During the East Allen Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, October 28, a zoning amendment hearing for applicant ARA Racquetball, owned by developer Abraham Atiyeh, was held. Atiyeh is requesting approval to rezone his property at 7111 Beth-Bath Pike from planned commercial to agricultural-residential.
Atiyeh is also requesting that supervisors add language into the current zoning ordinance to permit age-qualified housing on 25 acres as long as the property is within 200 feet of an existing age-qualified development. Current zoning requires a minimum of 50 acres for age-qualified housing. However, with the new Toll Brothers housing development adjacent to the property, Atiyeh says this is an opportunity to create a cluster of retirement communities.
Early plans for the property include 112 units across 56 duplexes. Atiyeh added that his properties will be more affordable than Toll Brothers and geared toward East Allen residents.
An objector to this plan was present at the hearing, represented by Attorney Kate Durso. Durso’s client, the Bartolucci family, is objecting this rezoning because it would require a 100-foot buffer, which would subtract 1.6 acres from their existing property. With this addition, 34% of their property would consist of buffer zones and make it practically unusable.
“It is truly a taking of Mr. Bartolucci’s property,” said Durso.
The Bartolucci property, like Atiyeh’s, is zoned commercial. However, the property was zoned residential, as was Atiyeh’s at one time. Durso said the Bartoluccis had approved plans to develop a subdivision several years ago. At the same time, Atiyeh also was planning to develop residential properties. The Bartoluccis restructured their plan to coordinate with Atiyeh’s. However, Durso said that Atiyeh then rezoned his land to commercial, leaving “Mr. Bartolucci with a street to nowhere.” As a result, the Bartoluccis rezoned their property to commercial.
Supervisor Don Heiney questioned Atiyeh’s rezoning request. He was a member of the planning commission during the property’s previous rezoning. Heiney said, at the time, the planning commission favored rezoning the property to commercial because of high arsenic levels in the soil and several quarry pits on the site. He asked Atiyeh what he plans to do about the arsenic.
Atiyeh responded that they will test arsenic levels and turn the quarry pits into infiltration basins.
“I am concerned about the health of the people living there,” said Heiney.
Supervisors also brought up the property’s lack of public sewer, which age-qualified living requires. Atiyeh said he is in talks with the Bethlehem Water Authority.
Supervisors also quoted the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, who reported that Atiyeh’s proposed use “directly conflicts with agricultural use.”
While Atiyeh said he would like to rezone the land, he added that if supervisors deny him, he could potentially develop a shopping center, which would lead to more “intense” traffic.
“It is going to be busy,” he said.
Supervisors will be reviewing the plans proposed by Atiyeh and the objections raised by Durso. They will potentially make their decision during their November 10 meeting.