|Nimita Kapoor Atiyeh Under Cross-examination|
As brash and divisive as Abe can sometimes be, his wife is the exact opposite. She testified under the guidance of prominent Bethlehem Attorney Jim Preston. Attorney Lawrence Fox, who is the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board in Bethlehem Township, represents Objectors Wayne and Karen Achey. Fox actually complimented her work at two assisted living facilities she currently operates.
Current plans call for an adaptive re-use of the vacant school as a 75-bed facility, very much like the adaptive reuse of the old Hellertown High School into Saucon Valley Manor.
In opening remarks, Attorney Fox insisted that Atiyeh is really asking the Board to "re-write" the zoning ordinance, but is in "the wrong church and wrong pew." Preston briefly countered that he would prove the elements needed for a use variance. That requires proof that unique physical characteristics of the property prevent its use in the manner required under the zoning ordinance. The owner must prove a hardship and that the variance will still be harmonious with the surrounding neighborhood.
Kapoor-Atiyeh has considerable experience as an administrator at two assisted living facilities known as Whitehall Manor (215 beds) and Saucon Valley Manor (250 beds). She testified that demand his high and she has a waiting list at both facilities. Both facilities are licensed by the state.
At assisted living facilities, residents can come and go as they please, except for secured dementia residents. But she told zoners that very few of them travel on their own. Only three residents at each of her facilities have their own cars.
Asked about visitors, she responded there are "not enough." On weekdays, she told zoners that there are only one or two visitors per day at each of her facilities.
When questioned about dementia residents escaping, she told zoners that only has happened once in her 17 years as an Administrator. In August, a dementia resident got out in Hellertown and she told zoners that she ran down the street after him. He went to his nearby home, and she sat with him for four hours until he agreed to go back.
Atiyeh was also questioned about the noise from ambulances visiting the facility. She indicated that there are about five visits per week at each of her facilities, but the ambulances use no lights or sirens. "It's upsetting to the neighborhood and upsetting to the residents."
Garbage is removed twice per week from closed dumpsters. There is also a secured area for medical waste inside where medical waste is double bagged and sealed for inside pick up.
When questioned about possible hazards to children who wander onto the property, Atiyeh explained that her assisted living facilities would pose no danger because they have to be made secure against hazards for the older residents, who are on average 88 years old. She mentioned that a child did once visit her facility in Whitehall when his parents forgot to pick him up after school. "He sat in the lobby and ate ice cream until his grandparents came," she laughed.
Testimony in this case will continue at a later date. Karen Achey, a leader of Rosemont Neighborhood Coalition, said her group would have no objection to a church or Christian School at the site. But a proliferation of churches in that area is something that appeals to Atiyeh. "It's a wonderful location near churches where people can take their loved ones," she said.