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.