • “I also fully believe that Mr. Connell will stand behind his comments . . . [not] making a liar out of a few us . . . we believe he has every intent to work with the neighbors.”
  • “Never do we make everybody happy.
  • “And really what his background and history are in connection to this neighborhood, to his tenants, I’m going to support this project.”

No: J. William Reynolds (video min. 1:29:21) Reynolds 3

  • “This is not the end of the conversation. Yes or No tonight is not the end of this conversation.”
  • “Whatever happens here tonight, it’s still going to require the cooperation of the neighbors, of Mr. Connell, of the City Planning Commission, of the City Administration.”
  • “A lot of the issues tonight that came up are issues that I don’t believe fit exactly into a zoning conversation.”
  • “Those questions . . . should not go into conversations about . . . zoning.”
  • “You hear a lot of different things that people want from those neighborhoods . . . those business on Broad St., they want more people, and they want more people living downtown, and when you look at kind of why we struggle there along Broad Street, a lot of it comes down to the fact that we don’t have more people.”
  • “Whether or not two parcels here get rezoned or not, I think it’s safe to say that in some way, we are going to get more people here on this lot.”
  • “And we do need commercial development, and I always bristle when somebody uses that word ‘commercial intrusion’ . . . we want those mixed uses.”
  • “With that being said, I do realize that there is a spirit here of what people want . . . It’s a spirit you don’t find everywhere in these neighborhoods.”
  • “I’m not convinced here that there is not a project that is not going to help out the Northside, that’s going to help out Broad Street, that’s going to help out the neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily include these two properties.”
  • “There are a lot of options here that don’t require different zoning.”
  • “It’s also entirely possible that Mr. Connell can build a building here that doesn’t include these two properties that people are not going to like either.”
  • “With that being said, I’m not convinced that he needs these two houses to be rezoned.”

Where did you stand? How did your views compare to our Councilpersons?

Lots interesting to chew on here.

Next time . . .

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

The Garrison neighbors: Community Matters

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

It was a week ago that Gadfly presented the petitioner’s position in the case of the rezoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison. In the meantime and ongoing, Gadfly’s attention has been on Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound. However, we need to complete our train of thinking on this case before the next Council meeting even though Gadfly understands that there will be no second vote. For now, the rezoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison died with the 4-3 vote against the petitioner at the October 1 Council meeting, but the petitioner does not have to return to Council for any plans he has for the rest of his properties on New and North Streets. The project itself is not dead.

October 1 City Council meeting video
minutes 22-1:08:00

007

A few posts back, Gadfly asked you to role play being a Councilperson weighing your decision on the rezoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison.

You have heard the petitioner fairly presented. Now below let’s hear the neighbors.

Gadfly could boil these 11 testimonies down to a succinct paragraph or two. But what he loves to do — and what the ample space on a blog provides that a newspaper can’t — is enable you to hear the actual resident voices in full.

This is what the Gadfly project is all about — honest, healthy dialogue from all perspectives.

People speaking out and up. People enacting their right to petition their government. Democracy in action.

——

Gadfly apologizes if he didn’t catch names correctly.

Barbara Diamond (video 22:00)

  • “Although development is essential to the growth of the City , I hope you will not lose sight of the considerable capacity of neighborhoods to produce well being among their residents and factor this in to your decision.”

Lauren Miller (video 27:15)

  • “Community is the answer. And more people doesn’t mean community. Relationships are community. More floor space doesn’t mean community. . . . It very much can mean their isolation. . . . My question for Bethlehem is what matters most to us? . . . For me it’s people.” [Brings garden products to share, shows poster with pictures.]

Julie Codero (video 37:30)

  • “This house is love, and I’m going to make it love. I’m going to turn it around, and I’m going to make you see this neighborhood is not shit, this neighborhood is not trash. . . . We have so much hope in that neighborhood. . . . I’ve always felt just loved and safe there. . . . I never envisioned when I purchased that house, that we would be thrown away so easily. . . . You are transforming a neighborhood into a disposable neighborhood, turning off the lights, and so many lights in that neighborhood.”

Sara Heidibrink-Bruno (video 42:05)

  • “I didn’t think that I was necessarily going to not just own a home at this point in my life but also live in a community and a neighborhood that would organize in that way [throw a block party]. It was amazing. . . .That’s what you are dealing with here. . . . I want [my son] to grow up here.”

Jim Shofstall (video 44:45)

  • “I’m a 3rd generation Bethlehemite living in the same house. . . . The City has done so much for our community. . . . It’s a different generation of love, a different generation of something special. This kind of building that’s proposed is going to tear down that genuine feeling of togetherness that we have. . . . Parking is at a premium. . . . a love in the neighborhood. . . . Traffic. . . . Our kids are at jeopardy. . . . We are afraid. . . . I’m so afraid that we are going to regress. . . . . It’s a life-giving place. . . . We’ve gone from baseball bats and knives . . . to a beautiful neighborhood.”

Lisa Robinson (video 49:10)

  • “I used to live on _____ St. . . . I wouldn’t trade all the money in the world for what I have now. in what some people call the ghetto. . . . I want to stay there, I want to live there, and I want all these people to stay because we all get along”

Mr. and Mrs. Rafael Toledo (video 53:42)

  • “We’re here because we care. . . . We just love where we live. . . . As a community we just don’t feel that it’s right. . . . Mr. Donchez, dig deep inside your heart. . . . Maybe somewhere else, but not here.”

Lita Medina (video 56:30)

  • “We don’t mind progress, we don’t mind having more neighbors . . . but to put who-knows in there because there is no real plan. . . . Why does it have to come into W. Garrison St.? . . . We truly are a community. . . . We don’t see anything wrong with progress. Storefronts on our street really doesn’t belong.”

Bruce Haines (video 58:50)

  • “Quite frankly I’m shocked that in-between the hearing and this meeting that the City Administration didn’t change your position. There’s no reason that the developer can’t build what he wants to build in the commercially zoned area of the City. . . . I implore you Mayor before there is even a vote tonight to change your position . . . and force the builder to build what he wants to build, which is reasonable, on the commercial space on New St. . . . It doesn’t put the City in a position where you are intruding into a residential neighborhood. . . . I think you need to start acting with the integrity to preserve the zoning ordinances as written.”

John Rothschild (video 1:04:08)

  • “From my perspective, this looks like a clear example of spot zoning. And this would potentially change the character of this neighborhood in a negative way. . . . Something like that could go on my street. There’s no reason for this . . . rather than gouging another chunk out of this neighborhood.”

——

Now Mr. Morales took another approach and should be separated from the rest. Gadfly senses, in fact, that his approach was shared by some of the Council members.

Chris Morales (video 50:30)

  • “Instead of always opposing new projects, figure out a way how we can invite that into a prosperous community we already have and how can we let more people in to our circle . . . how can we bring this project in to the current neighborhood and plug it in to what’s already there versus we don’t want anybody else to join our secret circle. . . . figure out a way that everybody wins.”

—–

Ok, now think like you were at the Head Table. There was a lot of emotion here — as one neighbor pointed out. There was crying, worry about kids, about friendships, about investments at stake that were not only financial. And this wasn’t just one or two neighbors, but probably as many as Gadfly has seen testifying in a case like this except for the 2 W. Market St.

In short, the neighborhood position is “Community Matters,” as Lauren Miller titled her poster.

Perhaps a classic confrontation, as one neighbor suggested, between economic development and community development.

Now let’s take a look at the decision.

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

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

The Garrison decision: don’t miss

(9th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

The portion of the October 1 City Council meeting dealing with the re-zoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison was rather amazing.

Gadfly hasn’t seen any newspaper stories about the decision (did he miss?), so maybe you haven’t heard the decision.

All the better.

In the previous post, Gadfly asked you to role play being a Councilperson with him, going over all the things that might be in your head as you approached a decision.

Ok, now let’s see what happened, and how the end result (though there will be a second vote next meeting) matched your thinking.

As always, Gadfly likes you to consider the primary sources and make up your own mind before we analyze here.

Gadfly thinks you will find the testimony and deliberation very, very interesting.

So look at minutes 21:50-1:08:43 and minutes 1:11:13-1:34-30.

(A great time to thank President Waldron and other members of Council and the Administration for providing the video capability for us!)

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

Riddle me Garrison St., Gadfly

(8th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Gadfly loves to role play. It’s the English major in him.

Play along.

Pretend you are a Councilperson at the Head Table tonight.

What’s going through your mind when the Garrison St. rezoning comes up?

You are going to give somebody pain.

A neighborhood rests in your hands.

Think it through.

Quality of the physical environment:

The 700 block of N. New St. and the top of W. Garrison: pretty nice area, well-maintained homes, clean, no blight, certainly not an eye-sore, not close to needing rehab, the one missing tooth is the result of a sinkhole. The home on the corner of New and Garrison is really kind of interesting architecturally. Nothing crying out for change here. So, is the proposed development so strong as to overpower a stable status quo?

Quality of the resident environment:

A cluster of Garrison residents testified — both highly emotionally and more straightforward — to the powerful sense of community in the Garrison neighborhood and to the beauty and unique elements of their homes. They raised concerns about the destruction of that community feeling, about the impact on their children, and about scale, security, safety, the impact of construction in a sinkhole area, and so forth. But how many neighbors must come forward to sway me? What about the other hundred people in that block? And what if those testifiers don’t come to the first and second reading? What am I to make of that? Does that mean I can discount them? How do I truly know if I am feeling the pulse of the neighborhood, of the community?

The developer:

Hmm, seemed like a good guy. I sense the neighbors feel that way about him. His name and other work (if he has any) are not familiar to me — I know of no baggage as comes with some developers. But I can’t approve his proposal because he’s a good guy. He’s the one proposing the change. He’s the one disrupting or destroying a neighborhood seeming stable architecturally and community-wise. He’s got “to make a compelling and convincing case.” What is his case? He said he’s following the Comprehensive Plan about building apartments in the downtown area. He said he may look into housing for veterans. But his plans were very vague. He said he’s just at the beginning of a long journey. He was definite about a limit on the height of the building. But the rendering he exhibited may not represent the final project. And I’m sensitive to the strong point made by an audience member that it would be a mistake to approve without a clear, definite idea what the end game is. There should be no blank check. I’m not sure the developer’s “made a case.”

The City:

What has the City to gain from approving the rezoning? Why should the City see rezoning to commercial as desirable? One answer might be more tax revenue. The City could always use it — pensions and public services like police and fire that can’t really be cut dominate the budget. We’d like to have money for a new this and that. Our list of deferred budget items is long. But I’d like a figure, even ballpark. I remember the example CM Callahan keeps making of the way the Zest building at 3rd and New — built on a minimally taxable vacant lot — has enriched the tax coffers. But this situation is different. These are tax revenue properties on Garrison and New. What will be the tax consequence, even in ballpark terms. I’d like to know what the price for disrupting or destroying a stable community is. Is it worth it? What does “the property will generate more tax revenue” specifically mean? Another answer to what the City might get out of this project is more apartments close to downtown, more people spending money downtown. Now that is an oft-expressed goal. The project could be good for business. But  we have Skyline, Boyd, 548 N. New, Martin Tower — getting close to a thousand new apartments coming online. Do we need more if it means disrupting or destroying a neighborhood?

This is fun, isn’t it?

The politics:

I know a common sentiment — true or not — is that the City and Council favor developers, are in the pocket of the developers. I don’t want to be seen that way. I’m an independent thinker. But the developer has rights and the City has goals and needs.

Your decision:

Ha! so where are you on the issue of rezoning 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.?

Let’s see what happens tonight. With luck, Council members will give us an inside look into their thought processes and we can compare.

Remember that the Council meeting can be followed live as well as seen later in the archived video.

A neighborhood at stake maybe.

And Gadfly will report back, perhaps with some audio and video as well.

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

Garrison recap before tonight’s vote

(7th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Tonight City Council will vote on the first reading of a proposal to re-zone 11 and 15 W. Garrison St. from residential to commercial. See videos of these houses and the neighborhood in the previous post in this series.

Garrison St.

The developer seeks rezoning of two residences on Garrison St. as part of a proposal for a 5-floor mixed use building with first-floor commercial + 70-some apartments along New St. between Garrison and North.

Quotes to think about from the previous testimony:

  • Something special is happening on Garrison St. It’s just the beginning of something beautiful.
  • The community on Garrison St. is a family community. It’s a place where we have time to sit on our front porches and see how our neighbors are doing. That is something worth preserving. That is something worth caring about.
  • Great things are happening in this neighborhood, and bringing forth more housing to overpopulate this neighborhood will change the culture completely.
  • Building a huge apartment complex on this corner will completely change what this community is about.
  • My question for this City is what matters most to them? Does the community and the people that reside here matter, or does ‘economical prosperity’ matter more?
  • You’re looking at 120ft. as opposed to regular 2-story houses.
  • [The building is] not going to fit in that neighborhood. It’s going to look out of place.
  • My house is my heart, my home.
  • I come from New York. I left New York to get away from high-rises and buildings. I left New York city to be in a calm, beautiful environment, and I love my neighbors, and I know everyone’s name.
  • We have community there. We’re not going to feel safe there. [Now] all the kids are outside playing, and we feel safe there.
  • This is commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods. It’s plain and simple.
  • I think this is a great project. I’m not here not supporting a great project for the City. Just put the project in the district where the project belongs which is the Commercial Business district, and leave these neighbors alone, and leave their businesses alone.
  • This is about integrity. The whole thing is about integrity. It’s the integrity of our zoning code, which [the City administrator] won’t stand up to defend . . . It’s the integrity of our neighborhoods, and it’s about integrity of government.
  • You’re buying a pig in a poke. You’re going to change the zoning . . . and you don’t even know that you’re going to get this project.
  • We know that the majority of Council believes that economic development outweighs neighborhoods.
  • So the question is, whose will are you going to serve? The will of the people or a private individual.
  • My sympathy for these people who spoke, because they represent the core of the City, decent people who love the City, and enjoy living in the City. And what you can be doing here is depriving them of their way of life, uprooting them, forcing maybe some to move out of the City because they came here for that simple reason.

What are the factors to weigh in this decision?

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

So, Gadfly, show us 11 and 15 W. Garrison!

(6th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

The proposal to re-zone 11 and 15 W. Garrison as part of a major project taking up the entire 700 block of New St. is up for a first reading at Council tonight.

We have a substantial thread on this issue already.

But here are some visuals!

Be thinking about what factors you would weigh in making the decision facing Council tonight.

What would you do if you were at the Head Table?

We’ll come back and discuss.

Widening the circle of commentary on Garrison St.

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

(5th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

After the Garrison St. neighbors spoke, two champions emerged for their cause.

Bruce Haines

Haines is a litigant in the latest chapter of the highly divisive 2 W. Market St. issues that Gadfly has covered extensively (see the link to 2 W. Market on the sidebar) and sees this issue through that lens as another example of “true commercial intrusion” into neighborhoods tacitly then visibly supported by the City. The developer has a “great project,” but it’s in the wrong location. Striking to Gadfly is the practical point that a vote yes is a vote for an open door. Since the rendering of the project shown at the meeting is only tentative, the final project could be “anything,” a fate Haines underlines with some nasty examples. “This is about integrity,” Haines says, and repeats it so often that Gadfly looked up the definition to make sure he knew what Haines saw as the transcending issue: “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”

  • This is a deja vu all over again.
  • Remember 2 W. Market St.? This is commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods. It’s plain and simple.
  • Except instead of being in the historical district, it’s a wonderful community on Garrison St.
  • It’s a community. It’s a neighborhood.
  • Certainly that’s a great project [the developer’s], as they even acknowledged, on New St. and around to the commercial business district as it exists today.
  • There’s not a house on that street that fits the variances and the codes, but at the end of the day, they are all residences.
  • So, how familiar is this? Here we have an individual coming to redo a zoning change again. We don’t have the City endorsing it. They’re sitting neutral. They’ll wait till the 11th hour like they did for 2 W. Market St., and then they’ll weigh in to make sure you understand how you’re supposed to vote.
  • And are we then pretty soon going to have Sand Island named after Mr. Connell or his business?
  • What we’ve got here is true commercial intrusion.
  • I really feel for these neighbors, and I’m going to stand up for them.
  • Because if you go ahead with this, you are marching down the the exact same path you marched with 2 W. Market St.
  • Now we are hearing the CB [Central Business district] . . . doesn’t apply on a local street so on Garrison she [City Planning administrator Darlene Heller] didn’t tell us what could go there . . . the largest bar and restaurant in the city . . . the biggest Hookah lounge, the biggest tattoo parlor . . . who the heck knows.
  • I think this is a great project. I’m not here not supporting a great project for the City.
  • Just put the project in the district where the project belongs which is the Commercial Business district, and leave these neighbors alone, and leave their businesses alone.
  • So what this is about is the same as 2 W. Market St., and if you keep going down this path, it’s about integrity.
  • This is about integrity. The whole thing is about integrity. It’s the integrity of our zoning code, which [the City administrator] won’t stand up to defend . . . It’s the integrity of our neighborhoods, and it’s about integrity of government.
  • You’re marching down the same path that will have you in court for 5, 7 years, the same as you’re going to be for 2 W. Market St.
  • This is a travesty, and you guys should need to squelch this from the beginning.
  • Not only that, you’re buying a pig in a poke. You’re going to change the zoning  . . . and you don’t even know that you’re going to get this project.
  • Once it’s CB, it can be anything.
  • We know that the majority of Council believes that economic development outweighs neighborhoods.
  • If you were to approve this CB without it being attached to this project or conditional . . . you’re really done a disservice to this community.
  • [applause]

 

Stephen Antalics

Looking and sounding much like an Old Testament Jeremiah, Gadfly #1 speaks, as he always does, with rhetorical and moral brevity and clarity: whose will should Council serve, the public or the private? There’s the question that applies to not only this case but to a span of cases this Gadfly #00 has covered over the past year. To Antalics, the answer is self-evident.

  • There’s an old adage that says government of, for, and by the people, and it seems that’s been lost.
  • It’s almost like governance in spite of the people.
  • Bruce [Haines] is exactly right. The key word is integrity.
  • Integrity is expressed when the will is recognized and supported.
  • It then becomes whose will.
  • We have on many occasions intelligent concerned people who love the City come here and testify after intensive research why something shouldn’t happen.
  • But the people come forth who have private interests, which is fine . . . as long as private interests do not impinge upon the will of the people, the people who chose you to represent their interests.
  • So the question is, whose will are you going to serve?
  • And this question has come up much too often.
  • The will of the people or a private individual.
  • My sympathy for these people who spoke, because they represent the core of the City, decent people who love the City, and enjoy living in the City.
  • And what you can be doing here is depriving them of their way of life, uprooting them, forcing maybe some to move out of the City because they came here for that simple reason.
  • So, I think it’s very clear what has to happen here.

So, “where’s your head at” on the rezoning of the houses on Garrison St.?

Festival UnBound

The Garrison St. neighbors respond (2)

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

(4th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Garrison St.

More beautiful Bethlehem voices–

Voices worrying about practical things like damage to foundations in an area in which there was a sinkhole, but mainly worrying about damage to community, serenity, peace, safety, beauty — yes, beauty (who’s in charge of Beauty in Bethlehem, Gadfly has asked).

Julie Cordero (17 W. Garrison)

  • It’s a safe place to live. It’s an affordable place to live.
  • I have two kids in the Bethlehem School district who walk to school.
  • How does breaking ground affect my foundation and foundations down the street?
  • My house is my heart, my home.
  • I don’t really see that as a feasible option to break ground for a 74-space parking garage . . .
  • I’m a disability advocate . . . we have people on our street who have wheelchairs and are on walkers. You gonna shut down Garrison St. [during construction] and make everyone walk?
  • Is this street going to be closed down for weeks on end?
  • Housing for veterans . . . I’m all for that . . . if it doesn’t carry on into Garrison St. which is a well-established family neighborhood.

Vanessa Torres (23 W. Garrison St.)

  • I come from New York. I left New York to get away from high-rises and buildings.
  • I left New York city to be in a calm, beautiful environment, and I love my neighbors, and I know everyone’s name,
  • But for that I just move back to New York city, a high-rise with so many families, such a busy environment.

_____ Toledo (18 W. Garrison)

  • I like a family.
  • We have community there.
  • We’re not going to feel safe there.
  • [Now] all the kids are outside playing, and we feel safe there.
  • So if there are two big buildings across the street, I know a lot of us won’t feel safe there.
  • [she speaks for others in the audience]
  • applause

Chewing? Next, comments from a couple of resident gadflies, who do not live in the neighborhood.

Festival UnBound

The Garrison St. neighbors respond (1)

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

(3rd in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Five Garrison St. neighbors affected by the zoning change proposal testified against it. Let’s look at the first two here: Lauren Miller and Mark Wood.

Gadfly hopes you will take full advantage of the video and not just browse the excerpts. You know Gadfly loves and respects the way Bethlehem residents comport themselves in these situations. Good examples here.

Lauren is emotional and speaks to ideals. Mark is straightforward and practical.

Put yourself in the position of the Councilmembers receiving this testimony. We always must remember that the developer has rights too. He doesn’t act or sound like a devil with horns. Tough decision. That’s why they get the big money (joke, remember Council is a part-time job and not especially well paid given the time and responsibility).

Think about what you would do. And why.

But wait a couple posts till you hear all the testimony. That’s the Gadfly way.

Lauren Miller (11 W. Garrison)

Lauren had a written text (Miller Re-Zoning Council Meeting), but she spoke forcefully and extemporaneously as well. Gadfly’s excerpts below come from both her prepared and extemporaneous words. There are several potential t-shirt slogans here!

  • I’m here for the best thing for our community.
  • If I would get what I wanted, I would say no to the changing of the zoning of my house.
  • I don’t want to live for what I want, I want to live for what is best for everybody.
  • Beautiful brick homes — just to build something new, I’m against that. I’m against tearing down something old to make something new for economical prosperity.
  • The house that I live in has beautiful windows that will probably never be made again in our time.
  • The brick building next to me . . . there’s a hidden door for when servants . . . used to take care of the household . . . a historical beautiful building.
  • My heart is to preserve what is old and to take care of it.
  • LOVE has been a part of transforming our block. Loving your neighbor as yourself transforms a block. It doesn’t matter what you build on a corner, if love isn’t there. It doesn’t matter how many businesses come in that raises the economy growth.
  • Loving one neighbor at a time will change our community, America and the world.
  • I don’t know what is best for our town and our growth in regards to what we decide to build.
  • The second leading cause of death in America is suicide, and it’s the highest in our teens. The neighborhood kids come over to my house, and I help them with their homework. Can we be a community that does that for our neighbors.
  • I know that when I live in the City in Philadelphia and there was a big building, nobody had time for each other, people just went from left to right, and no one had time just to have dinner with each other. This community has been starting to do that. And I hope to grow it more.
  • I want to live there, and I want to be a part of building this to be a family community.
  • Something special is happening on Garrison St. It’s just the beginning of something beautiful.
  • The community on Garrison St. is a family community. It’s a place where we have time to sit on our front porches and see how our neighbors are doing. That is something worth preserving. That is something worth caring about.
  • Great things are happening in this neighborhood, and bringing forth more housing to overpopulate this neighborhood will change the culture completely.
  • If you visit our community on Garrison St., you will find that it’s a place like the show ‘Cheers.’ It’s a place where everyone knows your name and sadly that’s a rare thing to find anymore.
  • Building a huge apartment complex on this corner will completely change what this community is about.
  • My question for this City is what matters most to them? Does the community and the people that reside here matter, or does ‘economical prosperity’ matter more?

Mark Wood (14 W. Garrison)

  • You’re looking at 120ft. as opposed to regular 2-story houses.
  • And the other problem I have is parking.
  • [The building is] not going to fit in that neighborhood. It’s going to look out of place.
  • If there’s a way that you can guarantee that the parking won’t suffer . . .

So chew on these testimonies. We’ll listen to several more neighbors next.

Festival UnBound

The developer plans for Garrison St.

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

(2nd in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Garrison St.

The developer seeks rezoning of two residences on Garrison St. as part of a proposal for a 5-floor mixed use building with first-floor commercial + 70-some apartments along New St. between Garrison and North.

Gadfly likes to have an image of the developer (a devil with horns?). The developer’s name is not familiar, but he must have been “at work” for a good while to accumulate that concentrated block of properties. Let’s take a look as he makes his brief presentation at Tuesday night’s Council hearing.

The developer owns the entire 700 block (sigh! makes you feel insignificant, doesn’t it? Gadfly’s house is 20ft. wide) of west New St and the two houses 11 and 15 W. Garrison.

The houses on New are zoned Central Business District, the Garrison houses residential.

The Garrison houses were CB but changed to residential in 2005. The developer’s asking to change them back.


Most of us have not witnessed a public hearing on a Zoning proposal, so let’s take a look at the interaction between Council and the developer to get a sense of the kind of questions that are asked and the kind of concerns there might be.

Especially regarding impact on the existing neighborhood.

We learn that the first floor must be “retail, restaurant, or personal services.”

Though there is the rendering of the project shown above, no specific plan has yet been officially submitted.

As the developer says, he is “early on” in a project — a “journey” — of many steps. He’s at “the very first step.”

So he was a bit vague about some details. For instance, the height of the building.

Parking (a reasonable amount of parking as a convenience) and a certain type of construction (reasonable cost) will limit the height, he said in response to concerns.

He has looked at the City Comprehensive Plan (nice!) and is following a desired use found there in the Center City area: high-density residential.

What kind of tenants does he seek? He’s working with a marketing and financing group doing a demographic study, but he did mention the possibility of federal government programs for veteran housing (some visible signs of sympathy for that).

See approx. minute 10 for Councilwoman Van Wirt raising concern for the integrity of the Garrison St. block.

Yes, that’s what we should think about next.

Festival UnBound

 

Unfortunately, a familiar story-line: “Tension between development and history dominated Tuesday night’s Bethlehem City Council meeting”

(1st in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

It’s deja-vu all over again, as someone said at last night’s Council meeting. Gadfly can hardly get a thread on one of these development situations finished before another one pops up. Use the news stories as a starting point for thinking about the Garrison St. matter.

Garrison St.a five-story, mixed-use building with 72 apts along the 700 block of N. New Street,
between North and Garrison

Sara Satullo, “Bethlehem neighbors want their block’s small-town feel to prevail over big-city apartment plan.” lehighvalleylive.com., September 17, 2019.

The residents of West Garrison Street have built a tight-knit community where kids are sent outside to play. They get homework help on neighbors’ porches and folks open their homes for dinner.

On Tuesday evening, the residents of the street implored Bethlehem City Council not to disrupt their way of life by rezoning two properties — 11 and 15 W. Garrison St. — from high-density residential to the central business district designation they held prior to a 2005 zoning change.

[Lauren Miller] asked city council what matters most to them: the community and people that reside in the city or economic development.

[Developer] Connell envisions commercial retail space fronting on North New Street along with the apartments and 74 parking spaces to the rear. While zoning does not require he provide parking, Connell said, he thinks it is crucial to market the project to tenants.

Councilwoman Dr. Paige Van Wirt said she’s concerned about the intrusion of development on a vibrant residential street.

“I really feel for these neighbors and I’m going to stand up for them,” [Bruce Haines] said. . . . This is all about integrity.”

[The properties] sit within the city’s Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, or LERTA, tax abatement zone as well as a qualified opportunity zone, a capital gains tax incentive, created in the 2017 tax reform law. It is meant to encourage investment and development in targeted economically distressed neighborhoods. With LERTA, taxes on a property’s higher assessment, resulting from improvements, are phased in over 10 years rather than all at once.

Charles Malinchak, “Bethlehem residents say Garrison Street complex would ruin ‘wonderful’ neighborhood.” Morning Call, September 18, 2019.

The picture painted was of a tight, friendly neighborhood that would be lost forever if two properties on a street in Bethlehem were rezoned to allow for construction of a five-story apartment and retail complex.

“I’m someone who cares deeply about this neighborhood. … Everyone knows everyone’s name. It is something special, something beautiful. Kids sit on my porch and color. Say ‘no’ to changing the zoning,” an emotional Lauren Miller, a West Garrison Street resident, told council.

Miller rents one of the West Garrison Street homes owned by Connell and praised the historic character of the home she has lived in for more than three years. She questioned why there’s such a need to “tear down the old for the new. I want to live here and be a part of building this community.” Others from the neighborhood echoed Miller’s sentiments. “I don’t want this. It will bring a lot more people and we won’t feel safe anymore. Our block is like a big family,” West Garrison Street resident Cindy Toledo said.

“This is commercial intrusion into a wonderful neighborhood. This is about integrity of our zoning codes, our neighborhoods and government,” Hotel Bethlehem managing owner Bruce Haines said.

Stephen Althouse, “Potential downtown development causes tension in Bethlehem.” September 17, 2019.

Tension between development and history dominated Tuesday night’s Bethlehem City Council meeting.

The two properties are part of nine contiguous properties [Developer] Connell has acquired over several years on West North, North New and Garrison streets. The acquisitions are required to eventually implement his vision of an important urban redevelopment project.

During Tuesday night’s hearing, Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt said it should come at no surprise that she is “concerned about the loss of residential” properties. She directly asked Connell what would he do if the zoning was denied? Connell attempted to answer, pausing several times before eventually giving up. “I don’t think I could honestly answer that question,” given the situation, he said.

It was a question neighbors who attended the hearing Tuesday night hope becomes more than hypothetical. Speaker after speaker lamented the changes with various themes centering around how it would negatively transform a Bethlehem neighborhood. “This is a commercial intrusion into a neighborhood,” Bethlehem resident Bruce Haines said. “… Ultimately this decision is about integrity.”