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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Martin Tower RTK an Exercise In Participatory Journalism

On Tuesday night's public hearing on zoning changes at Martin Tower, I was sitting inside the gym at East Stroudsburg High School South, watching my grandson play basketball. I refuse to miss his games this year. But I'm told that my name and the RTK were mentioned frequently. I feel it is important to make some clarifications about the RTK.

First, it was not my RTK, but an exercise in participatory journalism. - While I love to hear nice things about myself, I need to point out that the RTK was effective only because several people reviewed it and made their own observations. Frank Barran, Bruce Haines and Jeff Fegley are three names that come to mind. That is why I posted the material online. Had I been the only one reviewing it, I'd still be trying to figure it out. .

Second, the RTK refutes improper pay-to-play. - There is no question that many elected officials have received political contributions from CRIZ beneficiaries. I admit I was suspicious. I asked for all emails, even from personal email accounts. I find it interesting that, among the hundreds of pages supplied, there is no mention at all of these campaign contributions. Whatever role these contributions have played, they are subtle, not overt.

Third, Bethlehem gave me everything, even information that made it look bad. - I immediately jumped on the text exchange between Lew Ronca and Alicia Karner. That was red meat. But that period of just three days is the sole text exchange between the two. There is also a much more limited exchange between Alicia Karner and Ronca lackey Duane Wagner, but it is unrelated to Martin Tower. I did not like to see Mayor Donchez signing off on a letter typed in advance by Ronca, but the City was forthright and disclosed it.  The City was trying to be as open as possible. I need to make that clear as someone who files frequent RTKs and knows how many jurisdictions drag their feet and deny everything. i was quite impressed at the honesty.

Fourth, Ronca penchant for secrecy is what really hurt the City's credibility. - The only time Ronca tipped his hand was when he discussed the possibility of a high end gas station. Other than that, no one has a clue what he plans to do. His unwillingness come up with a specific plan and defend it in public has hurt the City's credibility. The City should have done a better job of explaining that this may be its own ordinance, but that it was meeting extensively with Ronca. The City should also have realized the firestorm it was creating when it was allowing virtually unlimited and publicly subsidized retail, with no concrete plan. I think it knows that now.

Fifth, the RTK reveals no evidence of any criminal behavior. -  I'm told that the FBI was mentioned several times. They're a little busy right now, and that's just with all the reports concerning terrorism. I see nothing on the RTK that would warrant an FBI or any kind of criminal investigation. I think those concerns are a bit over the top. If you disagree, please tell me what evidence of criminality is unveiled by the RTK.

What now? - Eric Evans was right when he suggested this zoning ordinance should be tabled until Ronca produces a clear plan detailing what he intends to do. There are simply too many uncertainties without a clear vision. While the Martin Tower tract needs to be developed, that's no excuse for allowing the very opposite of smart growth.This is the only workable solution.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

The information shows an inside communications channel with the Mayors economic head, Karner. The ongoing meeting communication is insider preference. We don't know what other communication went on that was not recorded. We all know he was given special access when he wanted it.

You obviously want to protect this woman as you have shown numerous times but the information you have provided paints a different picture. She should be asked by city council to come clean with all her contacts on and off the record regarding this developer and his associates.

Anonymous said...

4:33,

BINGO

Anonymous said...

Don't understand why everyone's panties are in a bunch about the lack of a site development plan for the site. The zoning regulations for the site are being debated and adjusted; whatever is proposed for the property will have to comply with the final, adopted ones. After which, the submitted plan will be reviewed by all the City Departments and then presented to the Planning Commission for approval (no Board of Supervisors or Commissioners in the City like in the Townships, the PC is more than just a recommending body). The matters at hand now are the max allowable square footages of commercial, acceptable uses, etc.. There doesn't have to be any site layout presented for this.

Anonymous said...

4:33 What planet do you live on? It's 50 plus acres in the middle of Bethlehem. Of course there is going to be communication between Karner, the administration and the developer. How could there not? That is the nature of the process. I think the city has on several occasions pointed out that they have had conversations with all interested party's . Just because you weren't one of them doesn't mean something was illegal or in the dark. At 4:33 AM maybe you should be getting some sleep!

Anonymous said...

"While I love to hear nice things about myself"

That's a lovely pair of sweatpants you're wearing.

Merry Christmas...

Anonymous said...

754 is spot-on.

It would have been weird and improper if the City had NOT consulted with the land-owner

Anonymous said...

7:54,

Well written ak

Anonymous said...

Insider information can only be given to someone or some company if they don't own the property in question. That creates an unfair advantage to others who might be bidding on something. The fact that Karner and Ronca/Wagner collaborated is a bit disingenuous but not criminal. Why would you unilaterally rezone a parcel of land without consulting the owner. It's like the city rezoning your house to commercial without telling you.

The real problem is in how the rezoning will effect the downtown. The city should have admitted their collaboration and then sorted out the details in the public hearings. Ronca should have been more forthright in detailing his potential plans. The operative word berth POTENTIAL. The fact that he does not have final plans is not that unusual. DEVELOPERS DO NEED A DEGREE OF FLEXIBILTITY. What should have been negotiated was the percentage of retail which is just what everyone really wants to begin with.

The rest of this stuff is just an attempt to muddy the waters and force the city back to the table. They should willingly begin new discussions on how to give the developer what he needs while protecting our wonderful downtown.

Anonymous said...


Ronca typically avoids press or appearing in front of the public as his usual M. O.

FYI, any property or development in the name of Wind Drift Real Estate or with a tax bill mailing address of 179 Mikron Road = Ronca.

Anonymous said...

What would Callahan do?

Anonymous said...

Ronca has had 8 years to prepare a plan for the site. He told the City he wants to demolish Martin Tower in the first 9 months of next year. I can't believe he doesn't have a development plan prepared. He would have needed to prepare a plan in order to know what he wanted to request in the zoning ordinance. That plan just needs to be shaken out of him.

Remember that PA. calls the Right to Know Law the Sunshine Act. As the old phrase goes, when it comes to politics, "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is common for a municipality to discuss proposed zoning matters with the owner of a large site. The question is whether the city was accurate in describing those interactions to the public.

Anonymous said...

I suspect part of the delay was when (former?) partner in this tower deal, Lou Pektor, almost went bust sometime around 2008-2009. His name doesn't come up in this matter recently, just Ronca and Herrick, so I'm thinking he's completely out of it. Even after that, Ronca has been sitting on this since then with really no activity other than having the lawn mowed and getting the tax assessment reduced to lower his carrying costs.

Anonymous said...

sounds like someone demanded a retraction or an apology

Anonymous said...

Anyone who claims that Karner and the Mayor were hiding the fact that they were talking with Ronca all along (which they should have been) did not attend the planning commission meeting months ago. They were very clear and stated several times that they were talking to all interested partys including the owners. Stop blowing hot air and just admit that you have a difference of opinion on the site. You do have the right to disagree , but not the right to make up bogus claims that Karner and the Mayor were hiding the owners involvement in the discussions. Read the minutes to the 1st planning commission meeting and stop the non sense. Case closed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That is true, but where the City went wrong was in proposing this ordinance on its own.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Don't understand why everyone's panties are in a bunch about the lack of a site development plan for the site. "

Then you clearly have your head in the sand. This lack of a plan is precisely why everyone is in an uproar. There needs to be a definite plan and both the plan and the zoning ordincnce can be voted on together.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"sounds like someone demanded a retraction or an apology"

Nobody asked for anything, and had they done so, they would not get it. I take responsibility for what i write and do my homework. But i get leery when people see things that simply are not there and demand federal investigations with no basis.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" She should be asked by city council to come clean with all her contacts on and off the record regarding this developer and his associates."

In other words, you have no evidence so you'll pretend mischief is afoot and demand she come clean about it. That is a witch hunt, pure and simple.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Yes, it is common for a municipality to discuss proposed zoning matters with the owner of a large site. The question is whether the city was accurate in describing those interactions to the public."

It was not, and that was a mistake. the City should not have pushed this ordinance and should have insisted that Ronca do so.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"That's a lovely pair of sweatpants you're wearing."

Thank you. I do like to write in sweatpants.

Anonymous said...

BO,
There is no magical large corporation from NY or NJ coming to move in. Despite several false claims, the property was listed for years with Kushman and Wakefield in NYC. Any company CEO's that would even consider moving in are smart enough to also at least take a look at what Allentown could do for them in the NIZ.
The fact that JB Reilly can build, for the next 30 years, any company brand new Class A office space at a much cheaper price than going into Martin Tower or for that fact any other place in the Lehigh Valley is reality that is not going away. The people who suggest that Martin Tower should be kept as office space have absolutely NO idea how the environment for office space has been completely changed by the NIZ in Allentown.
The NIZ is the downfall of Martin Tower, not Ronca or the Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Actually Bernie voting on a plan and a zoning ordinance at the same time is the exact definition of contract zoning. I am not involved with the City but have been involved in rezonings but I believe a Mayor can have his/her own vision for development in a city. It only makes sense to work with the property owners to get support first. Mayor Donchez put forth a vision to create as flexible zoning district with the goal of creating a mixed use development. The concept does have universal support. People raised concerns and City Council made changes in response to those concerns, seems like the process is working. The City has a professional planning staff that works on these things unlike many townships. It is a shame it got so ugly. I for one think the subsidized development of Hamilton Crossings (TIF, RCAP, Penndot money and others) is far more detrimental to cities than a city trying to create development that will bring more people into the City.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Actually Bernie voting on a plan and a zoning ordinance at the same time is the exact definition of contract zoning. I am not involved with the City but have been involved in rezonings but I believe a Mayor can have his/her own vision for development in a city."

Depends on how it is done. I would not worry too much.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The people who suggest that Martin Tower should be kept as office space have absolutely NO idea how the environment for office space has been completely changed by the NIZ in Allentown. "

This may be true, but i'd like to see an independent study before ripping down a 21-story building. In the meantime, there are plans for a 6-story building on South side, and a 9-story building is in the works. That flies in the face of your argument, but I'd like to see an analysis. i frankly feel the problem is the developer.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
The witch hunt begins epicentral and allentowns king and queen now infecting a town over but one¿!($
With the lame news media outlets complicite and cognazant of this browne hole of the ReNue the valley CONjecture as a whole too¿!($
This is like solicitors not knowing the exACT misappropreations of there counterparts¿!($ So that said one and only one are the taint¿!($ This is the biggist sack o shit I have heard as well as been victim too¿!($
The left hand is ignorant to the right hand wiping the ass of the eastcoast trying not to pop the pussie boil near the spinkter¿!($
redd
patent pending

Anonymous said...

Alicia great comments but you are not fooling anyone. Your days of sitting at your desk with your bare feet on your desk while talking to employees are coming to an end. There are good people in our planning department but they are told what to do by Alecia. She has made it clear it is her way or out the door. Molosky is a good friend of Ronca and is part of this scam. He has been in closed door meetings with Alicia. I work in this department and I see all the crap going on but I will be fired if I come forward and that is a fact. Other good people were let go because they were not on her team. Bernie Alicia has ruined this department and we can no longer serve the people as we once did.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 1:50. The problem is BO will not believe you. He will claim you are fake. However, your story does ring true with everything coming out of city hall. Apparently she was the same at the county but Hickey and Angle liked her and that was enough.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie, you need to check out Facebook. You pal Dean Browning is going all in on the tea party. He is linked and friended to every right wing whacko group and page. He is pals with your buddy Delbacco.

I guess Browning has figured out that to be the Republican county executive you have to go al in crazy or nothing. That's the ticket in Northampton County.

Anonymous said...

I called Molosky a "toad" several days ago and BOH took umbrage with my language.
^^ That is what I meant.

Anonymous said...

Well, then, fuck you, too, 3:05.

Anonymous said...

I know for a fact Melosky is not a "good friend" of Ronca's, no more so than anyone else on the planning commission or city council. Check your facts a little better, 1:50.

Anonymous said...

Melosky never met a developer he didn't like.