Thursday, November 17, 2011
Judge Baratta: ZHB Made Right Call Against Atiyeh's Luxury Apartments
Representing Atiyeh, Allentown Attorney Bill Malkames appeal claiming a hardship.
But it appears there was another valid use after all. After being rejected by zoners, and despite filing an appeal, Atiyeh nevertheless filed plans for a 4-story, 125-bed, inpatient detox center and psychiatric center at the exact same site. A permitted use, Atiyeh needed no zoning approval. But Bethlehem Planners rejected Atiyeh's plan in August. At that time, Planner Steve Thode noted the inconsistency in Atiyeh's argument. "Now you're saying there is a permitted use which is viable. Which is it?" he asked.
Northampton County Judge Stephen Baratta has answered that question. In a ten-page Opinion released on November 16, there never was any unnecessary hardship to justify a luxury apartment complex. "The desire to maximize the value of its property, standing alone, with no other proof of hardship, does not establish the right to a use variance."
Judge Baratta's ruling affirms the Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board's decision last year. But Ayiyeh will be back before zoners again on November 22, with a scaled-down plan for luxury apartments at Center & Dewberry.