Al Bernotas, one of the parties involved in this controversial zoning appeal, made these points to Council on Tuesday night:
• For the record, we would like to point out that according to Ordinance 1325, The Zoning Hearing Board shall consist of three (3) members and two (2) alternates appointed by the Mayor with the advice and consent of the City Council for three year terms.
• The Mayor may remove any member for cause after public hearing.
• There is nothing in the ordinance that prevents women from being members of the Zoning Hearing Board. We do not know when that last happened. There are approximately 75,000 residents in the City of Bethlehem; surely, a woman could be found that could serve well on the Zoning Hearing Board. We believe there may be a little bit too much testosterone on the Zoning Hearing Board.
• There is nothing in the ordinance that prevents the Mayor from appointing new blood to the Zoning Hearing Board. We do not know when that last happened.
• There is nothing in the ordinance that prevents the Mayor from accepting nominations for membership to the Zoning Hearing Board from the public, from members of City Council, or self-nominations from private individuals who would like to devote some of their time to City service. We do not know when that last happened, or if it ever happened.
• And there is nothing in the Municipal Ordinances that would prevent City Council from effecting an ordinance that would allow City Council to appoint members of the Zoning Hearing Board, members who could come from self nominations, nominations from city residents, nominations from City Council Members, or nominations from the Mayor.
• And there is nothing preventing City Council from effecting an ordinance that would allow City Council to remove a ZHB member for cause after public hearing.
• As much as we are in favor of taking the Zoning Hearing Board to court when their efforts are not in keeping with the interests and direction that City Council would like to see, we would prefer to see more control directly in the hands of City Council.
• We would like to see City Council take nominations from the public, for participation on the Zoning Hearing Board. We would like to see City Council select from a pool of nominees for membership, and we would like to see City Council have the power to remove members.
• In closing, we cannot stress enough how grateful we, the residents of the Johnston Drive Neighborhood, are for City Council’s support of our appeal of the Zoning Hearing Board’s August 26, 2009 decision regarding the approved variance to build a warehouse at the Elias Farmers Market in an RR zoning district.
• We would just like you, the City Council, to have a stronger position in the ZHB membership process.
• You have the power to do that.
• Thank you for your time and for courtesy of the floor.
Noon Update: Does the Name Laurie Gostley-Hackett Ring a Bell? She manages Community Relations and Philanthropy at Air Products. At one time, not so long ago, she chaired Bethlehem's ZHB.