|Atiyeh with Att'y Mark Malkames last month|
Atiyeh, who has zoning approval for an assisted living facility at the 5-acre site, has abandoned that project as a result of market conditions. He'd rather build luxury apartments. But zoners shot that proposal down. So did a Northampton County judge. So did the Commonwealth Court. Rebuffed on that idea, he presented plans for a psychiatric hospital. Those were rejected, too, and that matter is now under review in court.
But while a judge ponders a medical facility for the mentally ill, Atiyeh has again submitted plans for four, 3-story apartment buildings at this controversial site. Across the street, he's proposed a voluntary, inpatient, rehab for addictions at the old Calvary Baptist Church. He's also proposed converting a residence at the northeast corner of Center and Dewberry into his own command center for himself and is staff. He's been rebuffed on those ideas as well.
Along the way, a small army of concerned Bethlehem residents has galvanized to fight the colorful developer along every step of the way. August 16 was no exception. A platoon of about 20 troops descended into Town Hall to protest Atiyeh's latest plans. It made no difference that the colorful developer was himself absent. A grassroots group calling itself the North Bethlehem Action Committee, made up of prominent citizens like retired Judge Bill Moran and retired educator Greg Zebrowskis, has retained Easton attorney Steve Goudsouzian to advise them and oppose Atiyeh.
After Goudsouzian voiced his objections to Atiyeh's latest plans, Bethlehem citizens like John Schadt and Sue Glemser challenged Atiyeh's integrity.
Glemser described Atiyeh as a "rich developer who does poor due diligence," and told planners that his plans have damaged "the peace and tranquility" of Bethlehem.
Claiming that Atiyeh's vision is "perverse and regressive," Schadt argued that Bethlehem "already has enough slumlords as it stands now." He labeled Atiyeh "an extremely callous, uncaring developer" who "has made a mockery of Bethlehem."
"He needs to be told to go away," said Schadt, after reading from a prepared statement that he has declined to provide to the media.
Planners did reject Atiyeh's plans, although not for the reasons stated by Schadt. They were instead concerned about an apartment complex that failed to include basic items like a fire hydrant. "It's a matter of public safety," explained Planner Andrew Twigger.
Contacted after yesterday's hearing, Atiyeh stated he expected his plans to be rejected because the apartment use has already been rejected by zoners.
In other business, planners did approve a 16-home townhouse subdivision at the northeast corner of East Boulevard and Chester Road. Called "The Meadows," 4 sets of townhouses, with four in each set, have been proposed on a 16-acre lot located next to an apartment complex.