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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do You Like the Sound of Jackhammers in the Morning?

fire hydrant at Pickwick Place
Pickwick Place resident Sheri Curtain usually awakens to the sound of birds at her neighborhood in Canterbury Estates, near Oakland and Hecktown Roads. But at least four times within the last two weeks, she was awakened by jackhammers, not songbirds. On June 16, it was at 6:37 am. To make matters worse, the jackhammers have been accompanied by a construction crew, who instead of whistling while they work, curse loudly. But the icing on the cake is that the development is the work of Nic Zawarski and Sons, and Marty Zawarski is the President of Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners.

Curtain, who has been plagued with this racket for the past three summers, decided to call the police. An officer who responded at first told her that this kind of work had to wait until 8 am. But later that day, he came back and told her that contractors can start as early as 7 am.

Under Bethlehem Township's noise ordinance, the use of lawnmowers and household power tools is prohibited before 8 am. But "construction operations", which can include the occasional stick of dynamite, and "repairs to public facilities" can start as early as 7 am.

That was enough for Curtain. She appeared before Commissioners, including Zawarski, at their meeting that evening and said, "I'm done with this. I'm done with being disrespected." She went on to explain that she and neighbors are unable to even see the fire hydrant that is supposed to serve their properties because it is overgrown by weeds. She also complained about the absence of storm sewers along a 3/4 mile stretch of road. "I'm tired of hydroplaning," she said.

Zawarski said nothing during the meeting. But after it was over, he released a series of email exchanges concerning Curtain's complaint and went out to view the property. One of these emails is from Police Captain Gregory J. Gottschall. He concludes these are "construction operations", although he points out that the ordinance could have been more clear.

Captain Gottschall adds, "[T]he workers actually began work prior to 7am. The original dispatch for the call was at 0641am."

Sheri Curtain
In addition to the noise, Curtain was annoyed by the crew's use of obscenities in a neighborhood filled with children. "I was in the Marine Corps for seven years," she noted. "I can outcurse the best sailor out there. But I'm not going to do it in front of children."

Curtain acknowledged that the cursing did stop once she left them a note on their port-a-potty.

After the meeting, Zawarski also send this directive to Township Manager Melissa Shafer. "Please inform the Police Chief that if any violation occurs at Canterbury Estates, that I do expect the sub-contractor, vendor, or tradesperson to be cited and fined."

The email exchanges released by Zawarski reveal that he himself is working at that location. This puts him in an awkward position. Under the state Ethics Act, he is barred from using his office "for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated."

Aside from Curtain's concerns, which include stormwaters, Commissioners heard from Chetwin Terrace residents whowere flooded out again after a recent downpour. They learned that the traffic signals at William Penn Highway and Route 33 are timed correctly, which means that PennDOT will have to solve the growing congestion problem there. And they heard from martin Comer. "I'm an old man," he told them."But I've never seen water like we have now. It's all through the township."


Anonymous said...

Why is Zawarski even participating in the discussion?? It doesn't seem appropriate. Why is Zawarski using his position as President of Council to communicate with the Police that are investigating work his company is doing against ordinance? Why is the Zoning Officer not involved? Should Zawarski be directing the Township Manager to prosecute his company's workers or subcontractors? Lots of questions here that need to be answered.

Anonymous said...

So if Zawarski is using his elected office and violating ethics laws, he he just incriminated himself with emails.

Boy oh boy, these Zawarski's are taking headlines, not paying taxes, zoning law violations, what else are they up to?

Anonymous said...

Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, investigate the facts. Was the email exchange done via Mr. Zawarski's personal or Township email? If by personal, there are no ethics questions. The noise ordinance was violated, so this is a police matter, not zoning.

Anonymous said...

"The email exchanges released by Zawarski reveal that he himself is working at that location. Under the state Ethics Act, he is barred from using his office "for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated.""
OK! I'm ready for a non-stop barrage of vitriolic comments like you posted about Karen Dolan! But wait, is Marty Zawarski a guy? Oh well, guess we'll have to wait until the next female official violates Bernie's acute sense of ethics.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me for thinking, but how do you benefit from having your subcontractors and vendors cited? If anything, Mr. Zawarski has asked not to be treated any differently.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have not said he violated the Ethics Act. I point out what the Ethics Act says to make it clear that this is a very dicey situation for him. He says he is no longer a developer, but clearly is involved with this project. If he uses his official poaition to encourage police to ignore these claims, or uses it to persuade code to approve substandard housing, he will be breaking the law. When he asks the Township Manager to kook into what is going on with police, that is questionable, even if his intentions are the best.

Marty released these emails without a request being made. I believe he is trying his best to be above board and open, and I appreciate that. My concern is that this is a matter in which he is conflicted, and he needs to avoid doing anything that makes it appear that he is using his office to benefit his business.

Anonymous said...

What about the allegations Marty Zawarski was doing business with Atiyeh while on the board, and while the township had active litigation going with Atiyeh?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe those are more than allegations and was inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I'd like to fly off the handle and allege you are pursuing someone without cause, committing libel, being a lawyer instead of a bottom feeding disbarred attorney, and a bunch of other irrelevant garbage.

No, the truth of the matter is you are just reporting facts and pointing out this is a delicate situation for Zawarski.

Keep up the good work - it won't change one way or the other what one or two detractors does.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That's a good way of putting it. This is a "delicate" situation. I believe he is tryiong to do the right thing and being open, but the mere fact that he is giving the Township Manager any instructions about this at all is troublesome. He is conflicted, and has to be extremely careful to let things take their course with no involvement from him.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the contractors who built her home worked early to deliver the home in a timely fashion? I wonder if nearby people were disturbed so she could have her own suburban tract house?

Its pretty standard for contractors to be able to work at 7:00 am, especially this time of year when daylight begins at 5:30 am. Funny how upper income suburbanites want less big government until they demand services from local government to deal with their own little pet peeves.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your hatred of suburbia is showing.. This is no NIMBY who complasins only after she has her own home. This is a resident upset, rightly, abiut a construction crew that started before 7 am, and that was using foul languauge just a bit too freeely around the children who live there. She has every right to stand up and say NO to this, and regardless whether starting time is 7 am or 8am, the construction crew broke the law. As she explained last night, she has out up with the racket for 3 summers. She is entitled to enjoy her home in relative peace.

Whether you live in the 'burds or an urban environment, noisee at all hours of the day and night is unesettling. Even in the cities, there are ordinances dealing with this. So get off your high horse sand stop looking doiwn at people simply bc they are not urbanistas like you.

Anonymous said...

Whether he is open or not. The guy is involved in business making money while serving a san official for the township.

Robbing someone and saying oh by the way I am robbing you, does not give you a free pass. Even if you say what I am doing should be investigated.

Too much of this insider gvbullshti in all the twonships. time for the 21st century. Time for county government as the base gvoiertnment outside of cities.

Anonymous said...

I question her claims about the children being exposed to bad language. Every suburbanite out there expresses "concern for the children" whenever someone drives 30 mhp through the development or when someone is late cutting their grass. Chances are there are no children outside to hear the language, they rarely leave their suburban tract houses or fenced in back yards.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You don't know this woman or her neighborhood but come on here anonymously and deride here bc she complained about a crew that was belting out with FUs all day. I think any decent person would be upset, but I doubt you know much about decency or you would have IDed yourself.

rumes said...

dolan is female?

Anonymous said...

I would like to clarify for you anonymous some of the issues. The neighborhood is a nice residential neighborhood with lots of children ranging in ages 8 months to 16 years old just on our road alone. I certainly won't tell you that I do not or never curse but I do not do it at the top of my lungs and around the kids as they are outside playing, riding their bikes etc. our youngest is only 13, he is an Eagle Scout candidate, and he was not happy with hearing it. SO to that point yes I do have a concern of what is being broadcast in the area around the children, mine and my neighbors as they (the neighbors) do.
To the point of the noise and times of construction let me give you some insight into how that disrupts our lives. I travel for a living and some days I do not return from a business trip until 1:00 am after getting back from a flight out of Newark, later on some occasions. Now I come home with the expectation of at least being able to sleep until 7 at which time I get up and drive my son to school and then start my day working in my office for the day. Well this is not the case when I have a jackhammer ripping me out of bed at 6:36 am or on other occasions 10 workmen showing up at 6:15 and starting to throw 50lb metal frames off of a truck bed onto the ground on each other. It is not a pleasant sound and it is startling at best. My issue with all of this as it is with our neighbors is why is it that we cannot go out and do anything to our homes prior to 8:00 am any day of the week and strangers can come in and disrupt our lives starting at 7:00 am. This property that is being developed is actually the Zawarski family homestead therefore it is in my opinion no different than my property or yours. Until the home is sold it is their yard. Construction or not. My understanding is that field is taxed under a farming subsidy and I do not see how you can have it multiple ways. Is it a farmstead, private property or is it a development? If it is an active development then no more reduced taxes and clean the field up and maintain the weeds below 8" in height. if it is private property then abide by the same rules we have to abide by for noise and such, if it is a farm and you are benefiting from a tax subsidy then stop building and farm the land.
Look at it this way. what if I wanted to build a garage on my property yes it is construction but the way the ordinance reads I cannot use power tools on my property until 8 is this too not construction on private property??? Also take into consideration that is not Monday through Friday, this is also occurring on Saturdays. I would assume that you yourself don't mind sleeping in a little on Saturday, we cannot.
I do not care that there is construction going on I am outraged at the inconsiderate manor is which is being carried out.
Whether you like suburbanites or not, we take care of our properties ourselves we spend a great deal of time and energy on our largest investment, our homes. We look after our neighbors, we watch out for each others children. We work hard for what we have and we are respectful of our neighbors. We just want to enjoy what we have strived to maintain and have our homes as you would or your neighbors. Personally I would love to follow some of these people or the Zawarski's to their neighborhoods and bring my air compressor and some power tools and start the construction of a dog house in their front yards at 6:00 am on a Saturday and see how they like the disruption to their lives.
I am also not in favor of the sub-contractors alone being fined. Zawarski is the general contractor and therefore I feel they should bare fines and penalties as well since they are the catalyst to the issues and should ultimately be responsible for the conduct on their property as I would be held accountable for something occurring on my property.