BETHLEHEM: Mayor defends zoners
Bethlehem's legal team will help defend the city's zoning hearing board against a lawsuit by developer Abe Atiyeh, Mayor John Callahan said at the March 5 city council meeting.
Atiyeh, who owns Pennsylvania Venture Capital Inc., filed a lawsuit against the zoning hearing board after it voted 5-0 to deny him a special exception and variance to build a drug rehabilitation center at 2349 Linden St., which was previously owned by a florist business called Moose & Bug. The site is in close proximity to Spring Garden ES, the largest elementary school in the district and the sixth largest school overall.
At Callahan's request, city solicitor John Spirk Jr. filed a notice of intervention to be part of the zoners' defense team.
"We believe the zoning hearing board made the correct decision based on the fact that the property is located too close to Spring Garden ES into a residential neighborhood," Callahan said.
Bethlehem resident Steve Barron, whose daughter attends Spring Garden, supports the zoners' decision as well. Barron said he has spoken at previous zoning meetings about the dangers of additional traffic the center would cause, especially at the beginning of the school day.
"The objective reasons for the denial are clear in this case and the subjective implications of danger to the neighborhood's citizens and students make it clear that the zoning hearing board were correct in denying the variance to allow the drug rehab center to be built."
Barron commended the efforts of city council and its solicitor Chris Spandoni throughout the process. Barron added that he has spoken to Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy and the school board in hopes that the district also intervenes in the lawsuit.
He also said that a group of parents in the neighborhood have joined together to raise funds to also intervene on behalf of the zoning hearing commission.
"While I feel this appeal will not be overturned, we can leave nothing to chance," Barron said.
Fellow neighborhood residents Tim and Diane Mason also came out to support the decision of the zoning hearing board.
City council will vote on whether to allow Spandoni to join the defense team at its next meeting, which will be held on March 19 in city hall.