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Developer of proposed rehab facility asking court to reverse zoning board ruling

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Feb 21 2013 05:58:14 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 22 2013 07:39:57 AM CST
Abe Atiyeh
EASTON, Pa. -

Developer Abe Atiyeh is asking a judge to reverse a zoning hearing board ruling that is stopping him from building a 47-bed rehab facility in Bethlehem.

Atiyeh's company, Pennsylvania Venture Capital, of Whitehall, Lehigh Co., filed a suit Wednesday in Northampton County Court against the Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board.

The zoners' 5-0 decision to deny Atiyeh's request for a special exception and a variance needed to build the rehab facility on a 2.3-acre tract at 2349 Linden St. was illegal, arbitrary and discriminatory, according to the suit.

The suit claims the zoners made numerous errors in their written decision, issued Jan. 24.

One of those errors, according to the suit, was that the facility would be "extraordinary" in the R-S zoning district, when in fact residential treatment facilities are appropriate in such zones and are permitted there by special exception.

Another mistake by the zoners, according to the suit, is comparing the most recent use of the property -- a retail florist business called the Moose & Bug, which included a greenhouse and outdoor display areas -- to the proposed use.

According to the suit, the zoners were in error to find it relevant that an elementary school (Spring Garden)  is 500 feet from the property and that many of the families in the neighborhood have children, noting that it was wrong to suggest that minors would be placed at some kind of risk by the facility.

Also, according to the suit, the zoners' written opinion incorrectly says that de-tox will be offered on site, and that the developer failed to address issues of mass transit, recreation and security.

Finally, according to the suit, the zoners allowed "unsupported and speculative fears of the neighbors" as well as "bald opinions, personal assertions and uninformed stereotype perceptions" by people opposed to the facility to be accepted as evidence.