He is challenging a section added to the city’s rewritten zoning law in 2010. It states the zoning ordinance itself does not apply “for a use authorized by the mayor or city council by virtue of a lease of other contract.”

Atiyeh’s representatives have testified that Pawlowski used that section to circumvent other requirements of the city’s zoning ordinance 17 times in the last three years.

That included contracts for digital billboards, cell phone towers and even the controversial waste-to-energy plant planned along the Lehigh River.

In August 2012, City Council approved a 15-year contract with Premiere Media Allentown LLC -- now Clinton Street Media -- to erect an outdoor network of digital billboards.

Since then, the mayor has authorized exemptions for the construction of several of those billboards, according to testimony before the zoning board.

Atiyeh, who has his own billboard companies, objected. He argued that section –1311.17---- undermines the rest of the zoning ordinance. He wants the zoning board to declare 1311.17 void and invalid.

Through his lawyers and business associates, Atiyeh has argued projects granted such exemptions are not reviewed to assure zoning compliance and that no public hearings or public notification is required before those exemptions are authorized.

After Monday’s meeting, McCarthy said this is the longest-running case he’s seen since he got on the zoning hearing board in 2006.

He said Monday night was the first time he had heard the parties are talking to try to resolve the case. “I’m hoping they've been talking since Oct. 21, 2013,” he said.