If Mayor Gabriel J. Campana were a general, the old adage about "winning the battle but losing the war" might be something for him to worry about.
The mayor won a "battle" with the Kohl's votes Wednesday night, but he also may have alerted some of City Council's newer members enough to make it more difficult to win future votes and gain an upper hand in the symbolic "war" with a council he often has been at odds with during his time in office.
Council acquiesced and approved the mayor's Kohl's department store agenda beginning with a 6-1 vote on the sales and site development agreements for a downtown store.
An artist’s rendering depicts the gateway that may be placed at the entrance to the proposed Kohl’s department store in Williamsport.
Mayor Gabriel J.?Campana speaks in favor of a downtown Kohl’s store prior to Wednesday’s City Council vote. Blueprints for the store are shown behind him.
By the meeting's end, however, some of those "yes" votes were tainted by second thoughts.
Most council members voted for the Kohl's agenda despite concerns about aspects of the contract because they recognized that certain risks had to be tolerated if the Kohl's project was to survive.
The only councilman with no doubts appeared to be Skip Smith, who from his arrival as Campana's council replacement has been a steady ally of his friend, the mayor.
Smith has been prone to criticize others on council for worrying about what he sees as minor issues such as the need Wednesday night for council to waive its downtown design standards to accommodate Kohl's building design.
The meeting began with flowery words from the mayor about the importance of the evening and, after about two hours of talking, a historic vote setting the stage for the first new department store to open in the downtown in more than half a century.
Campana was ecstatic and full of praise for everybody even remotely involved in the project.
A large crowd people was on hand for the meeting and made clear why they were present, as most of them left once the Kohl's agreements were approved.
What those who left early didn't get to watch unfold, however, may have been the meat of the meeting and a foreshadowing of council becoming even stiffer in the future toward the mayor's tendency to push for quick approval of his pet projects.
The final two votes made apparent there will be problems, and at least one of the "yes" voters for the sales agreement said she would change it to "no" if a re-vote were possible.
After the meeting, first-term Councilwoman Liz Miele said she felt "foolish" in the waning minutes of the meeting when she realized the Kohl's store required the council to "waive" the city's relatively new downtown design review standards.
The waiver required a special vote that Miele and Whaley voted "no" on because it set a precedent others could cite to try and get approval for deviations for new facades in the downtown.
Miele also joined Whaley in voting "no" on the last two agenda items - the land development plan for the site and approval of a certificate of appropriateness required for building the store in the downtown.
The chief reason for the waiver was a lack of windows or entrances on the rear - the West Third Street side of the store.
Initially, there was frustration the planning commission hadn't done enough due diligence during its review last week, but council members made it clear they also had dropped the ball.
Miele said she learned a lesson from the experience and will be more resistant when future projects are proposed.
Whaley left the meeting knowing she will get some heat for her votes from the mayor's supporters but convinced she was right and the contract is flawed.
"Two hours after they pass it (and) they've got a problem," she said. "That is not good ... I think everything (should have) been in place, even the (construction-ready) pad."
As for the design standard issue, she said it only confirmed her concerns.
"I really think City Council is going to have problems," she said. "You're doing it for one and not for everyone else (when) everybody should be treated the same."
The veteran councilwoman also suggested newer members of council, such as Miele and Randall Allison, had their eyes opened by the meeting.
The waiver issue - which had to be approved to keep the project on track - was an embarrassing "oversight" for Allison.
"The Kohl's building should have been reviewed in light of the design ordinance," he said.
"What frustrated me most," he said in a morning-after e-mail, "was that we were being asked to approve the Kohl's plan without making the necessary waivers, an act that would have put us in violation of our own city laws."
Councilwoman Gerry Fausnaught agreed and said the administration and council both were at fault in how the matter was handled.
She said the administration seemed to be unconcerned whether the design standards were waived, even though a city law is involved.
It's almost as if "they wanted us to break the law last (Wednesday) night," she added.