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City Council Meeting Minutes

April 19, 2011

 

CALL TO ORDER: City Council convened in a General Committee meeting on April 19, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, to receive general public comment, with the following Council members present: Renee S. Nelson, Henry Hay Nixon, Toni Smith, and Carol Hill-Evans, Vice President, with Vice President Hill-Evans presiding.

 
GENERAL PUBLIC COMMENT
 
Lisa Oremland expressed concern about the proposed opening of a club at 41 E. Jackson St. She said she is a homeowner and feels the club will have a negative impact on the community. Also, the proposed location is just one block from Jackson Elementary School and the club plans to be open during school hours. She also discussed possible traffic issues.
 
Joanne Borders also feels there may be an issue with people losing control after consuming alcohol especially when you consider how close the club will be to York College and the problems that may pose with college students and public intoxication.
 
Michael Helfrich updated Council on the Codorus Creek clean-up initiative. He then discussed creating programs to help homeowners and business owners finance projects to fix up and/or maintain structures.
 
There being no further public comment, Vice President Hill-Evans adjourned the General Committee meeting and reconvened in Legislative Session at 7:00 p.m., in Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, with the following members present: Renee S. Nelson, Henry Hay Nixon, Toni Smith, and Carol Hill-Evans, Vice President, with Vice President Hill-Evans presiding.
 
Members of the Administration in attendance included: Jim Gross, Director of Public Works, and Kevin Schreiber, Director of Economic and Community Development. Also present was Assistant Solicitor Don Hoyt.
 
Members of York City Council staff in attendance included: Dianna L. Thompson, City Clerk.
 
Pledge of Allegiance: The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
 
Approval of Minutes: Council dispensed with the reading of the Minutes of April 5, 2011 and unanimously approved them as written.
 
Correspondence and Announcements: Councilman Nixon complimented Mayor Bracey on her State of the City Address and for the Administration's achievable visions for the City of York.

PRESENTATIONS: None
 
COMMITTEE MEETINGS SCHEDULED
 
Public Hearing: Vice President Hill-Evans reported that York City Council convened in a public hearing this evening, Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, for the purpose of receiving testimony on a request received from petitioner Walter L. Randall and Split Your Wig, LLC, to transfer PA Eating Place Retail Dispenser License Number E-3012 from the Borough of Wrightsville to the City of York for the sale of malt beverages at 41 E. Jackson St., York, PA. Under the authority of 47 P.S. §4-461(b.3), Council has elected for an extension of time in rendering its decision on the request. A vote on said request will take place on or before May 31, 2011 and Council may hold another public hearing prior to rending its decision. The petitioner will be notified of the extension. (Petition)(Procedures)
 
STATUS OF PRIOR COMMITTEE REFERRALS: No reports.
 
SUBDIVISION / LAND DEVELOPMENT / HARB
 
Resolution No. 53, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution accepting the recommendations of HARB in issuing a permit to LSC Design for work to be done at 459 W. King St., John Shepard for work to be done at 56 S. Pershing Ave., Enrique Colon Marcial for work to be done at 114 S. Pine St., and Bartush Signs for work to be done at 1 E. Market St., was introduced by Nelson, read at length, and on motion of Nelson, seconded by Nixon, Resolution No. 53 came up for discussion.
 
Mr. Shepard, applicant for work to be done at 56 S. Pershing Ave., was in attendance to appeal HARB's recommendations. In an email received by Council from Mr. Shepard on April 18, Mr. Shepard explained the following:
 
Background:
 
I purchased 56 S. Pershing Avenue back in July of 2010. Before starting any renovations, I contacted HARB to discuss what would be required. This property is adjacent to the city bus transfer station, and as a result, has a lot of foot traffic past it each day. The property was abandoned and run down, with squatters occupying parts of it. I realize that I may end up putting more money into the property than I will ever realize, but it has the potential of being a nice property in a very visible part of the city. I want to work with HARB and the city to bring the property in line with their standards and codes. When HARB stated all the windows needed to be wood and reflect same design, I spent $20,000 and did what they asked. Now, however, I have come face to face with what bureaucracy can do to an individual when one thinks they have a right to a valid explanation.
 
At Issue:
 
As per Barb Raid and HARB website, I submitted photo of proposed railing to be installed on King Street side of building via email (see below) that could be purchased at local Home Depot. HARB denied the railing, stating “ This one is too lightweight-looking, especially with regard to the top rail.” When I questioned what ruling they used in denying this, I was basically ordered to appear before HARB. In the meantime, I was informed (again see email from Barb Raid):
 
(1) There are many examples of wrought iron handrails around town which you could use as a model
 
(2) or aluminum which is made to look like wrought iron
 
So I first went and took pictures of the neighbors hand rails (pictures attached) and got a sample of a higher end aluminum hand rail to bring to the meeting and submit.
 
At the Meeting:
 
I expressed my frustration with being “forced” to attend this meeting, I was told it was based on my response to Barb’s email....make your own judgment.
 
-So this is my first issue. If HARB receives York City Taxpayer monies, I do not understand how they can require one citizen to have to have to appear before the board for approval, when others are not so required on the same issue. I do not believe they have the right to selectively impose requirements on individuals they feel are not cooperative. At the meeting, I was informed the reason I am required to be at meeting was due to my response.
 
Next, I submitted a sample of the proposed railing. This was denied.
 
- Per Barb’s email, it appeared a “heavier” aluminum railing made to represent wrought iron would be acceptable. Per the board, no aluminum would be acceptable. Only wrought iron was acceptable. In a short period of time, I have my doubts their guidelines for all properties changed.
 
- I then submitted photos of what the railings in both neighborhood and another unit in my building have erected based on HARB suggestion. All the pictures of what both the neighbors have and what the owner of the unit in same building has erected were deemed not suitable for my property. HARB informed me that none of these met their criteria:
 
- There letter clearly states one of the criteria my application will be evaluated on is 'the general design, arrangement, texture, material and color of the buildings or structures and the relation of such factors to similar features of buildings and structure in the district.' Apparently, this criteria does not apply when HARB feels the need to “teach” me a lesson for questioning what standards they use.
 
- I then requested their guidelines on what type of railing would be acceptable. I assumed that since HARB has been around for a while and a railing was a relatively minor issue, that HARB would have developed some guidelines and could simply hand me a piece of paper with all the requirements. Boy was I wrong..
 
- For 20 minutes various board members submitted their opinions on what would be acceptable and then formulated their requirements for my property (see attached). They basically designed a railing for me from scratch. When I suggested that their requirements were greater than what the neighbors seemed to have, I did not receive a satisfactory response.
 
- I then mentioned what they were requiring of me would increase the cost of the railing by over $300. I was told it would be more because it all likelihood it would need to be fabricated.
 
- I have no issue with the requirements as long as everyone who submits a request to install a railing is subjected to same or similar requirements.. Based on the railings in the neighborhood, this does not appear to be true. Their letter clearly states one of the criteria my application will be evaluated on is “the general design, arrangement, texture, material and color of the buildings or structures and the relation of such factors to similar features of buildings and structure in the district”. Now if on the same building, another owner has erected a railing made on painted treated lumber 9see picture), why are they not held to same standard? Either not everyone in the historical district is required or feels the need to go to HARB for approval, or the standards they imposed on my property were “subjective in nature” and based on personal feelings regarding the way I have handled this application. Further, I believe if the desire is for the renovation of blighted properties in York city to occur, there must be some rationalization of the costs versus benefits. We are talking a railing for steps here.
 
My final issue involves the requirements for the outside door. When I bought the property, the door that was there was not secure. I had the door replaced with something to secure it on a permanent basis, but unfortunately my contractor purchased the wrong door. When HARB let me know it was “unsuitable” I explained it would be replaced with a permanent door at a later time. I have made no application to HARB on permanent door for this side of building. However, HARB has decided to tell me what door to put on the unit.
 
-My issue is that I should first have to submit an application before HARB makes any ruling on it. I have no concrete idea on what door to submit until I see what is available locally.
 
I do not want to be anything but transparent in my actions. I do believe that HARB’s recommendation on my property is more restrictive than those of other nearby properties, that the ruling by HARB is in part 'selective enforcement' due to my belief I had a right to ask for explanation and HARB felt offended that they should have to provide one. Further, requesting me to appear before the board on a matter that is not normally handled in this manner is an attempt to 'punish me' for thinking I had the right to request an explanation from the HARB Board that receives city taxpayer money. As a taxpayer, I believe it is not only permissible, but a legally protected right.
 
In the end, installing a railing is a small and rather trivial detail, so long as it meets city code and does nothing to detract from efforts to preserve historical buildings. However, this is now becoming somewhat of an elongated process that I simply wish to end and move on. A lack of railing on these steps is a significant safety issue given the foot traffic that passes by. It is my hope that we can all agree on a railing that does not detract from any historical guideline, enhances the property and neighborhood, and can be sourced quickly to avoid any further safety issues. On a larger basis, I believe that if the City of York wants to see blighted downtown properties renovated, there must be a better effort to work together, simply the processes, and make the projects economically viable. I can assure you that this will be the one and only property I purchased within the city limits given the arbitrary nature of how HARB can impose requirements on individuals and the lengthy process in which to submit minor renovations.”
 
Motion to table. After hearing Mr. Shepard's argument, and as no members of HARB were present to explain, Council moved to amend Resolution No. 53 to table the vote on Mr. Shepards application in order to allow comments from HARB on the matter. The motion to table the vote on 56 S. Pershing Ave., was made by Nelson, seconded by Nixon, and passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
There being no further business, Resolution No. 53, as amended, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
Therefore, Resolution No. 53 passed with the exception of 56 S. Pershing Ave., which was tabled until further notice.
 
FINAL PASSAGE OF BILLS / RESOLUTIONS
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 8, Ordinance No. 8, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the Health and Sanitation Code of the Codified Ordinances to reflect changes made to two major food-related statutes by the PA Legislature (Act 106 of 2010), which was introduced by Hill-Evans at the April 5 meeting of Council and read by short title, came up for final passage. On motion of Hill-Evans, seconded by Nelson, Bill No. 8, Ordinance No. 8, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 9, Ordinance No. 9, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 Budget in the amount of $22,210.31 for additional funding received from the Community Foundation for the Weyer Trust, which was introduced by Hill-Evans at the April 5 meeting of Council and read by short title, came up for final passage. On motion of Hill-Evans, seconded Nixon, Bill No. 9, Ordinance No. 9, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 10, Ordinance No. 10, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 Budget in the amount of $50,000 for additional revenue received for the Memorial Park improvements project (Total Project: $440,118), which was introduced by Smith at the April 5 meeting of Council and read by short title, came up for final passage. On motion of Smith, seconded by Nelson, Bill No. 10, Ordinance No. 10, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
Final Passage of Bill No. 13, Ordinance No. 11, Session 2011,(View) A Bill amending Article 1763 “Property Maintenance Code” of the Codified Ordinances, Section 302, to add requirements to maintain clean and safe sidewalks, fences, swimming pools, and exterior and unimproved areas, which was introduced by Hill-Evans at the April 5 meeting of Council and read by short title, came up for final passage. On motion of Hill-Evans, seconded by Nelson, Bill No. 13 came up for discussion.
 
Director Schreiber explained that the amendment to the Property Maintenance Code exactly mirrors the current zoning ordinance. He said this is to effectively enable the Property Maintenance Inspectors to begin enforcing some of these repeat zoning issues rather than rely solely on one zoning officer for the entire City. The fencing height listed in the amendment is identical to that currently listed in Zoning Ordinance. To the fence height issue, it is currently set at a maximum of 6' in a residential district by Zoning, therefore, we are fully compliant. If this changes per the new zoning ordinance, we can amend PMC at that time. When the new zoning ordinance is ultimately adopted, if the fence heights are in conflict, we would then amend the height noted in the PMC so the two match. Director Schreiber further stated that Council can take comfort in the fact that these amendments are already on the books in the Zoning Ordinance and that we are not doing anything that is not currently already a law. He said we are adding this language to PMC so our PMI's can enforce.
 
Joanne Borders, resident, said we have a city full of trash cans in front of houses and asked if something could be done to address it. Director Schreiber replied that this amendment does not address trash cans but there is a common agreement that it is a problem.
 
Tim Page, resident, stated that homeowners are a small portion of the city but we bear the highest tax burden. He said we need to enforce the Property Maintenance Code on commercial and industrial properties as well. Director Schreiber said commercial and industrial properties are also covered under the PMC.
 
Michael Helfrich, resident, said he is a resident who has called for more enforcement of our ordinances but we might be getting into an area where its too much enforcement. Hypothetically, he asked what will happen to a senior citizen with a lost kitten who posts a sign on a telephone pole to help look for her cat. Are we going to fine that person?
 
Vice President Hill-Evans said she has seen many signs posted on telephone poles and it is illegal to do so as outlined in Articles 337.09 and 753.04 of the Codified Ordinances. She said she has pulled down signs and has even called the people posting the signs to inform them of the law.
 
Director Schreiber replied whatever is equitable. The owner could ask permission from the city before posting.
 
Manuel Gomez, resident, stated that posting a lost cat sign is not a malicious act. He said he's not advocating this act but said he doesn't think its damaging. He then discussed posting of campaign signs. For instance, what if a sign is posted on someone's property when the homeowner is out-of-town and has no knowledge of the posting.
 
Director Schreiber stated that people cannot post on private property without the owners consent. However, if someone is in violation, there is a notice procedure in place to allow the situation to be rectified before a citation is issued.
 
Councilman Nixon commended the Administration for attempting to regulate these common infractions. He said we need to make up our minds on what we want to do. If it's against the law, then it's against the law and no matter if it's a lost kitten or a politician posting a political sign, the law is the law and it must be followed. You can't be just a little bit pregnant...it either is or it isn't. Councilman Nixon said he has continually heard from the residents to pass and enforce laws and he's supportive of these efforts.
 
There being no further discussion, Bill No. 13, Ordinance No. 11, passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
NEW BUSINESS
 
Introduction of Bill No. 14, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 Budget for the Police Dept. for revenue received from the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency in the amount of $1,200 for travel to attend mandatory training sessions related to the 2010-2011 PA Weed and Seed program, was introduced by Nelson, read by short title, and deferred until the May 3 meeting of Council.
 
Introduction of Bill No. 15, Session 2011, (View) A Bill amending the 2011 CDBG & HOME Budgets to reflect changes resulting from actual levels rolled over from 2010, was introduced by Hill-Evans, read by short title, and deferred until the May 3 meeting of Council.
 
Resolution No. 54, Session 2011, (View) A Resolution reappointing Dr. Charles Reilly to the York City Board of Health, which term shall expire the first Monday of April 2016, was introduced by Hill-Evans, read at length, and on motion of Hill-Evans, seconded by Nelson, Resolution No. 54 passed by the following vote: Yeas – Nelson, Hill-Evans, Nixon, Smith – 4; Nays – 0.
 
REQUESTS FOR FUTURE MEETINGS
 
Public Hearing: Under the authority of 47 P.S. §4-461(b.3), Council has elected for an extension of time in rendering its decision on the request received from petitioner Walter L. Randall and Split Your Wig, LLC, to transfer PA Eating Place Retail Dispenser License Number E-3012 from the Borough of Wrightsville to the City of York for the sale of malt beverages at 41 E. Jackson St., York, PA. Council will convene in a second public hearing on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA, for the purpose of receiving testimony on a said request. Council will vote on the request at its May 18, 2011 meeting at 7:00 p.m. in Council Chambers. (Petition)(Procedures)
 
COUNCIL COMMENT: None
 
ADMINISTRATION COMMENT
 
Public Works Director Gross said he has provided Council with an update on the move to 101 S. George St. (new City Hall). He said Murphy & Dittenhafer will not have final plans and specifications completed in time to make the May 18 Council meeting so the construction contract will be on the June 7 Council agenda. Additionally, a purchase order has been issued to Heidler Roofing for repair to the roof at 101 S. George St. Director Gross said he will continue to keep Council updated.
 
NEXT MEETING: The next regular meeting of City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. (Public Comment commences at 6:30 p.m.) in City Council Chambers, 1 Marketway West, 3rd Floor, York, PA.
 
ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, the April 19, 2011 meeting of Council adjourned at 7:55 p.m.