Saturday, October 29, 2011

Judge Moran, 5 City Council Members, Oppose Atiyeh Drug Rehab

Developer Abe Atiyeh has asked Bethlehem zoners for a "special exception" to convert the vacant Calvary Baptist Church, located at 111 Dewberry Avenue, into a 70-bed voluntary inpatient substance abuse center. The facility, which borders a baseball diamond at Bethlehem Catholic High School, would be operated by The Malvern Institute. During a hearing on October 19, Atiyeh attorney Blake Marles was only able to call four witnesses during a five-hour hearing as a result of numerous concerns raised by at least ninety people at Town Hall.

When testimony resumes on October 31, the City of Bethlehem might be raising some concerns itself. Six Bethlehem residents, calling themselves the North Bethlehem Action Committee, have asked Mayor John Callahan and City Council to intervene in what they consider a "ludicrous" proposal presenting an "extraordinary danger" to students at Becahi, who are vulnerable, as well as children at Bernie Fritz playground, located only a block away on Atwood Avenue. The proposed rehab center is also only a few hundred yards away from Kirkland Village, one of the City's largest assisted living communities.

Bill Moran, a Northampton County judge who recently stepped down after a long and distinguished career on the bench, is a member of the citizens' group asking the City to intervene. Judge Moran explained that his group actually strongly supports rehabilitation centers, but the location and size of the facility is troubling. He added that, under the City's proposed zoning ordinance, such a facility would likely be prohibited at that location.

A telephone call to the Mayor's office concerning the City's intervention was not returned in time for publication. But on October 28, five City Council members fired its first volley in this zoning appeal, in a letter to the Zoning Hearing Board, expressing their opposition. They state the "location is inappropriate with respect to its size, supervision, lack of control, and would negatively impact the character of the surrounding neighborhoods." The letter is signed by Council President Bob Donchez, who is joined by Eric Evans, J. Willie Reynolds, Jean Belinski, and David DiGiacinto.

DiGiacinto, Evans and Reynolds all sat in and listened to five hours of testimony during the first hearing.

In the meantime, Attorney Blake Marles has made a request of his own. He sought and obtained a subpoena from the Zoning Hearing Board to compel the presence of John P. Petruzzelli, principal at Becahi. He has previously told zoners he expects to call at least seven witnesses.

Blogger's Note: This is a revisions of a story that I published on Thursday, noting Judge Moran's objections. It is based on recent developments in a fast-moving story.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Give it up Abe and move on to your next or existing zoning challenge.

When will you start to play by the established rules?

Anonymous said...

Will Ken Kraft be at the meeting so he can abstain?

Bernie O'Hare said...

You've made your point several times. This post is not about Ken Kraft.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

This blog is about the rehab, not Kraft. Cast your slurs on the blog about his race. At least it is on topic there.

Anonymous said...

Wow Bernie. Deleting pertinent comments to protect a pol . I guess you are in the bag for Kraft. Whatever he promised you, he is another Barron but you and Stoffa will find out the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem City Council had 41 years to address residential treatment centers as permitted by special exception in residential zoning districts. Special exceptions are permitted uses provided that the proposed use meets the subjective requirements in the ordinance. All of these concerns raised by the neighbors would be the same concerns for any treatment center anywhere. If this was such a pressing issue, Council would have changed the Ordinance years ago. If it was such a pressing issue, they would have entered an appearance at the hearing and participated in it, instead of testing the wind and waiting for the public to become outraged. It's not only hypocrisy at its highest, it just goes to show you what substance the City Council's spine is made from.

Since treatment centers are allowed by special exception in residential districts, name one other place where such a property isn't near a school, a park, a church, a playground, etc. You can't.

The new ordinance decides to treat these people as subhuman by only allowing them in industrial zones, where they would be living near highly undesirable and dangerous activities...oh, and also schools which would be allowed in the same areas.

Looking at the newspapers, the City has turned away apartments, a hospital (which is remitted by right) and now a treatment center in this neighborhood. How many jobs is that to build and work in these buildings? How much increased tax revenue is that? Doesn't that put these uses on the tax rolls again? Isn't high paying jobs from stable businesses what the city should be pursuing not chasing away?

These Council people used "ludicrous" to describe the treatment center. I suggest ludicrous is the word best used to describe their actions.

Anonymous said...

You can babble all day. Don't see anyone agreeing except developer and the people he hired and paid to be a part of his case. Jobs, taxes are needed, but not by selling out to this kook. Administration should have had zoning department update their plans years ago. Finally presenting to council, while this goes on. Neighbors, council, should absolutely step up and let zoning board know this is no good. What is exception for? To allow them discretion to reject when they have reason. They have reason and neighbors and council are reminding them of that. Residents rule. Govt by the people FOR the people.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the question raised several time's w/o answer: Where do you propose a facility like this be annexed then?
Those who oppose appear to do so either for absurd reasons or seem to stick their fingers in their ears like children and say, "I don't want them here because I just don't want them. (But don't judge me for it.)"
Bunch of NIMBYs. Just admit it haters.

Anonymous said...

Residents don't rule. The law does. Or it should. But it's seems the council and the administration only choose to follow the law when it's convenient and depending on what pays better to the masses.

Anonymous said...

If the law rule's than it rules conventient or not.

So take a hike Atiyah. He loves to buy stuff no one else wants, at a great price and then strong arm politcal people into changing the rules for him.

Enough already. Send this guy back to Allentown or Stoffa, they love him.

Anonymous said...

More NIMBY nonsense.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous 9:59 PM

i say let's put it in "your backyard" and see how you like it! the people who always speak the loudest amout nimby, usually live where they don't have to worry about new buildings or uses...

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 4:49: Thank God you didn't come over on the Mayflower.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the Hell that means

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