The Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board earlier this week granted a continuance until December 20 on the appeal of Abraham Atiyeh for a use variance to build a 96-unit, three-building apartment complex at 1838 Center St. The area is zoned institutional and the use is prohibited.
Attorney Jim Preston of Bethlehem, who represents developer Atiyeh sought the postponement Tuesday night to “review the case and prepare for any new contingencies.”
Atiyeh’s site plan of 25 apartment units per acre on the 5-acre parcel at Center Street and Dewberry Avenue is based on the number of beds in a previously-approved 125-bed assisted living facility. City planners gave conditional approval to the plan for Bethlehem Manor in November 2008.
The developer is challenging the zoning officer’s determination that a 49-foot front yard setback is required for multiple family dwelling structures. He is requesting a variance of 29 feet on both Center Street and Dewberry Avenue to allow a 20-foot front yard.
The continued hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m., December 20, at
Atiyeh, owner of Bethlehem Manor Village, originally planned to construct the assisted living facility on the site in 2008, but abandoned the project because of market saturation and economic conditions, he said.
In 2010, Atiyeh submitted to zoners a proposal seeking a use variance for a 104-unit apartment complex, a prohibited use in the institutional zoning district. He cited profitability and compatibility with the neighborhood as the best use for the property. The size, location and physical traits of the parcel made all other uses infeasible in the zoning district, he said. Denial of the variance would cause him unnecessary economic hardship.
Zoners denied the variance saying that some of the permitted uses in the zoning district were feasible and that the requirements for a variance were not satisfied. Atiyeh appealed the decision to Northampton County Court in December. Judge Stephen G. Baratta denied that appeal last week.
Meanwhile, Atiyeh was denied Bethlehem Planning Commission approval for a four-story, 125-bed for the same 1838 Center St. site.
In the same area, Atiyeh is proposing to convert the vacant at 111 Dewberry Ave. into a 70-bed facility offering voluntary inpatient . The building is 300 yards from . The high school and the North Bethlehem Action Committee are , citing safety concerns and the school’s drug-free zone.
Zoners have already had two sessions on the proposal with more testimony scheduled to be heard at a November 29 hearing.