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Zoners say forget it to Atiyeh's billboard on old bank building

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jul 30 2012 09:32:55 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 31 2012 06:04:47 AM CDT
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Allentown zoners decided a billboard advertising developer Abraham Atiyeh's "Affordable Alzheimer's Care" on the side of the old Dime Bank building has to go.

Zoners voted 3-0 Monday night to deny an appeal by Atiyeh, Brookside Realty and Whitehall Manor, and back up a notice from the city that the sign at 12 N. 7th St. was illegally erected.

Neither Atiyeh or anyone representing him was at the meeting.

Testimony on the matter was taken in April and earlier this month. 

Atiyeh previously claimed he had an office in the building, and that as the building's lease holder, he had a right to put up the sign. He also said he once had a permit from the city for the sign, although he could not produce it, and that the city was making an issue of the sign because of his challenges to the hockey arena project.

The zoners were skeptical that Atiyeh operated an office in the building. Chairman Daniel McCarthy said the photographic evidence of a mezzanine level office showed "no activity has taken place there in years ... nothing to indicate it's a functioning office."

The Dime building is in the block where the new hockey arena will be built. There are plans to restore it and use it as the lobby of a hotel in the arena complex.

In other action, the zoners split 2-1 in approving a variance requested by the Rose Bowl bowling alley so a sign could be erected at 801-825 N. 15th St.

The part of the sign facing north would be digital, while the part facing south would be static, said Lois Arciszewski, representing Adams Outdoor Advertising.

Ken Heffentrager, of 733 N. 11th St., objected first to the digital portion of the sign and then to the location. "The sign would be a detriment," he told the zoners. "It would be a distraction, and people driving in that area have enough distractions. Nobody follows the speed limits now on Sumner Avenue and 15th Street."

In supporting the variance, McCarthy and zoning board member Michael Engle noted that such signs are permitted in that area, with McCarthy adding that even though the sign might add to the "clutter and confusion" on 15th Street, "it doesn't rise to the level of a safety hazard."

Zoner Juan Camacho voted no, saying the sign would be "an eyesore. ... 

It doesn't seem like the type of place a digital sign should be placed."