The plan identifies 121 properties, located in 4 different "tiers," for some kind of protection. Real estate consultants Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC were the actual authors of this study, and were paid with grants that Bethlehem has received as a "Preserve America Community."
Examples of properties considered preservation-worthy include the Bethlehem Silk Mill (Tier 1), Old Brewery Tavern (Tier 2), Rothrock Apple Farm (Tier 3) and Bethlehem Steel properties like the blast furnaces (Tier 4).
Karen Dolan, who chairs the Committee, objected to classification in different tiers because it creates the false impression of some kind of pyramidal hierarchy. Her sentiments were echoed by Council member Dave DiGiacinto and President Bob Donchez. An English teacher at Liberty High School, Dolan was also unable to resist the temptation to remove some of the verbiage in the study.
With these changes, the plan was unanimously recommended to the full Council.
But to some, it's not enough. "Too little, too late," stated Mary Pongracz, who complained about the demolition of an 1861 Victorian home on the south side for a church parking lot. "I have yet to see God drive a car," she wisecracked, as Council members and the audience chuckled.
More seriously, Tom Carroll complained that "Council really needs to get an ordinance on the books to prevent the disaster of another Broughal."
Dolan assured Carroll, "This is not going to sit on a shelf."
Council member Gordon Mowrer, who was Mayor when Bethlehem began to promote historic preservation, stated other cities now follow Bethlehem's lead. "Part of the uniqueness of Bethlehem is its history," he said.
But resident Bill Scheier countered, "We should not pat ourselves on the back too much. ... We need a demolition ordinance," referring to the stone farmhouse slated for demolition on Applebutter Road.
Council member Jean Belinski has called for a demolition ordinance since 2007, when it became apparent that Broughal Middle School would be torn down.