Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association
Minutes of Past Meetings
Special Meeting - Monday, September 9, 2013, 9 PM
Location: Court House Annex, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
Attendance: Art Curtze, Jonathan Eburne, Dave Eggler, Tru Fisher, Joseph Griffin, Sally Houser, Gary Hoover, Melady Kehm, Keith Koch, Joanne Knupp, Dick Knupp, Romayne Naylor, Jeanne Newlin, Nancy Noll, Patrick North, Philip Ruth (left before the vote), Colina Seeley, Ralph Seeley, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, Joe Vasey, Mary Vollero, and Julia Spicher Kasdorf, recording.
President Koch called the meeting to order for the purpose of voting on whether or not to make a petition of intervention to the court in light of the Bellefonte Area Industrial Development Authority’s (BAIDA) failure to properly execute its role as conservator of the Garman building.
Attorney Bruce Manchester explained the nature and purpose of the petition. Because Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association (BHCA) is a non-profit organization with a long commitment to historical preservation in Bellefonte, we are “people of interest” in this case. The BAIDA --as an arm of Bellefonte borough and appointed conservators of the building--has fiduciary (primary) status in the case. BHCA, however, has a special interest and can exercise the power to intervene, that is, to tell the court that the BAIDA hasn’t fulfilled its responsibility and to request that the blighted buildings statute be enforced fairly.
Mr. Manchester has looked at other cases in which it was clear that the judge had the final authority in the matter. He feels it is not advisable to file an appeal after the BAIDA submits their decision because he has seen cases where a higher authority would support the local judge’s decision, even if the higher court disagreed.
Joseph Griffin asked whether the covenant was
actually an easement.
Mr. Manchester replied no, a restrictive covenant defines the use of the property, and therefore functions as private zoning.
Jon Eburne asked whether the lawyer recommended that we intercede after or before BAIDA announces its decision.
Mr. Manchester noted that Judge Kistler makes decisions swiftly, and for that reason he feels we should move quickly to intervene, noting that we could seek a change of conservator afterward.
Mr. Eburne asked whether we lose the possibility of a compromise by intervening before the BAIDA announces its decision.
Mr. Manchester replied that he feels the deal was already set.
Melady Kehm asked what our responsibility would be as interveners.
Mr. Manchester replied that we are simply identifying the problem.
Jo Ann Knupp asked whether a decision by the judge in our favor (in response to the intervention), would mean that our struggle with the borough would be over.
Keith Koch added that if we intervene tomorrow, we won’t be forced to answer the impossible questions put to us by the BAIDA at the public meeting on Wednesday.
JoAnn asked if we file the intervention, argue the covenant issue, note the failure to follow procedure, present our arguments, money, etc. whether our intervention would overturn a decision of the BAIDA.
Mr. Manchester said that if the BAIDA awards the Garman to BHCA on Wednesday, we can withdraw the intervention. Quoting an e-mail he sent to Rodney Beard, solicitor for the BAIDA, Mr. Manchester said the BHCA is fighting a battle on three fronts: against the BAIDA, to garner positive public opinion and support, and to win the favor of the court. The judge is all you should care about, he told the audience.
Patrick North asked whether we couldn’t file the intervention any time, recalling that we got scolded by the judge at the hearing for not seeming to share information with the BAIDA. What do we risk, he asked, if we file before Wednesday?
Mr. Manchester said litigation is a high risk game. You could make an argument for filing later.
Mary Vollero expressed concern about our pressing the point that the PDG organization has inadequate funds in hand, given that we’re in the same boat.
Gary Hoover said we must not ignore the role of the borough in this. It all seemed like a done deal from the outset! Could an intervention propose a remedy, such as awarding the property to the BHCA?
Mr. Manchester: Yes.
Romayne Naylor asked what Mr. Manchester would recommend: should we act sooner or later?
Mr. Griffin revealed that sometime tomorrow we’ll hear that the BIDA may give us another month. From a fund raising standpoint, we could raise another $100,000 in a month.
Mr. Manchester said that the court’s order says that the conservator shall make a decision by September 11 or as soon as practicable thereafter. In light of that, they can give us another month.
Mr. Griffin asked whether there would be merit in holding off on the intervention then.
Joanne Totsi-Vasey suggested that we amend the motion. Instead of simply voting yes or no, she amended the motion to have Mr. Manchester file the amendment immediately (on Wednesday) if we hear nothing or get a negative reply from the BAIDA.
Mr. Eburne seconded the motion.
Ms. Kehm asked once again what our role would be as intervener.
Mr. Manchester: You would de-rail their decision!
Mr. Griffin said tonight the IDA may well (will) grant us an extension.
Mr. Manchester: That will be an informal extension.
Mr. Hoover: We don’t want an extension, we want the building so we can get a roof on it before winter.
Julia Spicher Kasdorf asked if a preemptive intervention in our small town might adversely impact relationships between individuals involved with the borough and BAIDA and BHCA, and whether we should consider that at all.
Sally Houser made a passionate plea that we fight to save the Garman, as we have told the public and donors we will do.
Mr. Manchester read his entire e-mail to Rodney Beard, concluding that if the IDA doesn’t disclose the facts by the close of the business day on Sept. 10, he would file an intervention on Wednesday morning.
Art Curtze asked whether we shouldn’t assume whatever position of power is available to us and launch the intervention.
Someone called for the vote, and Keith passed out paper ballots.
The decision to accept Ms. Tostii-Vasey’s amendment passed with 15 in favor, 6 opposed, and one abstention.
We then voted on the decision to charge Mr. Manchester with filing the intervention on Wednesday morning if by the end of the day Tuesday, we do not have a response from Mr. Beard or the BAIDA with 1) full (financial) disclosure, which Mr. Manchester requested in his e-mail, and 2) more time. The decision passed with 20 yes votes and 2 no votes.
Keith Koch adjourned the meeting around 10:45.
Julia Spicher Kasdorf