|Jim Broughal (L) and Mike Hudak (R)|
Initiatives and referenda are examples of direct democracy, but Pennsylvania law severely limits their use. Courts have directed county election boards to reject initiatives and referenda that seek advisory opinions from the public on controversial topics. In a memo to Commissioners before last night's meeting, Broughal explained that the Library Code limits referenda to these four matters: (1) levying a special tax for the establishment and maintenance of a local library; (2) remaining part of a county library when there is a pre-existing local library; (3) participation in a “district library center cooperative program;” and (4) a bond issue for the construction or purchase of a library building.
Only the first of these has any application to continued participation in Bethlehem Area Public Library, so Broughal came up with this question: "Do the voters of Bethlehem Township desire that the Board of Commissioners of Bethlehem Township levy a special tax on all taxable property within Bethlehem Township to be used exclusively for the establishment and maintenance of and aid to a local library?”
As pointed out here yesterday, what that question means is subject to numerous interpretations.
"I'll submit any question that the Commissioners vote on," said Broughal. But he warned that the Board of Elections could deny a referendum question outside of what is expressly authorized by the Library Code. "I'm stuck with the law.As bad as it is, that's what it is.
Hudak stated that the latest they can vote ion a question is at the first meeting in February because the cutoff with the Board of Elections is March 7. He added that the intent of a referendum is "to let the voters decide" whether they wish to continue participating in Bethlehem Area Public Library, not how it should be funded. "There seems to be some confusion among our Board members here as to the intent of this referendum," he observed. He believes the question is misleading, and wanted to hear and said he'd abide by what voters think.
If Bethlehem Township does eventually opt out of Betlehem Area Public Library, all is not lost. A reader, Pippysqueek, commented yesterday that the Free Library of Philadelphia offers free membership to any Pennsylvania resident. It took me about three minutes to join.
|A sketch plan for the redevelopmentof the V-7|
includes a movie theatre and a 24-hour gas station.
Chrin is proposing a movie theatre, along with a 24-hour high end convenience store and gas station. He is also planning a bank, some office buildings and a restaurant. A tenant for the movie theatre have been found, but planners prefer to keep that confidential for now. He noted that there will be very high berms,some as high as 20', to shield residents to the east from the development.He added that the development would employ dark sky lighting to reduce light pollution.
Attorney Timothy Charlesworth, who represents Chrin in this endeavor, called it an adaptive re-use of a vacant commercial site. He noted that the Township's comprehensive plan emphasizes the rejuvenation of vacant commercial areas. He added that this development would be a benefit to the Township because it would realign Hope Road and include a traffic light. But a movie theatre is not a permitted use on the V-7 tract.
Tom Nolan noted that the comprehensive plan should be updated by April, and that's when he should seek a zoning change.
Malissa Davis suggested that the 24-hour gas station should be relocated to the western side of the tract, nearer to Route 33, to keep it away from residences along Hope Road.
Don Wright, a member of the Planning Commission, said he'd like to see the size of the parking lot reduced and more green space added.
Resident Roy Roth complained that the plan has no provisions for stormwater management, but Planning Director Nathan Jones responded that stormwater management would be an integral part of the planning process.
His son Barry was even more negative. "My personal feeling is we just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic from the original plan," he groused.
No formal action is taken on sketch plans. They are informational only.
In a final item of business, president Mike Hudak announced that a public hearing on Tradition of America's tentative plan for Green Pond Marsh will be conducted on February 22 at 6 pm. This tentative plan has been recommended by the Planning Commission.