Thursday, March 24, 2011

Commonwealth Court Gives Green Light to Moravian Village

In a decision released on March 17, a three-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court has upheld a Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board decision allowing Moravian Village to expand its retirement community. This ruling clears the way for a four-story memory care facility and a two-story medical office building along the east side of Stefko Boulevard at the site of the former Minsi Trail Inn and Krick's Bakery. This will be right across the street from what is already Bethlehem's largest senior housing project.

Developer Abe Atiyeh, who has been trying to market his own assisted living facility at the intersection of Center Street and Dewberry Avenue, threw up the legal roadblocks, both on a County and appellate level.

Unable to attract more than a handful of customers, Atiyeh sought his own variance in October, scrapping assisted living for luxury apartments. Zoners rejected his request, so now he's proposing a detox center.

Last March, Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano upheld the ZHB decision to allow Moravian Village to expand operations, ruling they provided an "articulate explanation" for a use variance. At that time, Atiyeh vowed that both Judge Giordano and zoners would be reversed.

But in an unanimous opinion written by Senior Judge James R. Kelly, the Commonwealth Court ruled that Judge Giordano and Bethlehem zoners had it right all along.

Under Bethlehem's proposed zoning ordinance, an assisted living facility would be a permitted use on the Stefko parcel. This possibility was noted, both by zoners and the courts.

In addition to releasing this decision at their March 23 meeting, zoners allowed Alan Jennings' CACLV to resize its parking lot at East Fifth Street to accommodate ten more vehicles. Architect Chris Portner explained that CACLV employees currently park on the street, presenting a problem for neighborhood residents. "This is as close to the Ordinance as you can get."

Zoning Officer Chris Bartleson cautioned that the plan already calls for a large shade tree in an island at the parking lot, but next door neighbor Josh Santana begged zoners to waive that requirement, claiming it would impose a hardship on his 84 year old mother, who would end up raking all the leaves. Zoners were satisfied by a proposal to place evergreens along Fifth Street.

Zoners finally approved a two-family detached dwelling at 1849 Auburn Street, owned by Mark Wingertzahn. In January, a contractor appeared, but not the owner. In February, it was a surveyor who had just been retained that day. With two strikes, the Wingertzahns finally brought their heavy hitter, Easton Attorney Steven N. Goudsouzian, who established that a previous zoning hearing board had approved a two-family home with a previous owner.


Anonymous said...

Atiyeh needs a new lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Atiyeh can only attract a handful of customers because his reputation in the senior living arena speaks volumes.

Saucon Valley manor is a hell hole and everyone knows it.

Anonymous said...