Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bethlehem Zoners Nix Atiyeh's Luxury Apartments Proposal

Despite a parade of five witnesses and 26 exhibits over two lengthy nights of testimony, Bethlehem zoners on October 20 rejected Abe Atiyeh's request for a 102-unit "luxury" apartment complex on five acres located at the corner of Center Street & Dewberry Avenue. Immediately following a 2-1 vote in Bethlehem Library's Conference Room, an audience of about 25 opponents burst into applause. Allentown Attorney Bill Malkames, who represents Atiyeh, stated that his client will likely appeal.

At one point, Chairman Gus Loupos called for a brief recess, but warned everyone to be back quickly. "It's Mr. Malkames' anniversary, and he has to get home to his wife."

"He created his own hardship," wisecracked Bethlehem resident Greg Zebrowski, a former Northampton County Councilman.

As it turned out, that was the central issue in this zoning appeal. Atiyeh had originally proposed intended to build an assisted living facility at the site, but was unable to spark enough interest to get financing. "I'm extremely embarrassed that this is a failed project," Atiyeh stated during the first night of testimony. His proposed apartment complex, located in an area zoned institutional, requires a use variance.

But numerous neighbors, from Carver House VP Terry Beidleman to Mike Polay, were worried that the increased traffic would ruin their neighborhood. They scoffed at testimony from PE David Hart, who insisted that traffic from this apartment complex would be no greater than the traffic from an assisted living center.

They were worried that Atiyeh, if unsuccessful, would walk away from the project. "We don'twant to be stuck with another slum," warned Frank Kovacs.

Englishman Mark Blomfeld, who has lived in the states for seven years, told zoners Bethlehem is the best of the cities in which he's lived. "I feel very lucky and fortunate and proud to live where I live and to have the neighbors I have. This is not the neighborhood I moved into. ... We're being asked to take it on the chin because a previous business idea isn't quite what [Atiyeh] wants it to be."

Attorney Malkames argued, "Every property has to have a viable use," and a lack of meaningful uses created a hardship that cold only be cured by a variance permitting an apartment complex. Zoners Gus Loupos and Bill Fitzpatrick, voting to reject the variance, disageed. Board member Ken Kraft cast his vote with Atiyeh.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Gus and Bill for doing the right thing. An economic hardship is not a zoning hardship. And contrary to Mr. Malkames' opinion, this property has several viable uses, they just may not be economically appealing for Mr. Atiyeh.

Anonymous said...

Bernie-

Who is the back up solicitor to the ZHB?

Also, did the City's zoning officer or solicitor take a position on this project, besides the zoning officer denying the zoning permit?

Anonymous said...

At one point, Chairman Gus Loupos called for a brief recess, but warned everyone to be back quickly. "It's Mr. Malkames' anniversary, and he has to get home to his wife."

"He created his own hardship," wisecracked Bethlehem resident Greg Zebrowski, a former Northampton County Councilman.

Who? Attorney Malkames for getting married.

Anonymous said...

Atiyeh's modus operandi for 20 years has been: purchase a lot, any lot, anywhere, in any town, then claim financial hardship when officials refuse his whim.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:47, You got it. Greg was joking with Att'y Malkames.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The back up solicitor is Eric Shop (sp?). Neither he nor the zoning officer told the board to grant or deny the variance, and neither pushed them in any direction.

Anonymous said...

Erich Schock

See: http://www.flblaw.com/attorney_directory/erich_schock.asp

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks for that. I only had a phonetic spelling and neglected to talk to him. I appreciate the information.

Anonymous said...

Whitehall, Bethlehem Township and Bethlehem City... this guy just doesn't get it. Why doesn't he find land zoned properly and build? Instead, he finds crap land and tries to force his way in and loses.

Anonymous said...

The Rajah of Rezoning is a real scumbag. If he can get a variance on a hardship, I want to make my home an ice cream stand/Exotic dancing Hall and if I can't I will sue as a zoning hardship.

Tell this carpetbagger to stop buying properties with a specific zoning then trying to bully through changes to fatten his wallet.

If this is approved I, as some others I have talked to, will put are homes on the market and move to the suburbs.

It is Bethlehem's decision if it wants to become Allentown east.

Anonymous said...

Any truth to the rumor that Atiyeh is looking to get the Curative Amendment action back into play in Bethlehem Township, now that the County pulled out of the treatment center. Apparently, the deal put in place between him and the Township would allow him to continue that action.

Anonymous said...

Actually, for a while, this guy operated almost exclusively in Allentown until the city zoning board sent him packing. Most notably after the requested to rezone the quarry next to Union Terrace.

The projects he did get through and developed himself turned out to be so so at best. But, to be fair there is a few that turned out to be pretty nice after he sold them to other developers such as the homes at Trout Creek and the very nice P&P Mill loft apartments.

You never know with this guy.