About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bethlehem - A City Divided Against Itself

Rev. Mable Humphrey warned against a house divided 
Rev. Mable Humphrey, a preacher at Grace Deliverance Baptist Church who delivered the invocation at last night's crowded meeting of Bethlehem City Council, just might have set the record for lengthiest prayer ever, but it was a good one. Although I'm sure the Jesus references were something that the Jews in attendance could do without, she prayed for unity and reminded everyone that "no city or house divided against itself will stand."  If that's so, Bethlehem should come crashing down even sooner than Martin Tower. Last night, a nearly unanimous Council voted 6-1 to approve a new ordinance that permits developer Lew Ronca to tear down the tower with $9 million of our money, and develop the 53-acre site with a mix of office buildings, residences and retail. They did so despite protests from 21 of 22 residents, merchants and assorted professors.

Rod Holt, Apollo Grill co-owner, reminded both City Council and Mayor Donchez of what Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto supposedly said after the Pearl Harbor attack. "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

"You all know how that ended," Holt concluded.

He was hinting that the Administration and Council will pay a heavy price at the polls for their actions last night in adopting an ordinance almost universally opposed by Downtown Bethlehem and South Side merchants. Some say this anti-incumbent sentiment is what has already swept Olga Negron and Michael Colon into office.

Although Mayor Donchez insisted at the start of the meeting that the process was fair to all involved, Holt countered he was at a meeting with Planning Director Darlene Heller denied that the Administration was talking to the developer in and that Community and Economic Development Director Alicia Karner twice refused to let merchants meet with the Mayor. Diane Holt, Rod's wife, added that Karner came into a meeting with "guns blazin'" and yelled at merchants who wanted to meet with the Mayor.

Throughout the evening, Holt's allegations were confirmed by Brew Works owner Jeff Fegley, Donegal Square owner Neville Gardner and Hotel Bethlehem Managing partner Bruce Haines.

"We were shut down," complained Fegley.

Neither Karner nor Heller responded to these allegations, but they were praised earlier by the Mayor and later by City Council. They have previously denied that they prevented merchants from seeking out the Mayor.

Jim Fiorentino, Chair of the Planning Commission, also addressed Council. He told them he first became aware of the new ordinance at Martin Tower in June, and was immediately struck by the detail. He believes he and other planners were misled about the involvement of developer Lew Ronca.

He likened planning to building a snowball, which he said should be built at the top of a hill, with many people helping. Once that snowball starts rolling down a hill, it's hard to change it.

Fiorentino concluded that adoption of this ordinance would send the message that the City can be underhanded in everything we do."

Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines had three points. First, even with Eric Evans' amendments, the amount of destination retail permitted at the Martin Tower site will still be 2 1/2 times the size of Historic Downtown Bethlehem shopping district. Second, the developer is being rewarded with a windfall after he blighted the tower himself. Finally, he called the City Revitalization and improvement Zone (CRIZ), a special incentive under which Ronca can use state and local taxes to finance development, the "root cause" of the problem. He warned that Ronca can use the CRIZ to drive every downtown merchant out of business, and then move the CRIZ downtown after buying all their buildings at reduced prices.

Irishman Neville Gardner told the story of being forced to call Ronca from Scotland because the developer was going to refuse to permit parking at the Martin Tower lot during Celtic Classic."You're dancin' with the Devil," he warned.

Dana Grubb suggested that the City should conduct a number of neighborhood meetings, as it did when it considered a new zoning ordinance.

Kisann Albanese, a massage therapist downtown, noted the absence of both a plan and the developer.

The sole supporter of Martin Tower rezoning was David "Lump" Sanders, owner of the popular Center Street deli where the famous Table of Knowledge is located.

"Some days you're the bug, some days you're the windshield," he started.He noted plans like these always have opposition, including the Sands and Lowe's. He said that Martin Tower doesn';t generate enough taxes to even pay for a police motorcycle.

When all were said and done, all Council members save Cathy Reuscher voted for the mixed use ordinance. Eric Evans stated that the people in the room do not speak for all 77,000 Bethlehem residents. Recchiuti, who plans on moving to Hanover Township, voted for big boxes and suburban sprawl. Bryan Callahan amazingly avoided insulting the audience for the first time in several meetings. Lou Stellato said, "We gottta' do something!" for the third time. Adam Waldron wants to "scale it down," a little bit, but not enough to vote No.Reynolds tried to be conciliatory, but

It's too soon to say whether merchants will challenge this ordinance in court. But it's very likely that supporters of this ordinance will be challenged in upcoming elections. Historically, mercahnts have stayed out of electoral politics, but that appears to be changing.

The City is divided against itself.

Updated 11:45 am. There are stories at WFMZ-TV69, Morning Call and Express Times.

88 comments:

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see if there was any specificity for Martin Towers property written into the CRIZ application.

Anonymous said...

Even when the concerned citizens, responsible business owners all, make it clear that Ms. Karner does not act in the best interest of the city you defend her actions and mock the citizens. How can the Mayor allow such a conceited hothead to act in such a disrespectful manner? He tried to please his good friend the state senator by giving Karner a job but she is out of control. Some people are not cut out to be leaders and hold positions of responsibility

The people deserve better. It is a shame that these concerned citizens and business leaders of Bethlehem have been treated so disrespectfully.


Mr. Mayor it is time for you to lead from the front and not from behind. If he cannot be a leader maybe Willie will change his mind and run for Mayor. This time he would no doubt win.

Anonymous said...

This underscores that Donchez isn't a leader

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that they may have a good case for "Contract Zoning"

Anonymous said...

seems like democracy at work. point, counterpoint, resolution, not everybody's happy.

Anonymous said...

Ronca laughing all the way to the bank

Anonymous said...

Thank God!!! That building should never have been built in the first place. The Executives who put that building up should all be in it when it comes down. They failed to put the money and any investment into the plant and in doing so ran the business into the ground. That building is a symbol of mismanagement and complete neglect. I applaud the Mayor and City Council for making the correct decision. Rip the thing down and build the West Side some nice stores and shops.

Anonymous said...

10 East Church St., the finest little whore house in town if you are a millionaire

Anonymous said...

hey bobby, what happened to your open door? didn't realize karner was your gate keeper. You two need to sharpen up your resumes as your futures are very dim.

Anonymous said...

and while they were not listening to the public, council and the administration also gave you a 2.2% tax increase, a raise in recycling fees and the hidden (by donchez) Hirko tax. (note that the recycling fee comes from karner's department) Something really smells in bethlum and it's not the horses stables.

Anonymous said...

Guess your love affair with Karner is over. She has been outed for the crude bully that she is. She is a political animal, which is why she got the job she has. But her temperament is ill-equipped to work with the public. She showed distain for the merchants whose hard work and money helped build the Bethlehem downtown and its national reputation for excellence. They did it without government handouts. They deserve more respect from petty bureaucrats like Karner.

Anonymous said...

At the meeting with the merchants 6 days in advance of the August Planning Commission meetings, the request from the merchants was not to simply meet with the Mayor, but that the Mayor pull the ordinance from the PC agenda and/or make amendments to it before the PC reconsidered the document. Because the PC agenda had been set by the Chairman, because the packets had already gone out to the members, because once the ordinance went to the PC in June, the Mayor no longer had the authority to table the ordinance, pull it from the agenda, or make changes to it mid process. As a consequence, I strongly encouraged the merchants to attend the PC meeting to express their concerns. I believed this was the best avenue to get their message to the PC members who were contemplating a number of changes to the ordinance. I coached them on areas in which I thought they could have significant influence, primarily because I didn't know which PC amendments would pass and I thought the merchants would be instrumental in provoking change to the ordinance.

At no time did I ever say they had not right to meet with the Mayor on this issue or that the Mayor wouldn't take the time to hear their concerns. I am not the Mayor's secretary - I do not keep his schedule - I do not block people from calling him - I do not stop people from walking into his open door - I do not even have access to his calendar. And while it didn't come up, I would have most certainly never discouraged a meeting with the Mayor after the PC meeting. I did strongly, strongly encouraged them to attend the meeting and speak out during public comment because I believe in good government, I believe in the process, and because I believed the merchants were running out of time before the PC made a recommendation. However, I never suggested council chambers was the only way to communicate on this issue.

At the end of the meeting, I was optimistic that some of the merchants good ideas would be incorporated into the ordinance and we shook hands as we left. This was not a confrontational meeting. It was a productive meeting with lots of good dialogue, all of which was reported back to the Mayor. While we did not always agree with the points of the merchants, there was no yelling, there were no confrontations, there were no fights.

I hope this clears up any misstatements made about this meeting.

Alicia Miller Karner

Anonymous said...

Absurd. Suddenly, people are not going to go to the Apollo Grill because a Scheetz and a shitty Chili's chain restaurant pop up in a part of Bethlehem only local residents will ever care to go to?

Anonymous said...

Guess your love affair with Karner is over. She has been outed for the crude bully that she is. She is a political animal, which is why she got the job she has. But her temperament is ill-equipped to work with the public. She showed distain for the merchants whose hard work and money helped build the Bethlehem downtown and its national reputation for excellence. They did it without government handouts. They deserve more respect from petty bureaucrats like Karner.

Really? There isn't a single store that would make me get in my car and drive downtown other than restaurants. Sure, it's quaint but the retail leave a LOT to be desired - unless of course you are a 65 year old woman looking for figurines or country crafts.

Anonymous said...

can karner and there will be no weeping inside or outside of city hall.

Anonymous said...

So, it's the Planning Commission's fault. Got it.

Anonymous said...

9:01,
So some of the most respected business people in Bethlehem are all liars. You can't spin this one no matter how hard you and your puppet masters try. Go to your office, prop up your bear feet and look up the word integrity. You just might learn something.

Anonymous said...

"bear feet"? Is this Yogi?

Anonymous said...

These "respected business people" sure do seem crass and petty.

Anonymous said...

9:48,

They are that big. Got to be to support

Anonymous said...

Let the historic business district pound sand.

Michael Donovan said...

See what it takes to manage economic and community development strategy? NIZ, CRIZ: these are meant to be a combination of improves to both the economy and community in an urban area, not a way to fill the piggybanks of a few in the know and with connections.

I do have faith that public policy can have excellent results. Sadly, it appears that politicians around here have little understanding of what their true priority should be.

Statesmen or women they are not.

Anonymous said...

They did listen to the residents of Bethlehem, the 74,900 that didn't seem to have a problem with this and didn't show up at the meetings. The merchants in downtown, do not represent the citizens of Bethlehem. I believe Council did the right thing. Now lets get some buildings on that land.

Anonymous said...

Trinketmart is coming to west Bethlehem to put Main St.out of business

Anonymous said...

There was a crooked man who worked a crooked deal

He found several crooked people in a round but crooked building

They said a prayer, to the citizens they listened not

And they closed their crooked deal

Anonymous said...

A good leader will not block development to prohibit competition . A good leader will help create an environment for the redevelopment of blighted properties. A good leader will see to it that the tax base is maximized, so that the citizens of the city can continue to receive public services , and live in a civil and safe society.

It is such a travesty that a handful of downtown merchants reach the wild conclusion that the Martin Tower project will one day close them all down. That is an absurd conclusion to a project that has not even started. If this local group of opposition prefers that the Tower property be reinvented for a use that does not "infringe" on their turf, then please do find a developer who will spent millions of dollars of his own money to lose that money, in the interest of appeasing competition.

My guess is you will be searching far and wide, and find no one. Reality check....blighted properties have been receiving state assistance for the last two decades, all over the State of PA, in the interest of job growth and consumer demand. 77,000 people less 21 do not seem to have a problem with this, and actually welcome the jobs, retail, residential and office space that will arrive in the future.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"They did listen to the residents of Bethlehem, the 74,900 that didn't seem to have a problem with this and didn't show up at the meetings. "

That argument was made both by Evans and Lump. It is often made bu people to support an unpopular move. They will popint to the room and then observe, "Look how many people are NOT here!"

The absence of 76,900 people does not mean that what is being done is popular. It means that mist people are apathetic, something we all know.

Anonymous said...

One party Machines don't need to listen to particular concerns from resident/business people/voters. They know what's best. You keep electing the machine. You deserve the government you elect. Whether Rs in townships or Ds in cities. One party rule will eventually fail citizens.

Anonymous said...

Main St. merchants..........waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. I 'm personally tired of my city taxes flowing into Main St. There are other areas of the city in need also. I along with other West Side residents pay city taxes just like the Main St. merchants do. The problem is Main St merchants continue to be propped up with our city taxes while the blue collar West Siders have got nothing in return for decades! Pay back time!

Anonymous said...

Boy, based on the last poster alone Bedlum is a city divided! West-siders jealous of Main Street. South-siders trying to groe their business district. Now the Martin Tower Mall of Trinkets, featuring a Sheetz and Walgreens designed to put the sad-sack Westgate Mall out of business. The only thing constant in life is change...

Anonymous said...

evans and lump aren't known for their common sense

Anonymous said...

Donovan - Your observations are on point. However, you must realize that development of this magnitude can only be done by few people who have the resources to do it. Who else would you expect to outlay millions of dollars except the few that have that kind of money?

Anonymous said...

Maybe now people can see why Jim Gregory was put in prison? All the pieces are coming together. Would this all have happened if Mr. Gregory were still in Bethlehem?

Did he warn people about these things and pay the price? Soon he will be back and hopefully it is not to late to fix all of this.

Gregory in 2017!

Anonymous said...

Who the Hell is Jim Gregory?

Anonymous said...

Gregory is a legend in his own mind. A has-been who still has a sorry following on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Bring back Michael Bay! He could implode Martin Tower at no cost the city for his next Transformers movie.

Anonymous said...

Jim Gregory was the political shining light of Bethlehem . Much like the star on the south mountain. His absence is sorely felt by all.

Heywood Jablowmee said...

"His absence is sorely felt by all."

But his presence in the pokey is being sorely felt by many fellow incarceratees.

Anonymous said...

Did former Mayor Callahan approve the CRIZ for the Martin tower area? Because I was told he currently works for or is affiliated with Ronca? Any truth to this?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No. There is no truth to what you have written. Callahan did nit approve the CRIZ in Bethlehem. That came from the state. And no, Callahan does not work for Ronca. He works for Mike Perrucci, who is one of the CRIZ developers, but that's onlt a small part of what he has.

Anonymous said...

Ok. Thanks for clarifying Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Many of us are interested, but could not be there. That's life. That's why we are grateful that Bernie goes. Besides, what if all of us who were not there showed up? Could the fire marshal find seats for us all? And who listens anyway?. 99.9% of those who did show up were against it, and all the council but one voted in favor anyway.

Now, let's look at this. The Tower is an antique mistake, it exists, the land around it exists, and somebody wants to do something constructive with it. Nothing the developers put there is going to make me prefer that location to the historic district shops, for those things we now go to the Historic District in search of. The fact the downtown historic district exists does not keep us from patronizing other businesses in Bethlehem now, and whatever is put there will not keep us away from downtown Bethlehem.

The other night, we were at Granny's for a bit of supper, and the one low point of the evening is that Bethlehem's idiot parking meters keep intruding into our lives like stationary Ringwraiths, threatening us. I have to go down to the street at least once and feed the thing more quarters. Now think about this -- what if, after the Martin Towers property is developed, could the income the City gets from whatever is there go toward reforming the grabby, intrusive parking meters downtown? It is worth thinking about.

There are huge numbers of medical offices in the blocks surrounding Martin Towers. Probably a lot of the new retail there could be aimed toward the convenient of patients visiting doctors and physical therapists and dentists and such. And some local services--food, household, hardware... for people who live out that way. Good planning and cooperation might be a win/win for the whole city.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Could the fire marshal find seats for us all?"

He has a hard enough time finding a seat for me.

Anonymous said...

7:10,
Good one, Bernie. Thanks for your coverage on this matter.

Anonymous said...

I write to clarify the issue of whether the Administration was powerless to have the ordinance removed from the August Planning Commission meeting.
It is highly disingenuous for Ms. Karner to imply that the Administration was unable to entertain the request of citizens and business owners to put a halt to this proposal. This statement requires one to believe that the Planning Commission would not have been positively disposed to re-table the Martin Tower zoning ordinance in August had we received such a request from the Administration. Instead, in response to our July tabling we were presented with a second weak excuse for a zoning ordinance. A second zoning ordinance with no actual teeth relative to percentages of use or square feet. Any indication from the Administration that they had second thoughts about this ordinance would have received, in my opinion, a unanimous second vote to table.


Jim Fiorentino

Anonymous said...

I have said many times that Karner does not care about this City or the people that were born and raised here and she looks at the merchants as people below her. She was handed this job, no interview because the Mayor did not know who she was when he appointed her. Karner is a liar and a back stabber and feels she is untouchable as she sits at her desk with her bear feet up on her desk as she talks to you. This Martin tower thing has been in the works for more than a year with the input of outside help (guess who) and the Mayor has been part of keeping it quiet and than trying to push it through and I am shocked that certain council members let it happen. I also don't know how Brong is getting a pass on all of this because he was also fully aware of everything that has been going on. Bob's plan is people will forget about this by the time his election comes around. Karner must go now if the City is to move forward.

Anonymous said...

the above annon's make a point. Bernie, I read your Bethlehem News story. On the whole I thought it was good. Having said that I am concerned that you have a dog in this fight and how that affects your objectivity. You are an apologist for Ms. Karner and the Mayor.

This is worrisome because while all the attention is on the mess that is Allentown the Bethlehem insider game that has gone on for years goes under-reported.
Ms. Karner was part of the Callaahn inner circle in his bid for county executive. She had already picked out the drapes for her office. Her horse lost and a friend bailed her out with her job on the Donchez Admisntration. However, we learn that Mr. Callahan is part of the CRIZ and she has had some questionable dealings with the players. Are the pieces all coming together? Is it all coincidence?

Bethlehem has its won dirty little secrets but has been in the shadow of Allentown corruption. Maybe the chickens are coming home to roost.
I think Bob is a nice guy but some wonder who is running the show and does the right hand know what the left hand is doing. Many have questions and reputations are at stake.

Thank you Mr. Flioretino for your insight.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Fiorentino for exposing the truth regarding another false narrative by a member of the Donchez administration. The fact of the matter is that the administration had zero interest to negotiate with the merchants on this subject after spending 6 months in deal making with Ronca to get him his retail to maximize his CRIZ value. The administration sent us to the "public forum" for any changes to take the heat off their backs from Ronca. Karner made it clear to me on July 8th and then again to my fellow merchants on August 7th that they were going to make no change to the ordinance to address our retail concerns.

The real question here is: Why did the administration at every public meeting go to such great lengths to take full credit for developing this ordinance when in fact it was a joint development project as finally revealed with the developer having significant influence and getting virtually everything he wanted during these negotiations except a Conference/Expos Center and wholesale Beverage distributor use? Why did the insulate the developer who helped write this ordinance from questioning by the public, planning commission, and city council?

Bruce Haines

Anonymous said...

When you are in a hole, stop digging.

Anonymous said...

karner is nothing but a heavy burden of weight on this administration. Time to trim down the fat

Anonymous said...

This all strikes me as very unusual behavior for Bob.
I just don't get it.
Something is missing.

Anonymous said...

Jim Gregory was the political shining light of Bethlehem . Much like the star on the south mountain. His absence is sorely felt by all.

Isn't he a wife beater and stalker and prison inmate? Yeah, that's who we need. WTF is wrong with people?

Anonymous said...

I have to go down to the street at least once and feed the thing more quarters.

The meters are all controlled by smartphones now. What? Do you tie your horse up?

Anonymous said...

Since this Karner is in charge of economic development, one would assume the merchants would feel "below her". There seems to be some real inferiority complex stuff going on here. Look, the building has to go. What the hell do you want to do with it? Of course this has been going on for a long time, it's a major project. Get your heads out of your asses.

Anonymous said...

8:17,

That's what you get when one is tainted with money and directed by puppet masters. Maybe booby will form another citizens committee to figure it out

Anonymous said...

I'm a little perplexed at Mr. Haines comment. Bruce, do you really think a City is not going to work with a developer who is going to spend millions of dollars in a redevelopment project? You're a smart guy. What planet are you on?

Also, the City has no duty to "negotiate" with merchants over the Martin Tower project.

Anonymous said...

10:16,

Well written AK

Anonymous said...

10:16 You are spot on. The fact that these merchants think they have a "right" to be involved in any type of "negotiation" on a property that they do not own, is beyond me, It's really laughable !!!! Of course there were conversations with the owner of the site and the City. Nothing could have or would have moved forward with out those conversations. That is what is supposed to happen!!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

The city does have an obligation to listen to every concerned person, from developer to west side resident to merchant. When the City was formulating its new ordinance, that's when public outreach should have occurred at meetings throughout the city. The developer could have been invited, not to force him to speak, so he can listen to what people want and get some good ideas. The people of Bethlehem actually are pretty smart. I think collectively, they could come up with every good ideas.

Anonymous said...

Under your theory, then, the duty to "listen" means what exactly? I think the entire sordid history shows that the City absolutley did "listen" to the complaints, and even scaled back the retail expansion.

What you do not understand is that the City has no duty to "negotiate" with others who oppose a project. Essentially what you are saying is that a redevelopment must be killed unless it has 100% support.

Do you realize that every single time a major project comes into play all over the county, there is always opposition? So, what then? Just end redevelopment until a consensus of the people is reached?

Wow...you are not actually suggesting that, are you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

3:22, I don't know how many times I have to repeat this, but objectivity is complete horse shit. No reporter is truly objective and anyone who makes that claim is an absolute liar. I have discussed this with good reporters and they agree.

I am predisposed to believe that both the Mayor and his top staffers are people of integrity and do not hide that predisposition. But I also believe quite strongly that I have an obligation to tell the truth and to report information that casts even people I like in a negative light. I did that, too. I reported on the RTK. One day after I had the RTK, I had the text exchange between Karner and Ronca out there for the world to see. I produced the timeline detailing all the behind-the-scene meetings with the developer. And I am predisposed NOT to like or trust developers. What you get from me here is the full story as best as i can give it, including my own disclosed biases. Had I been interested in protecting Karner, I never would have disclosed the text exchange and you likely never would have known about it. But I am more interested in the truth, despite my respect for her and the Mayor. I have alloowed anonymous comments challenging the integrity of both the Mayor and Karner bc they are public officials and some of the things that happened here raise that question. I have deleted a few personal attacks, especially the vulgar ones, all of them anonymous.

I realize this is not the traditional way news is reported. But in my view, it is the honest way. When I write for the newspaper, unless it is analysis, I stick to the facts. When I write for the blog, you will know what happened and what i think. I also like the dialogue, which points out facts and insights I may have missed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:10, I think the City failed in the listening department. Most of the changes of which you speak occurred bc of the Planning Commission, not City staff. Moreover, there was very little time for the public to respond. They had just a few days notice of the first Planning Commission meeting. There was no outreach to West Bethlehem, where the development will be located. For a project of that magnitude (not every project), good planning should have dictated public outreach in West Bethlehem, where there is an excellent block watch. This failure was a mistake, and both the Mayor and City Council have acknowledged mistakes were made. Are you trying to go back on that concession?

Anonymous said...

What concession? Do you suggest a phone bank to the 77,000 city residents to get their approval? Outreach? You cannot be serious.

There is a reason meetings are advertised and held in a public domain, for the public to attend, and for the public to speak. That is the responsibility of government and that is what was done.

The city does not need permission from its residents to re-zone a dilapidated, blighted waste of space that could be developed to increase revenue to the city, and services to the people who come here, and live here.

Anonymous said...

Bob may be a decent man but he has not been an effective Mayor. He was always the last guy to make a decision when he was on Council and always seemed too worried about offending people. That is not a good trait as a leader and Mayor. Donchez is just not present enough in or out of City Hall and he delegates too much. This was certainly an example of his DCED Director's failure but the bottom line is he hired her and let her do it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:36, A decision of this magnitude cried out for outreach. This is something the City itself has acknowledged. There should have been several meetings with the public, just as there were for the zoning ordinance. As for advertising the public meeting, you really don't want to go there. I believe there may have been two days notice of the Martin Tower plan. Public outreach would have benefited all involved.

Anonymous said...

What kind of "outreach" was done for the Sands Casino, and Lowes? The process is the same. The meetings are advertised and are all public. No one is shut out. There is no such thing as "outreach" other than the advertised meetings and ordinances that appear in the legal notices.

What you suggest is the exact same thing you criticize. Tailor a project based upon special interest for the special interests themselves who oppose it. Just because you do not like the outcome is not a reason to change the process. The process has been the same for decades and will remain the same for years to come.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have no recollection whether there were outreaches for the Sands or Lowe's. i know both were very controversial, and if there had been no outreach, that might be part of the problem. A development of this magnitude cried out for public outreach. Why are you so afraid? The net result would very likely be a better ordinance with less controversy. And there was next to no public notice of the major changes at Martin Tower.

What kills me is that City officials have recognized this was a mistake. This is not me. This is not the merchants. This is the City itself that has admitted it should have done a better job of reaching out to the public.

Jim Fiorentino said...

The ordinance to allow for the re-zoning of the Sands site was done in such away that the developers needed additional variances, exceptions, etc for the project to work. They had to come to the Planning Commission for approval. The people of the City were part of that planning process. There was give and take on both sides. Regardless of how you feel about the result it was open.

The Martin Tower ordinance is so pro development that Ronca and Hetrick can do what they want and will not need to be concerned about what is best for the City nor will they need much if anything from the PC. Councilman Recchiutti's statement betrays a lack of understanding of the intelligence of these developers if he believes that they will have any difficulty presenting a clean plan under this weak ordinance. Or perhaps he is simply willing to try to convince us of it.

We have allowed people with little or no experience in negotiations to roll our elected officials.

Jim Fiorentino

Anonymous said...

Afraid of what, turning a blighted money pit into something useful, and "reaching out" to a developer willing to risk millions on it/?

You're so quick to lash out at a City for doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. The Mayor and Council reached a consensus after months of public input and public comment.

The Special interest group of a whopping 21 people did not get their way, so you try to disguise the process as corrupted and unfair. There was nothing unfair or corrupted in the process. You already admitted that you are "predisposed" for a dislike of developers, and that speaks miles.

Your biggest problem is that your blogging is based on sheer emotion and devoid of facts. You swing where it suits your agenda, and swing where it does not.

Did your buddy Mr. Angle and Mr. Stoffa engage in public outreach for the sale of Gracedale? NO!!! They voted on on it and then faced the music later. You are ONLY a proponent for "outreach" when it suits your personal emotional agaenda, and nothing more.

This is why you are insignificant and sad. What a total hypocrite.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I see. Now we get to the real source of your problem. Me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

And actually, Stoffa and Angle did conduct four public outreach meetings re Gracedale. It did go to referendum, which i considered inappropriate and would consider inappropriate here.

Anonymous said...

"Compassion" zoning does not exist. "outreach" zoning does not exist. Check out MPC, and read up on what it says. The City followed to the letter of the law, what the process is, that was set up by the PA Legislature.

Your problem is that when you hate a certain law, you reach far and wide to marginalize everyone involved. Same with campaign finance. If you spent a tenth of your time trying to effect change in the laws you dislike instead shitting all over everyone, people might have more respect for you. You are consistently inconsistent based on emotion. Get a grip!

Anonymous said...

"And actually, Stoffa and Angle did conduct four public outreach meetings re Gracedale. "


What outreach? They advertised the meetings in the newspaper as required by law. Just like the City did for the entire process around Martin Tower.

Anonymous said...

Wise words from a 2004 story on Bethworks: "''We're bringing in some heavy hitters, people who have done some major projects around the world,'' Fischbein said. ''If the planning process takes a little longer, the final result will be better."
http://www.mcall.com/all-a1_4workssep15-story.html

Jim Fiorentino

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, by pointing out the flaws in these laws and the problems that result because of these flaws, change is effected. This blog has long advocated changes in local and state practices, and has been partially successful on the local level. Meetings in Lehigh and Northampton County are now filmed, thanks in some measure to the advocacy on this blag. Some local campaign finance reports are now disclosed online, thanks in part to the advocacy of this blog. For any person who believes in democracy, public outreach is not a bad thing. I agree the final decision must be made by elected officials who have better access to facts and are less emotional, but the City itself has recognized that the process was flawed. There should have been much more outreach to the public, and the developer should have been invited to listen. This would not have been wasted time bc I have heard many good ideas at meetings you failed to attend. There was next to no notice of this proposal. This was not just 21 people at a meeting the night it passed. This was at least 80 or 90 different people weighing in with public comments. These were not just merchants, but residents and members of LU's acedmia. They were given five minutes of one-way communication. No dialogue.

There is nothing in the law that requires community outreach. Nor would I propose it in all cases. But in a major undertaking such as this, City officials now recognize they would have done better had they been more inclusive. That is what the Mayor, planners and Council members say. That is not just me.

You are allowing your hatred of me to make you a shill for persons who are getting $9 million as well as the right to use taxes to fund development. And you are getting too personal. if you want to attack me, sign your name or i will delete you from this point forward.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What outreach? They advertised the meetings in the newspaper as required by law. Just like the City did for the entire process around Martin Tower."

Wrong. They conducted four meetings in the four corners of the County, just to get public input. They will tell you now they should have done even more and should have tried some of the things suggested.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

If you want to make arguments, fine. But do not attack people anonymously or i will delete you, as i just did. This is not LVL.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The process for the Sands was handled in the same manor. The then-administration handed the Ordinance over to the Sands' counsel and had them draft the Ordinance so that there wouldn't be an issue with zoning. There was only ever one issue with zoning and that involved the spaces in the parking garage.

Anonymous said...

2:26 that is actually just wrong. The hearings involving the Sands started with an ordinance proposed by Councilman Leeson to prohibit the Casino in the IR zone where it is located. The 4-3 vite by council was a vite against that ordinance.

Anonymous said...

BO,

Obviously some people just can not stand the truth or they will argue against anything you write. The bottom line is that you have reported the good, bad and ugly of this in much more light than the two newspapers. Appreciate your efforts.
Bethlehem's leaders and staff have their warts but there is much more to this and there will continue to be much more to this issue. Keep up the good fight and the great reporting.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks. I have no problem with criticism and actually appreciate it. But these are people who have a personal animus for me and doin't reallyt care about the issue.

Anonymous said...

So clearly you use the app that still gets you tickets and still has meter limits.

Anonymous said...

don't worry. as long as they are democrats, there will no harm , and no foul in the chambers. as long as they have a D in front of their name, and the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania state democrat machine keeps rolling, nothing will change, including this group idiots.

Mr. mayor, you are trying to stay as far away from this as you can. in reality,
" Mr. good guy", you had a chance to end this mess and you chose to do nothing. why ? politics and party.

There will be no revolt from this group of voters in the city. In fact the base , has no clue , wtf , is going on in this city and specifically , this issue, nor do they care. As long as the unions, and the other special interest groups get fed at the table of crony capitalism, its all good.

Hey Bethlehem tax payers, did you like the way Willie Reynolds, Callahan , the mayors office , the city depts./admin treated you? Gitmo prisoners are given more respect than you.

Until the machine falls apart and or breaks, this same crew will be elected over and over again, no matter what they do.

THE REAL SAD THING HERE, THEY / CITY COUNCIL AND THE MAYORS OFFICE, ALL KNOW THAT AND BC OF THAT , THEY COULD CARE LESS ABOUT HEARING ANY OPPOSITION --- PERIOD.

Anonymous said...

The 11:40 poster hit the nail on the head. The elected officials lack of respect for existing business owners and residents of this city is the issue at hand here. The Mayor and Karner made it clear that they were not going to change the zoning ordinance based upon any input from the downtown merchants. They did their long negotiation with Ronca and were finished without considering the impact to downtown. They told us that any changes would have to come from the planning commission or council. Failure to consider the impact of this ordinance on their existing downtown shows either a complete lack of common sense or lack of respect.

In either case, the mayor never deviated nor reached out to his obviously upset group of business owners and property owners. His only interest was the developer and one piece of property rather than the entire city. The planning commission tried to make the situation more palatable but the city didn't listen to them much either. Council made an effort but it was half hearted. Reynolds suggested reduction to 200,000sf, he voted for 380,000sf or twice the size of the historic downtown while Waldron voted against it before he voted for it?? The fact remains that the council failed to hold the Mayor accountable for lying to the Planning commission,Council, and the public about the process.

The developer hid in the hallways during the meetings despite the fact that he essentially wrote the ordinance and council never challenged that nor asked to question the developer in the process. This was a rubber stamp council which makes them useless. They as well as the mayor will pay for their mistake in the next election cycle if not before. It appears they have awoken the sleeping giant and the hard working business owners and citizens don't like being lectured to by deceptive elected and appointed city leaders. This is far from over so stay tuned!!

Anonymous said...

I noted the lawsuit against the NIZ in Allentown and the reference to "equal treatment under the law". I don't think the downtown Bethlehem merchants are being treated equally to Ronca with his most recent CRIZ handout added to his $9 million handout from the RACP.

Wouldn't be surprised to see a CRIZ legal challenge as well which would throw and monkey wrench into the grand scheme orchestrated by Bethlehem leadership. The State legislature is the root cause of this whole mess and they need to be thrown out of office just like the Bethlehem Mayor and Council Members.