Before he stepped down as Chair of Bethlehem's Planning Commission at their January 14 meeting, Attorney Jim Fiorentino invited Mayor Bob Donchez and Community and Economic Development Director Alicia Karner to appear and explain the "exact nature" of their discussions with Martin Tower developer Lew Ronca. But neither Mayor Donchez nor Karner accepted. In an email, Mayor Donchez said he already disclosed the "exact nature" of that relationship in numerous documents that he previously provided in both a news conference and at a subsequent City Council meeting. Fiorentino, who saw those documents, chided the administration for failing to be completely honest.
Planning Director Darlene Heller, who serves as Secretary to the Planning Commission, defended her role."I don't think we tried in any way to hide the fact that we were talking to developers," she explained. "You could have told us the full story about the developer's intent," responded Fiorentino. In December, he canceled a Planning Commission meeting when The Bethlehem Press revealed that there had been detailed communications between Ronca and City staffers before the City proposed zoning changes at the 52-acre Martin Tower development. This was learned as a result of a Right-to-Know request.
Louis Stellato, a former City Council member who voted for these zoning changes and was appointed to the Planning Commission earlier this month, dismissed Fiorentino's concerns about process. "I don't know how many more times we have to count the chads, the issue is done," he said.
Except it isn't. Bethlehem City Council has been sued in a land use appeal alleging defects in the referrals to the Planning Commission.
After this discussion, Fiorentino nominated Rob Melosky to succeed him. Melosky, a Nazareth teacher has proven himself to be a very attentive Planning Commissioner since his appointment in 2012. He also is offensive coordinator for Central Catholic's football program. Melosky was elected unanimously.
Matthew Malozi, a manager at engineering and planning firm RETTEW, was unanimously elected as Vice Chair.
Heller, despite the earlier squabble, was unanimously retained as the Planning Commission's Secretary.