Bethlehem City Hall sign

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Bethlehem City Council considered a bill amending sections of the city's zoning ordinance during Tuesday night's meeting.

The proposed text amendment would revise the multifamily development section in the city's code to ensure that provisions that currently apply in the city's industrial redevelopment-residential (IR-R) zone also apply in two other city zoning districts — central business (CB) and neighborhood commercial (CL).

"We think this is really a cleanup of our zoning," said Darlene Heller, the city's director of planning and zoning.

Currently, the city's zoning laws include specific provisions for multifamily developments for all zoning districts where the use is permitted. Several of the provisions exempt the IR-R zoning district because that district is designed for dense development with shared parking and a mix of other uses, according to Heller.

The proposed zoning text amendment council considered Tuesday night does not alter any of the city's existing ordinance provisions or exemptions. Rather, it extends the existing exemptions to the CB and CL districts. Heller says that's because the CB and CL districts have "similar characteristics" to the city's IR-R districts.

The bill does not address the height of buildings, said Heller in response to a question from Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt.

The proposed zoning change will have its first reading April 20, according to President Adam Waldron.

Stormwater user fees

In other news, council approved legislation adopting policies and regulations which determine stormwater user fee credits and how property owners could appeal the stormwater fee the city assigns them to pay. The stormwater fee a property owner is charged is based on impervious area on the property, according to the city.

Residents have two ways to reduce that fee. One is by reducing the impervious area and the other is by having a stormwater management structure on the property. Those structures include dry and wet ponds, wetlands, bioretention, bioswales and filter strips, permeable pavers and green roofs.

Fireworks laws

The legislative body also approved a bill urging member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to repeal the most recent changes to the commonwealth's fireworks laws in 2017. The ruling in 2017 permitted residents to purchase "consumer fireworks." The resolution council supported Tuesday night says that people setting off fireworks "is adversely affecting the overall well-being and safety of our community as a whole."

Committee appointments

Council also approved appointments to various committees. Earl Bethel received appointment to the Redevelopment Authority Board and the Blighted Property Review Committee; Rosalee Sabo and Shirley Morganelli will serve on the Civil Service Board and Ronald Heckman will become a member of the Redevelopment Authority Board.

COVID-19 funding

Finally, during the new business portion of the meeting, in discussing what he called a "windfall from the federal government" in COVID-19 funding, Councilman Bryan Callahan said it would be a "goodwill gesture" to provide rebates to property owners. Last year, council voted for a 5% tax increase, which Callahan said was challenging for taxpayers struggling during a global pandemic.

"Let's give a break back to the residents," said Callahan.

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