Bethlehem: Solicitor defends zoning board
Bethlehem City Council Solicitor Christopher Spandoni will be joining in to defend the zoning hearing board against an appeal filed by developer Abe Atiyeh.
Atiyeh is appealing the 5-0 decision handed down by the zoning hearing board in December denying him a special exception to build a 47-bed drug rehab facility at 2349 Linden St., which was previously owned by a florist business called Moose & Bug.
The proposed rehab facility is located only a short distance from Spring Garden ES, the largest elementary school in the Bethlehem Area School District. Neighborhood parents banded together against Atiyeh's plan, concerned about the potential dangers that could come from building a rehab center so close to the school.
"It's important we don't let these facilities near our neighborhood schools," resident Tim Mason said.
But the neighbors weren't alone. In early March, city solicitor John Sprik Jr. filed a notice of intervention on behalf of the city to defend the zoning hearing board against the appeal. Spandoni will be joining him in the defense after his inclusion was unanimously approved by city council its March 20 meeting.
"We should certainly applaud the neighbors who have been vigilant throughout this situation," Councilman J. William Reynolds said. "I think Mr. Atiyeh has made it clear he's not going away and hopefully he's getting the message that the neighbors and the city aren't backing down either."
This is not the first time Atiyeh has attempted to build a rehab facility near a school. He previously tried to build a facility at the site of the former Calvary Baptist Church near Bethlehem Catholic HS.
Councilwoman Karen Dolan asked Spandoni at what point can Atiyeh's appeals be considered a nuisance, but Spadoni said he would be "hard pressed to use that phase."
"Mr. Atiyeh is a citizen and property owner who has certain rights that we all have, and he has the ability to foster that position," Spadoni said. "In this case, I disagree with him and believe the evidence and the law is on the city's side, but as to whether it's a nuisance, I would not say that."
Council President Eric Evans said he was pleased that city council has been involved in the process from the beginning and that administration joined in on their efforts. He said he was pleased that the residents continue to be involved as well.
"We will be vigilant and we will be ready as we move forward," Evans said.