North Bethlehem Action Committee Protecting the future of our neighborhood
The Planning Commission approved Mr. Atiyeh’s application for an 80-bed Bethlehem Hospital at 1838 Center last September but little appears to be happening as of early April 2014.
Bethlehem, ZHB and Mr. Atiyeh agreed not to pursue a treatment facility at 2349 Linden Street.
There are changes at City Council and City Hall.
1838 Center Street (Center and Dewberry).
80-bed hospital. The application for a 1-story, 80-bed, 29,452 square foot facility (called “Bethlehem Hospital”) was approved at the September 12th meeting of the Planning Commission. The type of hospital is unknown. However, the approval was subject to many conditions including that the applicant cannot operate a Treatment Center at this location. (see Sept 12 PC approval letter to Atiyeh and referenced Sept 5 City Review letter to Atiyeh).
Given the questionable need for another hospital and questionable economics for such as small site, many think that this approval has limited value. As of April 1, 2014, there appears to be no action toward obtaining necessary approval for such a hospital facility by The PA Department of Health.
125-bed drug, alcohol and psychiatric hospital. Given the approval for an 80 bed hospital on this site, the issues surrounding the application and appeal seem mute at this time. If this application resurfaces, Suzanne Borzak, would have to make an initial ruling on any application before the board could hear an appeal. No date has been set to hear an appeal of a decision on such an application.
In late 2013, Mr. Atiyeh, Bethlehem and the ZHB reached a stipulation and settlement agreement dealing with the proposed 47-bed, 35,000 square foot rehab facility at 2349 Linden (the former Moose & Bug flower shop), across the street from Spring Garden Elementary School; this was documented on January 7, 2014 by Mr. Atiyeh’s attorney (see Status Report). Though issues have been raised about the extent of participation in the process used to reach this agreement, the outcome addresses the immediate concerns of the neighbors. Key outcomes include:
Mr. Atiyeh agreed not to submit a development plan on this parcel with a use that is similar to or associated with a Residential Treatment Facility.
Mr. Atiyeh has five years to apply for permits for the construction of a residential treatment center at 825 12th Avenue, in compliance with the earlier ZHB decision.
In addition, one other key outcome complements Mr. Atiyeh’s other businesses:
The City and the ZHB gave Mr. Atiyeh sign relief for the off-premise 25 foot by 25 foot billboard on the 825 12th Avenue; you can see the large electronic sign as you drive north on Route 378.
During the next year, the Moose & Bug property reportedly has been leased to a local lawn and tree care company; the longer term use remains unknown. For more information, see:
825 12th Avenue. Presumably, Mr. Atiyeh will pursue the development of the approved residential treatment facility at this location during the next five years.
Atiyeh’s remarks on “Land Development 101”. At a May 22nd Easton City Council meeting, Mr. Atiyeh reportedly warned about the City being blackmailed into a deal. “I know. I do it all the time,” Atiyeh said. “I say I’ll put a treatment center or a prison in. I do it all the time.” Then he reportedly went on to make a threat of his own.
Our contacts at City Council and with the City have changed.
Bob Donchez is our new Mayor. When he was on City Council, he supported changes to the Zoning Ordinance that establish buffer zones near schools and he supported Council’s intervention in various Zoning Appeals by Mr. Atiyeh.
Alicia Karner is our new Director, Community and Economic Development, replacing Joe Kelly. Alicia comes from Northampton County where she held a similar role.
Bill Reynolds, the new President, City Council, Eric Evans (past President and Chairman of the Public Safety Committee) and Karen Dolan (Vice President, Council, and Chair of Parks and Public Property Committee) remain City Council. They have all supported changes to the Zoning Ordinance and the intervention in various Zoning Appeals by Mr. Atiyeh.
New City Council members are Bryan Callahan (Chair, Community Development Committee), Michael Recchiuti (Member, Public Safety and Parks and Public Property Committees), Cathy Reuscher (member, Community Development Committee) and Adam Waldron.
Chris Spadoni, who served as City Council Solicitor, has been replaced by John Spirk. Several times over the last few years, at Council’s direction, Chris intervened in Mr. Atiyeh’s legal challenges and collaborated with our counsel. We will miss him.