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Mystery flyer in Palmer Township has roots in developer's rejected warehouse plan

Palmer Problems Mailer
Jim Deegan
LehighValleyNews.com graphic
Palmer Township Municipal Building at 3 Weller Place, Palmer, PA.

PALMER TWP., Pa. — A mysterious mailer that accuses Palmer Township officials of unspecified discrimination is the work of a Lehigh Valley developer who is suing the township, LehighValleyNews.com has learned.

Abe Atiyeh paid for the mailer and established the website PalmerProblems.com, he said.

"Palmer Township treats people differently because of race, religion, creed, nationality or personal connections. This must end," says the flyer that arrived in mailboxes last week."We invite you to participate in a class-action lawsuit to seek compensation for the way Palmer Township has treated you."

Atiyeh said he has yet to file any class-action lawsuit, but has filed a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the township and its board of supervisors.

That lawsuit involves an Atiyeh proposal for two warehouses off Van Buren Road in the northern part of the township.

Existing lawsuit

According to the lawsuit, Atiyeh's company, Exchange 12 LLC, in March 2021 filed to develop a property it owns into two distribution centers, which were permitted by the local zoning ordinance.

The lawsuit claims the township initially refused the application, and only allowed it after legal counsel was brought in.

The lawsuit claims that, in a closed-door executive session held by the township regarding another property, a former township attorney asked attendees “Why are we negotiating with a terrorist?”

Atiyeh's lawsuit claims the township’s board “developed a scheme to prevent the approval of the Conditional Use Application, because of Mr. Atiyeh’s Syrian national origin, and the portrayal of Mr. Atiyeh as a ‘terrorist.’”

Township Manager Robert Williams did not return several messages left by LehighValleyNews.com.

Assistant Township Manager Brenda DeGerolamo said she and her colleagues were aware of the mailers, but they had no idea who was behind them or why.

DeGerolamo said the township municipal building had received a flyer in the mail, along with just about everyone else in the township.

She did not return messages after LehighValleyNews.com confirmed Atiyeh was responsible for them.

Seeking out others

In an interview last week, Atiyeh said he's gotten a little more than a dozen responses to the flyer.

“There's already 12, 14 people that emailed and called that are probably going to join in on the case,” Atiyeh said, referring to a class-action lawsuit he says he's pursuing but has yet to file.

“You know, there will be separate class-action lawsuit, separate from that other lawsuit," he said. "We're going to establish if there is enough people that had been discriminated against and see if we are ready enough to establish a class-action suit.”

According to the lawsuit, at a public hearing on June 26, 2022, one of the township supervisors said Atiyeh “could be building bombs in that building.”

In November 2022, the conditional use application for the warehouse was denied, with supervisors saying Atiyeh “had not yet identified the entity that would operate the distribution center” — even though Atiyeh provided evidence the township had approved similar conditional use applications without an end user, according to the lawsuit.

A land use appeal to Northampton County remains pending in the case, Atiyeh said.

'Something fishy'

Other Atiyeh projects were denied by the township, the lawsuit claims, including a trucking terminal on the same property. A billboard application was approved, but only with “wholly unreasonable requirements,” Atiyeh claims.

In the federal lawsuit, Exchange 12 alleges the township and supervisors' board are violating the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and its equal protection clause that prohibits states from enforcing laws that abridge people's privileges.

Atiyeh said he started wondering if anyone else in the township was facing struggles like him.

“That’s where my whole case started from," Atiyeh said. "If they’re doing it to me, they must be doing this to other people, right? That’s why we sent that out. Something fishy is going on, and now we’ve seen it."

He said he is working with a law firm but would not identify it or elaborate.