Lehigh Valley

Local developer appeals hockey arena approval

Developer Atiyeh appealing Allentown hockey arena approval

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Demolition has already begun in Allentown to make way for a new hockey arena but a local developer wants to blow the whistle and stop the action.  Abe Atiyeh says the city Planning Commission didn't follow zoning rules, and he wants to stop the project in its tracks.

Atiyeh filed a civil complaint in Lehigh County Court Thursday.  He says the arena project should never been approved in the first place.

"Abused its discretion" is a phrase that comes up a lot.  The lawsuit appeals the city's approval of the $158 million hockey arena project.

"All I want the city to do is abide by the zoning laws, the planning laws, just like I would have to do if I was building this project," explained local developer Abe Atiyeh.

The complaint outlines how Allentown's Planning Commission violated a number of procedural issues.

"There's a lot of zoning issues there's planning issues, there's street vacation issues," said Atiyeh.  "If I was a private developer who came in and done this they would have never had approved it."

He claims the city was able to skirt the law.  According to the complaint, demolition to make way for the 360,000 square foot arena began the first week of January, one week before the planning commission approved the plans.

"The mayor went and just spent $40 million buying up all these assets, doing all this demolition and he didn't even have a permit," lamented Atiyeh.

Atiyeh owns two pieces of property near the project site, that he claims will be negatively impacted by the arena.  He's asking the county to deny development plans and have workers hang up their hard hats.

"I'm in favor of the arena project but not center city, I think it's the wrong spot for it."

Atiyeh was unsuccessful in his own attempts to bring a hockey arena to Allentown a few years back. 

The city has not yet commented about the complaint because it has not yet been served the appeal.

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