This is Atiyeh's fourth attempt to develop this site, which is located in an institutional zone that bars apartments.
|Appraiser Joe Genay|
That's when Atiyeh decided on luxury apartments, but zoners shot down his request for a hardship variance last year, and their decision was affirmed in November by Judge Stephen Baratta. Atiyeh has appealed that ruling, claiming that "we have a significant hardship in developing the property."
Then Atiyeh proposed a 4-story, 125-bed, inpatient detox center and psychiatric center, which needs no zoning approval. But planners nixed that idea in August in a room packed with at least 80 vocal opponents, who objected to such a facility located so close to a high school, playground and little league.
Atiyeh has appealed that denial, but also presented zoners with a scaled-down version of the apartment complex design, his fourth attempt to develop the site. Instead of 4 3-story buildings, he's proposing 3 4-story buildings. Instead of 102 apartments, there would be only 96. The buildings would be closer to the streets than in the original plan, and the principal access point would be along Dewberry instead of Center Street.
But before the hearing even started, Attorney Steve Goudsouzian, representing a collection of neighbors called the North Bethlehem Action Committee, filed a motion to dismiss the appeal on the basis that the matter is res judicata, i.e. has already been decided by zoners.
Attorney Jim Preston, representing Atiyeh, denied the matter is res judicata or that the uses are the same. He exlained that Target and Dollar Stores might both be retail uses but are really different uses, and asked zoners to permit him to make his case.
Zoners allowed Preston to make a record for three hours when Goudsouzian renewed his res judicata objection, pointing out that all Atiyeh was doing was just repeating his financial hardship argument. Preston countered that he was establishing that the property has no value at all for any use other than the apartment complex under consideration, and called the assisted living center "economic suicide."
But zoners had heard enough. Instead of a variance, Atiyeh got a lump of coal.
This proposed apartment site is directly across the street from Calvary Baptist Church, where Atiyeh is seeking zoning approval for a controversial 70-bed voluntary inpatient substance abuse center.