Before Council said a word, they heard from a procession of 22 speakers, all of whom spoke against the re-zoning
When they were finished, Willie Reynolds (28% funded by CRIZ and TIF) apologized for his behavior at the last meeting and said he really, really doesn't want to see a third downtown or 1.3 million sq ft of retail. But he wants Martin Tower to come tumbling down and wants to move the rezoning forward. He said they could make text changes on the fly or sometime later. Mayor Bob Donchez (33% funded by CRIZ and TIF) told Willie he wanted to move forward, too, and mentioned "flexibility.". Mike Recchiuti (36% funded by CRIZ and TIF) was all for doing exactly what Willie wants. Lou Stellato (appointed) said he comes from small business, but "it's time to make a decision." Never mind what kind of decision. Cathy Reuscher (appointed) loses sleep over thorny questions like these and wished everyone could be at home watching Netflix. (Yes, she really said that). Adam Waldron (3% funded by CRIZ and TIF) had the feeling that something's "being jammed down our throats," but added he's new and then leaned heavily on Willie instead of following his own instincts. Eric Evans (12% funded by CRIZ and TIF) is a Council veteran and correctly suggested this matter be sent to a committee that would insist on seeing a plan and the developer behind that plan. he also pointed out that many West Bethlehem residents don't want to see a huge residential development there, either.
Eric Evans' motion to send the rezoning for review by a committee failed, after which Council voted 6-1 to send the rezoning proposal forward with the understanding that changes are coming.
Evans was the sole No Vote, although they say "Nay" in Bethlehem. It sounds more dignified, I guess. They wear suits, too. .
Though merchants would have preferred to see the ordinance killed or tabled, I think they were somewhat mollified by Council's promise to sharply reduce the amount of publicly subsidized retail and prevent the creation of a third downtown. So they started putting away the pitchforks and torches because it appeared Council was really, really listening. Really! .
|This Morning Call photographer disrupts every meeting he attends|
with thousands of pictures that interfere with the public's ability
to see what the hell is going on.
It wasn't me.
He ripped into Bruce Haines for accepting a publicly subsidized loan below the usual interest rate at the Hotel Bethlehem.
Last time it was Willie going after Haines and this time it was Callahan.
I think it's safe to say they don't like him.
Incidentally, Callahan had his facts wrong. That loan pool was made up of private, not public funds. Haines paid the market interest rate. The loan's been paid.
After insulting Haines, Callahan went after all the merchants because the City paves Main Street and gives them nice lighting.
He slammed merchants because the City chipped in and paid half the cost for new sidewalks for downtown merchants. Never mind that those sidewalks are about three or four times the size of a normal sidewalk.
He then ticked off public subsidies for the South side and went on to say that "government input is needed to start an economic engine."
I have a different view. If a project is good, it should need no jump starts from the government. If it is bad, no amount of public money is going to help.
By the time Callahan was finished, merchants had lit up their torches again. But because it was Bethlehem, they looked like Moravian stars.
I wonder what the hell was in that flyer that got him so stoked up.
Here's a summary of what some merchants and residents told Council before they decided to move forward with the Martin Tower rezoning,.
Krisann Albanese, a message therapist, noted that Mayor Donchez was on City Council and voted for the zoning changes requested by developers Lew Ronca and Norton Herrick in 2006. "You're proposing to do over for him what was such a great idea then. ... I'm asking for a do-over."
Diane Holt (Appollo Grill) noted the Martin Tower project was misrepresented as "shovel ready" in the CRIZ application. "The developer doesn't have to speak. Our government is speaking for him."
Rod Holt (Appollo Grill) was told by two Planning Commissioners and one City Council member not to waste his breath because this is a "done deal." He asked why civil leaders are ignoring the business community. "One look at the campaign expense reports says it all."
Bruce Haines (Hotel Bethlehem). "What's needed is a change in ownership, not a change in zoning." Noting that Ronca never bothered to join LVEDC, he said "he's never been in the game."
Dana DeVito (Moravian Book Shop) "The developer should be asked to share his vision."
Bruce Haines (Aardvark, aka the good Bruce). Since the CRIZ designation has increased the value at Martin Tower, why isn't the City seeking a reassessment?
Neville Gardner (Donegal Square) Lancaster selected blighted areas downtown for its CRIZ, while Bethlehem has allowed a select group of handpicked developers to decide where they want tax breaks.
Beall Fowler (gazillionaire) is reminded of someone who wanted municipal leaders to rezone woodland to agriculture. They agreed and two years later, he had a pig farm. He called Martin Tower rezoning "the commercial equivalent of a pig farm. It stinks up the entire community."
Dana Grubb (camera wizard) noted the links between elected city officials and campaign contributions.and asked, "Who will determine the future of Bethlehem, the community or special interests?"
Will Carpenter (retail development) has never seen rezoning happen "at the impetus of a Mayor and Planner." Council members who accept large contributions from CRIZ developers should recuse themselves to "avoid the appearance of impropriety."
Jeff Fegley (Brew Works) called the current CRIZ "a tax incentive on steroids," and called on Council to "create a fair CRIZ plan or end it altogether. Stop the pay to play guys. It exists."
Steve Antalics (male escort) said Council has a moral choice to "vote the will of the people who elected you or vote the will of developers."