The Lebanon City Council met Monday night to approve a new comprehensive zoning ordinance, among other business, including a discussion of the recently announced socially-distant Fourth of July celebration that’s currently in the works.
City of Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello and a number of city agencies will be meeting Tuesday, June 22, to plan parking for this year’s Fourth of July fireworks event at Coleman Memorial Park.
At Monday evening’s city council meeting, Mayor Capello said while the money has been raised to offer citizens a fantastic fireworks display, the logistics still have to be finalized.
Unlike other years, when the park was packed with people, this year at 7:30 p.m. on July 4, the city will close Coleman Memorial Park, along with a number of streets near the park.
In the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, social distancing could not be maintained during this popular, well-attended event, so changes had to be made.
“We’ll look at places to park and we’ll make a plan,” Capello said.
The meeting will include the park’s caretaker along with the public works department, and fire and police department representatives.
While the fireworks display was initially cancelled for this year, a public outcry for the anticipated annual event brought about a novel solution; a GoFundMe account that brought in the dollars needed to continue the fireworks.
“It was due to the public asking for us to work to find ways to have fireworks,” Capello said.
The GoFundMe account brought in about $3,000, and a single generous donor gave $4,000, Capello said.
The total amount to be used for the event is $11,000, with pledges from a number of businesses.
“We want to give a big thank you to everyone who contributed to the fund,” said Council Chairman Wayne Carey.
The city generally sends out letters to raise funds for the fireworks display in early spring, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to do that this year, the mayor said.
The last minute GoFundMe account did the trick.
“We had regular contributors from years past and some new people,” Capello said. “They really came through for us.”
The mayor also reminded city residents that it is not legal to set off fireworks within the city limits.
A number of complaints have been already received by police concerning illegal fireworks being discharged, she said.
“We want to encourage everyone to enjoy the show coming from Coleman’s Park, but we also want to remind all your neighbors not to try to do their own,” Carey said. ” Let’s keep everybody safe.”
It is important that all fireworks complaints be reported to the police, said Lebanon Police Chief Todd Breiner, as that information can help police determine the location of the fireworks to find who is responsible.
In other business, Council approved the transfer of a liquor license into the city of Lebanon from North Lebanon Township; from “A and M Amato” Inc. to “Four Js and a G,” LLC, for the premises at 633-635 Cumberland St., the site of the William Penn Bar and Restaurant.
Council member Amy Keller asked if the owners had plans for the second floor of the business, an area formerly used by artists as a studio.
Solicitor Ian Ehrgood, attending the virtual meeting by Zoom, said that using that floor might be a possibility, but it would depend on what the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) allows the owners to do.
In other matters, Council also adopted a new comprehensive zoning ordinance for the city of Lebanon, dividing the city into zoning districts with varying regulations.
The new zoning will regulate the uses of the land, construction or removal of structures, regulate open areas to be left unoccupied, establish maximum density, and establish provisions for the protection of certain natural features.
Those natural features include water tributaries and flood plain areas, the mayor said.
“I think this is a great step for the city,” Carey said. “Lebanon is growing and we need to have up-to-date language that makes everything clear. This will help to make our city a better place.”
Mayor Capello explained that the prior city zoning ordinance was more than 30 years old and lacked relevancy.
“Over the years, new types of (businesses) like AirBnBs have come to light and we don’t have any reference for that,” Capello said. “This (zoning legislation) will encourage economic development to be more user-friendly.”
Various groups, from city planning to the local historical association, worked on the legislation, Capello said.
With Lebanon County currently in the yellow phase of reopening, Capello informed Council of the recycling guidelines for the city’s recycling center.
When the county was in the red phase, the center was closed. Now, it is open on Saturdays, but for use only by city residents, she said.
“We ask people outside of the city to get in touch with their municipalities,” Capello said.
Several garbage haulers also make recycling available to their customers, Capello said.
At one time, the city would get paid for recyclables, Capello said, but now the city has to pay to have the materials hauled away.
City residents who want to recycle should call the public works department to register and they will be mailed a card to show they are eligible to use the recycling center.
“For now, we’re keeping it only for city residents; when we go to green, we’ll have to make a decision,” Capello said.
Discussion focused on the recent demonstration in Lebanon regarding inappropriate use of force by police, with questions about local policing policies.
Council members expressed appreciation for their local force.
“I know it’s critical to examine protocol and due-diligence, but I would like to commend the chief because I’ve heard many testimonials praising the police force,” said Council member Chris Miller.
Council member Amy Keller added that Lebanon’s police force is “top notch.”
Chestnut Street resident Amaury Abreu asked if any parts of the police policies could be published, to let the public know the exact actions to be taken in any incidents.
“I know some of the policies are not to be shared,” Abreu said.
Chief Breiner told him that many policies are open to the public, with very limited exceptions.
“Some of the things for tactical (response) are not disclosed for safety reasons,” Breiner said.
Mayor Capello said she would like to have a public meeting for people to bring their concerns and have questions answered.
Pennsylvania’s Right-To-Know Law does say many records and policies can be disclosed, the mayor said.
No date for the meeting has been set at this time.
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