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READING, Pa. – The Reading City Council voted Monday night to direct the Berks County Board of Elections to place five questions on the 2020 primary ballot.

"Don't misconstrue my support for putting these issues to a referendum for support for each issue," said Council President Jeffrey S. Waltman.

The council authorized the following referendum questions:

  • "Shall Section 104 of the Reading City Charter be amended to provide term limits prohibiting City Council members, City Council President, the Mayor, and the Auditor from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms?"
  • "Shall Section 607 of the Reading City Charter be amended by amending Section 607 to eliminate the Department of Administrative Services and adding a separate Department of Finance and adding Section 707 to include a separate Department of Human Resources?"
  • "Shall Section 226 of the Reading City Charter be amended to provide City Council with the ability to appoint their own Solicitor, as fixed by the annual budget?"
  • "Shall Section 225 of the Reading City Charter be amended provide City Council with the ability to hire their employees, as fixed by the annual budget?"
  • "Shall 503 of the Reading City Charter be amended to provide the elected City Auditor with the ability to hire their employees, as fixed by the annual budget?"

Ordinance amendments

The council also approved two ordinance amendments and tabled two others.

Developer Alan Shuman voiced his support for the ordinances.

"They will now match all the surrounding cities," Shuman said. "This will give Reading a chance to provide market-rate housing for the first time in decades."

The amendments to the zoning ordinances addressed a variety of issues and are important to the viability of Alvernia University's plans for a campus in center city.

Zoning ordinance section 809 was amended by adding school use to the Commercial Neighborhood District as a special exception and by replacing the existing definition and adding new definitions of school as follows:

A building or part thereof maintained for the purpose of offering instruction, or in which classes are conducted, whether or not for a consideration or tuition, to five or more pupils at one and the same time, or to 25 or more pupils during any school year, the purpose of which is to educate an individual generally or specially or to prepare an individual for more advanced study, and shall include all schools engaged in such education, whether private, public or parochial.

The term "school" shall not include any private trade schools, private business schools, private correspondence schools, private music schools, private dance schools, private art schools, private dramatic art schools, private schools of charm or poise, private driver training schools or any type of private school which is nonacademic in character.

The council also defined a primary or secondary school with amendment. It defined the school as "an institution for the education of children between kindergarten and 12th grade." The school also must be limited to:

(a) schools operated by or under the authority of the Reading School District;

(b) private academic schools which are accredited by an accrediting association approved by the State Board of Education and/or licensed by the State Board of Private Academic Schools;

(c) nonpublic schools which are sponsored by a bona fide religious institution and registered with the Department of Education; or

(d) schools for the blind or deaf receiving Commonwealth appropriations.

The council also amended the zoning ordinance, sections 807 and 1202, by adding adaptive reuse to the Commercial Core District as a special exception with first floor commercial use. It amended section 2202 by adding a new definition of adaptive reuse which shall be allowed only if the lot includes at least one street-level principal business establishment.

Adaptive reuse is defined as the "modification of an existing nonresidential building for the purpose of converting it into residential use; or, where permitted in certain commercial districts, into a mix of residential and commercial uses with a commercial establishment on the first floor."

The council deferred action on an amendment to zoning ordinance section 1101, which would change the requirements for low- and mid-rise apartments, and section 2202, which would add a definition of efficiency or studio apartments, to Jan. 27. The council also deferred action on an amendment to section 1102 that would eliminate the need for additional storage in high-rise apartments to Jan. 27.

Other business

The council extended the term of Acting Solicitor A. Elizabeth Kraft for an additional 90 days. It also authorized Ofc. Jacob Stefani's promotion to the rank of sergeant; awarded a contract for the tree care project to Nolde Pines, New Holland Road, Cumru Township, at a cost not to exceed $300,000; and authorized the purchase and upgrade of desks/furniture for police dispatch to Police Dispatch Center Xybix Systems Inc. at the cost of $150,000 over three years.