Atiyeh had hoped that a facility for teen-aged girls would be more acceptable. "I listened to the neighbors," he argued. "I learned from them." But they remained opposed. "The last thing I want aside of Beca is a drug and alcohol program," declaimed Mary Karabin.
So ends the latest chapter in Atiyeh's seemingly quixotic quest for drug and alcohol treatment centers in Bethlehem. His bid for a 70-bed voluntary inpatient substance abuse center, located at the vacant Cavalry Baptist Church on Dewberry Avenue, was unanimously denied in March. Plans for a drug, alcohol and psychiatric hospital, at a five-acre site across the street, are in litigation. Yet another proposed rehab, located at the former Moose & Bug Florist at 2349 Linden St, is hotly contested.
Even Atiyeh's one success, a proposed rehab center at the old Synthetic Thread Mill near Rte. 378, has been abandoned by the developer himself. At the November 27 hearing, he called the industrial site "too depressing."
Attorney Mark Malkames, representing Atiyeh, argued that zoners had no choice but to grant the request for a "special exception." He explained that zoners must approve special exception uses so long as it is the type of permitted use one would expect under ordinary circumstances. He likened it to a gas station. If a gas station is a permitted use that can be approved by special exception, Malkames reasoned that complaints about the fumes or traffic would have to be rejected because those would be the ordinary consequences of a gas station.
Since a rehab is a permitted use, Malkames argued that opponents would need to show consequences beyond what could be seen at a typical rehab. "There has to be direct consequences, not speculation," he added.
But Attorney Jay Leeson, representing Bethlehem Catholic High School, asked, "Haven't we fought this battle before? Isn't this deja vu?" While calling Abe Atiyeh is a "good man," Leeson argued that a rehab so close to a high school is not in the best interests of Bethlehem, or in the public welfare.
Before zoners required to deliberate, Leeson asked the audience of 25 or so people to raise their hands if opposed to the project. Aside from reporters and participants, every hand went up.
Zoners came back with their unanimous decision, denying a special exception, after about thirty minutes of deliberation. They were represented by Attorney Erich Schock.
Attorney Steve Goudsouzian represented a group of neighbors who have opposed the Atiyeh rehabs near Becahi. Attorney Chris Spadoni represented Bethlehem City Council, which intervened and also was opposed to the project.