Thursday, October 20, 2011

Are You Afraid of a Rehab Center by Becahi?

Imagine you're a little child, and that you've decided to go down a big sliding board with your eyes closed. As you come to the bottom, you open your eyes, and standing right in front of you is

... an alcoholic!

What do you see? To most of us, it would be a grimy old man, maybe wearing a tattered raincoat and carrying a brown paper bag, leering at us. It's an unpleasant image.

And that's the image that Attorney Blake Marles, representing Abe Atiyeh, had to contend with during a five hour long hearing before Bethlehem's Zoning Hearing Board over a residential treatment facility for alcohol and drug additions, at Dewberry Avenue, right by Bethlehem Catholic High School.

The place was packed with at least at least 90 people, including City Council members J. Willie Reynolds, Eric Evans and Dave DiGiacinto. But they were in the peanut gallery with the rest of us. Zoners Gus Loupos, Ron Lutes and Bill Fitzpatrick have the unenviable job of deciding whether to grant a special exception for a treatment center to be run by the Malvern Institute, perhaps the most prominent drug rehab center in the state.

There's no question that the location of this facility, which actually is next to a baseball diamond at Becahi, is very unpopular with mothers and students. Hope Cotturo, whose daughter attends Beca, came all the way down from Pen Argyl to make her concerns known. Nearby neighbors are very upset, too.

After all, the place will be full of ... alcoholics. Addicts, too! Someone in a drug-crazed frenzy might attack a cheerleader.

I'm going to have to put off writing about the testimony until later on Thursday because the hour is late, even for me.

I listened to an airline pilot whose wife mentioned she was an attorney about forty times. He was tired, having been up since 4 AM, but nevertheless suggested that "those people" might lurk outside the facilities, just waiting for an opportunity to sell drugs to kids or ravish one of them.

I had almost forgotten, but it suddenly hit me. I am one of "those people." In 1985, when I first quit drinking, I did a 28-day stint at St. Joe's. I am one of those dangerous alcoholics. In fact, the sliding board story at the beginning of this little essay was presented to me when I was there.

We couldn't picture ourselves as alcoholics or addicts because we were pretty much the same as everyone else, at least on the outside. Nobody there was wearing a wrinkled, old raincoat, or carrying a brown paper bag. But every single one of us is an alcoholic.

Alcoholism affects nearly every family, and there are really no local treatment centers for this disease. When people object to it right by a high school, what they are really doing is evoking that sliding board stereotype.

I understand the fear. I realize how a mother, especially, might feel threatened. But I think it's misplaced. Greg Zebrowksi told me that I don't care because I don't live there. I do care, but I am one of "those people" who terrifies everyone. I can't handle booze, but that doesn't mean I'm likely to go streaking across a high school campus or that I'd sell kids drugs.

Before I go into details with a factual narrative, I'll ask you - what do you think? If you were a zoner for a day, how would you rule?

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

To get it it needs a special exemption. therefore the answer is simple, denied.

Attiyah bought this for a senior living center. the market for that crashed and now he feels he has the "right" to do what he wants. Denied.

By the way, where was Kraft?

Bill said...

I am one of those people too. Today is my 25th anniversary sober. One in four Pennsylvania families are effected by addiction, and this is the sort of stigma one sees all the time. The stigma needs to end.

Anonymous said...

what's it zoned for?
if the zoning isn't proper, no dice.

and i'm spartacus, er, an alcoholic too.

Anonymous said...

And Atiyeh is running for Bethlehem Township Commissioners? This is what he brings to a community? Lots of luck Bethlehem Township if he wins.

Ken Kraft said...

Kraft had to work

Anonymous said...

Alcoholics are potentially unstable and should be treated as the pariahs they are. It's time to stop treating hem like little kids who caught a cold and got sick. Ostracizing is not a bad thing. It's just politically incorrect.

Anonymous said...

There's a difference between an alcoholic and someone who shoves needles in their arms. I know, I know. Addiction is the same no matter what they are addicted to, whether it be drugs or alcohol. But let's face it...near a school? That's a stupid idea. There are other places that he can build it, but near a school is just a poor choice.

Anonymous said...

Having attended Malvern's facility in Malvern Pa, I've gained a life of freedom from dependency. The facility is 1st class and in a neighborhood, imagine that! Swanky neighborhood in fact.

There will always be a "NIMBY" or 2, so be it it's just that Atiyeh doesn't really give a shit as long as he can make money on the deal, period!

Anonymous said...

Reguardless of subject,I love how we as a society play on each others fears.The russians are coming,The russians are coming.

Anonymous said...

Aqualung, my friend

Does Atiyeh want to heal ya?

No, he just wants to make

a buck or two

Anonymous said...

8:32 -

It is not simply paranoia. The fears are not without foundation.

Check out the hometown of the LL World Series. In the late 80's,a small, racially harmonious city surrounded by smaller townships and boroughs. A couple of treatment centers were located in the area. As they struggled to fill their beds, an outreach was made to cities like Philadelphia and Camden. 20 years after what is known as "The Influx", it is a war zone and the quality of life there is forever changed for the worse. Social services are overrun, the tax base shot to hell and the crime something you would, not surprisingly, expect from Philly or Camden. The schools are falling apart and there is no money to fix them.

Don't think there won't be a negative impact. If you build it, they will come, IN DROVES. The impact on the LV, a much more densely populated area already accustomed to gangs, drugs, murders and such, may not be as dramatic, but there will be an impact.

Anonymous said...

Bill and Bernie, congrats on your sobriety and you continue to be in my prayers in the hopes that strength persists in your life.

On the center, special exception is the standards, so the burden is lower than a variance. Basically, we needs to be proven by the applicant is that the use will not pose health/public safety concerns and that the traffic issues stemming from its approval will not be a burden on the neighborhood. It's a low standard, one that I am guessing should be achieved. Still, I am troubled by the applicant's persistent attempts to develop that which isn't permitted by right. When he purchases a property, he knows what is permitted. Yet he continues this activity. That he overpays for properties or gambles with the market is not a matter the ZHB considers. It seems this guy is before a ZHB at least one a month. He'll probably get what he wants in this instance, but it's troubling and I hope the ZHB doesn't bend over backwards either way to accomodate him.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" There are other places that he can build it, but near a school is just a poor choice."

Why is that? The people in rehab centers are the same people you see everywhere else. But while they are there, you won't see them at all. It is a very rigid life, involving no contact with the outside world. When I was inside a rehab, I could not even read the newspaper.

Please explain how this will pose a danger to the school. By the way, I am a Becahi grad.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I am one of those people too. Today is my 25th anniversary sober"

Congrats, Bill.

Bernie O'Hare said...

", I am troubled by the applicant's persistent attempts to develop that which isn't permitted by right."

So we should kill a good idea bc the proponent is Atiyeh??? By the way, he recently tried to get a plan approved for a project that IS permitted by right. That was rejected, too.

Anonymous said...

Atiyeh is an arrogant person who prays on the weak and throws his money around likr he owns the world. I watched him laugh last night many, many times at people who are generally concerned for their children and their property values and don't say, Bernie, that the property values won't be effected by all of this along with the BEECA enrolement decreasing which will raise tuition costs and so on and so on. He is a #1 jerk! All that Atiyeh is interested in is "MONEY" like he doesn't have enough of it. ZHB DENY, DENY, DENY and let him put it in his backyard or how about yours Bernie. You always have an opinion but it usually doesn't effect you personally, right??? Btw, you look good and healthier with less pounds on you :)

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's distill your argument:

(1) Atiyeh's application should be denied bc he is a jerk who only cares about money. - On that basis, nearly every zoning application should be denied.

(2) A rehab center might decrease property values. - I see. Atiyeh is a jerk bc he thinks about money, but it is OK for you to do so.

(3) If I like a rehab center so much, how would I feel if it were in my back yard? - I lived in a rehab center for 28 days. If one were in my back yard, I can tell you I would never even notice it. They are quieter than most day cares, to be sure. It is a time in which the residents live what is pretty much a monastic life. And the people living in that facility would be no different than you.

Thanks for your compliment on the weight loss. I understand your concern and your suspicions. I respect your willingness to stand up for what you believe in, too. Looks like most of my readers would vote No if they were on the ZHB.

Anonymous said...

Residential treatment centers are not permitted by right in any zoning district in Bethlehem, including the institutional district.

Special exception is the only way that such a use is permitted, and if you look at an overhead map of the residential areas in Bethlehem where residential treatment centers are permitted by special exception, you can't draw a reasonable radius where there isn't a school, a church, a playground, a park, etc.

Anonymous said...

"By the way, he recently tried to get a plan approved for a project that IS permitted by right. That was rejected, too."

Clearly, it wasn't permitted by right b/c it would not have gone to the ZHB. Something about what he wanted to do was not permitted, therefore it is not by right.

You are absolutely correct that we must be blind to the applicant (the merit of the project is not up to me and frankly isn't up to the ZHB--what they decide is whether or not the evidence presented meets the standards under the zoning ordinance to provide a special exception. The use is not on trial: it is the impact of the use that is being discussed). Anything else would be a violation of his right to due process under the law. It is probably why his request for the special exception will be approved. My observation was simply an observation about his MO.

Anonymous said...

"Special exception is the only way that such a use is permitted, and if you look at an overhead map of the residential areas in Bethlehem where residential treatment centers are permitted by special exception, you can't draw a reasonable radius where there isn't a school, a church, a playground, a park, etc."

Oye, if that's the case, then if the request is denied, he'll file suit saying the zoning ordinance is exclusionary. then he'll have the city in a pickle b/c others will file the same motion and you'll have zoning in lower macungie ala jaindl. ask residents how that is going.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Clearly, it wasn't permitted by right b/c it would not have gone to the ZHB. Something about what he wanted to do was not permitted, therefore it is not by right."

It was not the ZHB. It was the Planning Comm'n. They had no legal basis to reject the plan but did so bc it is a LULU (locally unpopular land use).

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Clearly, it wasn't permitted by right b/c it would not have gone to the ZHB. Something about what he wanted to do was not permitted, therefore it is not by right."

It was not the ZHB. It was the Planning Comm'n. They had no legal basis to reject the plan but did so bc it is a LULU (locally unpopular land use).

Anonymous said...

Very controversial issue and candidate Kraft is conveniently working. Whats a matter, afraid of losing some votes?

Make a statement as to your position. or is that to politically dangerous.

I love how these Long Dem's assume everyone is as stupid as they are.

Ken Kraft said...

Anon 3:08

first tell me who you are

Anonymous said...

Bernie:

I'm not exactly sure how long ago you were in rehab, but times have changed. I'm not trying to be cruel here, but if people want drugs in rehab, they get drugs in rehab. I personally know of 2 people that spent time in multiple rehab facilities, and one of them was Malvern, and they came out with more problems than they had going on. Now that's not to say that rehab is a bad thing at all. Believe me, I understand the value of a rehab center, but like any treatment, the only way it is going to work is if the person actually wants help. Being Court Ordered into treatment isn't going to work unless the addict wants to be helped.

That being said...maybe it's not so much a danger to the Becahi community. My thoughts are that a rehab center would be beneficial. Just in a better location. It's clearly just about money, and that's a shame because there are actual people out there who could benefit from treatment. And who knows...with all the stories in the news lately, it's probably more likely that the Becahi kids would be trying to deal to the rehab patients than the other way around.

Congrats to you and Bill on your many years of sobriety.

Anonymous said...

I see Mr. Kraft is dodging the rehab issue. Maybe some Attiyah donations got in the way.

That is Long Dem politics 101.

Anonymous said...

9:42 Am,Not only Williamsport but WB,Scranton,ABE,Stroudsburg,York,Reading,Harrisburg,Coatsville,Norristown and Lancaster where affected by "the influx".Am sure rehabs had nothing to do with it.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, you are wrong. My distant cousin, leftwing kook mayor at the time, was instrumental in opening the floodgates. Rehabs in that town were the start, then came the families and the dealers who preyed upon those who were supposedly rehabbed. The populations grew, and the problems exploded exponentially.

You start building those centers around here, you will see the buses coming from the metros. Doubt all you want. I was there and saw it happen.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:32PM
Bernie, Can you please editorialize on this a little? What's the likelyhood of a lawsuit if the petition is denied? Do you think it would be successful? And why don't you think the first denial was challenged in court?
Thanks!

Bernie O'Hare said...

I believe the Planning Comm'n denial has been challenged. I'll have to check. I also believe that the ZHB is entitled to impose reasonable restrictions, but this is a special exception, not a variance, so the burden is lower.