Friday, June 14, 2013

Planners Put Brakes on Arts High School, Atiyeh Hospital

Signs like these decorate Atiyeh's Dewberry & Center tract
For nearly a year, developer Abe Atiyeh has decorated a 5-acre tract at the southeast intersection of Center Street and Dewberry Avenue with "Hospital Coming Soon" signs. But not yet. Bethlehem's Planning Commission, at their June 13 meeting, put the brakes on his plans for an 80-bed, 29,352 sq ft hospital. Atiyeh engineer David Harte asked for an extension himself after concerns were raised about stormwater infiltration by the City's Chief of Engineering, Matt Dorner.

Dorner reported that the site failed perc tests, but Atiyeh engineer David Harte insisted that permits were issued several years ago, when an assisted living facility was approved at the site. Attorney Blake Marles, representing Atiyeh, told planners those permits are site specific, regardless what is planned.

In addition to stormwater infiltration, planners were bothered by a lack of detail, including the type of hospital planned. Resident Stew Early complained that the hospital could be a methadone clinic or a facility housing felons. Harte responded that the site would meet the requirements to obtain a license for a "general hoispital," which could include a wide range of services.

Marles, who has represented St. Luke's Hospital for its expansion into Bethlehem Township, told planners that hospital uses evolve constantly, as happened at the St. Luke's expansion during its construction. He noted it makes little sense to provide detailed architectural drawings until a plan is actually approved.

But as planners remained skeptical, Harte offered to seek an extension so that some of these missing pieces can be supplied, and consideration of the plan was extended until September.

In addition to putting the brakes on Atiyeh, planners also tabled a new Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, to be located at 321 E. Third Street. A 3-story, 85,428 sq ft building for 600 students and 54 staffers is proposed at a 0.7175 acre site.

Although school engineer Bryan Ritter indicated that he would perform and implement the recommendations of a traffic study, Planner Andrew Twiggar insisted that the study be performed before the plan is approved. He did so even though Bethlehem Traffic coordinator Tiffany Geklinsky was unconcerned whether the study is done before or after approval. He did so even though Executive Director Diane LaBelle told planners that even a 30-day delay could affect financing for the $27 million project.

LaBelle acknowledged that 23 buses would drop children off daily.

Planners will look at the Charter School again oat their July 11 meeting.

22 comments:

Mark Baker said...

23 buses and the traffic coordinator is unconcerned?

Glad to see that there is responsibility and good old common sense on Andy T's part

Anonymous said...

East Broad Street is one of the city's most heavily traveled routes. Isn't a traffic study essential before construction of a $27M
project or do we wait and say, Opps.

Anonymous said...

Twenty-three daily buses twice a day is actually 46. No? Imagine the exhaust pollution.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this school almost directly across the street from a large senior housing facility? This sounds like folly or a rush to find a place, any place, so this group doesn't lose a grant.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone wants positive development on the south side, but 650 students, teachers, buses and NO parking for them?

Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.

Anonymous said...

Is Blake Marles the go-to lawyer when you have a lousy project?

He's everywhere like American Express.

Delay seems to be his tactic. If he senses a bad vibe coming from a board he comes to the podium to delay the decision for a few meetings.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You obviously don't go to many planning or zoning meetings. Blake Marles is simply the best planning and zoning lawyer in the Lehigh Valley. In fact, he got the Planning Comm'n reversed a few months again, and on this specific matter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Mark Barker, Actually, I think I will be writing about this in a separate post, and perhaps a column for The Press.

Twiggar is a major developer. He should not be on ANY planning commissions. he has a built in conflict of interest. In the first haearing that day, Twiggar was winking at the engineer making the presentation. That matter had no details at all, as pointed out by Harte. But that sailed through bc it was someone Tiggar knew and liked the engineer. Maybe they work together.

In this matter, Twiggar was being absurd. The engineer for the school had already stated the school would abide by every Point made in the traffic study. The City's own traffic coordinator was untroubled. Darlene Heller hinted she had no concerns. But Twiggar has=d to show off. It made no difference to him that this might delay the project. He did not care that it could affect financing.

And Jim Fiorinto and Olga Negron go along like two little sheep. Baaaa.

Maybe Fiorentino was worried there might be Mormons at that school. He's an admitted religious bigot who does not belong on any planning board.

Negron, who has absolutely no experience as a planner, actually argued for a sidewalk waiver in another matter bc it would promote green space. Duh. She's a Latina who claims to live on the South side, but is apparently worried that arts school might be bad for the community.

At one time a fine body, it's become a bad board that finds excuses not to meet. In fact, perhaps its's best member is a football coach I never thought would work. He has been the only bright light in an increasingly lousy board.

Twiggar's waterfront "plan" in Allentown, part of the NIZ, is just pretty pictures and no plan, no traffic studies, no details. He doesn't have to worry about money bc he can screw the kids out of state education money and has Jaindl in another one of his pockets. He's a phony who doesn't give a shit about little buses dropping off kids for 10 seconds. He just wants someone to kiss his ass.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I think everyone wants positive development on the south side, but 650 students, teachers, buses and NO parking for them?"

So find an excuse to say no and go sip cocktails with Twiggar and Fiorentino? Maybe tell Mormon jokes?

I'd prefer to see the law followed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The real story her is the steady deterioration of Bethlehem's Planning Board, which I will attempt to make more clear.

Mark Baker said...

Let's remember before we start casting stones that the administration recommends the board members and council votes them in.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I have never seen an Executive, Mayor, Governor or President who makes no mistakes in his appointments. The Planning Comm'n has deteriorated and is no longer the fine body it was with Krauter as Chair. They cancel more meetings than they hold.

Anonymous said...

why not just have abe build a school...

Anonymous said...

Negron's unqualified by any standard.
Your " anti- Mormon rants against Fiorentino don't hold any more water now than they did when you were shilling for Mitt.
Tell us again about major voter fraud in that election, that's such a hoot. While your at it, how about re-running that photo of our first black president doctored up to look like the Nazi Hitler. You remember, the one you ran on election day. Dateline Butztown. That was some fine reporting BOH. Yes indeedy, some fine reporting.Something you can show the grandchildren.

Mark Baker said...

then the administration/council should correct the mistakes.

thus the O'Hare spin begins

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:08, actually, that was reporting and was picjed up on by one of the dailies. It showed that bigotry is alive and well. So is religious intolerance, including that exhibited by the Chairman of the Bethlehem Planning Comm'n so is mental illness, which is something you plainly demonstrate.

Anonymous said...

BOH
Next award: Blue ribbon in intellectual gymnastics.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No gymnastics. It was a story and i reported it, as did The Express Times. I think it's newsworthy that there are still bigots. We all know there are still anonymous cowards. No awards for that.

Mark Baker said...

you all should know that this story will only work out to bo's spin - the boy just can't stand the truth as told by others - only his side is correct

Bernie O'Hare said...

The truth is that Andy Twiggar is a member of First Presbyterian Church and teaches Sunday School there, but did not recuse himself from voting to recommend a zoning amendment that will enable his church to expand Kirkland Village. The truth is that he is a partner on a major development along the Allentown riverfront and has an inherent conflict of interest on every development proposed in Bethlehem. It is in his interest to kill development in Bethlehem and encourage expansion into Allentown. He needs to resign. Now. That is the truth. Now you can spin.

Anonymous said...

Just so we're clear: the school has leased an entire parking lot, and buses will use the industrial road behind the building, not e. 3rd. There's almost no reason to be concerned about traffic, which makes one wonder why atiyehs crew and twiggar really opposed the school.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Abe is in business and has every right to raise red herrings. But not Twiggar. I know he has done some good things for Bethlehem. This is not one of them.