Bethlehem City Council met on April 19 to discuss changes in the community and to review the adoption of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, which regulates standards for building projects and safe construction.
An ordinance was proposed to amend Article 1701 and adopt the 2018 version of the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code for Bethlehem.
Pennsylvania adopted the 2018 International Building Codes in February 2022.
Mike Simonson, Bethlehem chief code official, said the 2018 plumbing code will allow for additional fixtures in buildings which will become family restrooms.
Hillary Kwiatek, council member and communications specialist at Lehigh, expressed her disapproval of these restrooms and questioned their gender inclusive access.
“To have the restrooms marked (as) ‘family’ adds a whole layer of culture war potentialities that I think are troubling,” Kwiatek said.
Simonson and Mayor J. Williams Reynolds agreed with Kwiatek, but said the 2021 code does not include language regarding gender inclusivity.
“It’s not something that we’re able to do under what that code is, but it’s absolutely our goal to try to do that as soon as we’re legally able,” Reynolds said.
Looking forward, in the fall of 2022, the council’s Review Advisory Committee will be reviewing the 2021 codes. This process will take three to four years, and the codes will likely be adopted in 2024 or 2025.
After this discussion, several other community topics and matters received attention, including the appointment of new council positions.
Last year, Reynolds added the position of community development director into the council budget to lead pandemic recovery and focus on issues like affordable housing and homelessness. He said this position will look at how vulnerable citizens in the community were affected by the pandemic and how the city can help them to recover.
During the city council meeting, Reynolds appointed Sara Satullo, former reporter at lehighvalleylive.com, as deputy community development director.
Reynolds later appointed new board members Diana Hodgson, Nik Nikolov and Connie Postupack to the Board of Architectural Review.
Council member Wandalyn Enix discussed the growing issue of homelessness in the area and lack of affordable housing in South Bethlehem. She said many homeless people are on at least a two year waiting list for Morovian House, a rental community that aims to provide affordable housing for older individuals.
Enix spoke about a woman and her family who are on the waiting list and can only stay a the homeless shelter for three more months. Enix said residents of the homeless shelter can stay there up until a certain date.
“Then they provide blankets and tents for them to sleep out in the elements,” Enix said. “So that’s where we are, where they stay. With their blankets, their tents, until November when they go into a church.”
Enix said the last time she talked with homeless individuals she knows they did not have a place to stay for this upcoming winter.