Salisbury Press

Sunday, October 22, 2017

salisbury township ZONING HEARING BOARD

Thursday, October 12, 2017 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

Township couple faces five alleged violations at property

A Salisbury Township couple faces five violations of the township zoning ordinance.

The Salisbury Township Zoning Hearing Board voted 4-0, with three members absent, to approve five of six alleged violations cited by Salisbury Township Director of Planning and Zoning Cynthia Sopka and Salisbury Township Code Enforcement Officer Sandy Nicolo against David Shuhler and Nongkran D. Shuhler, 2120 W. Mosser St., Allentown, including:

•Utilizing a truck as a means of advertising a commercial use in the R1-CR Zoning District.

•Construction of an exterior bowling alley without the required site plan or zoning permit.

•Exceeding the allowed fencing of six feet by adding additional beams to increase the height of the fence without the required approval of the zoning office.

•Storage of unregistered or commercial or junk vehicles within a residential district.

Zoners voted 3-1 concerning one alleged violation:

•Construction of a large shed-structure without required permit or site plan.

The zoners voted 4-0 to not approve one violation:

•Placement of a pool without the required zoning permit and fee.

The Oct. 3 hearing was held because the Shuhlers appealed the zoning officers’ citations for violations. A separate zoning appeal case was also heard.

During the two-hour hearing, which began at about 7:40 p.m. and concluded at about 9:45 p.m., the township was represented by Atty. John W. Ashley, township solicitor, who questioned Sopka for about 30 minutes concerning the alleged zoning violations, as she presented her testimony in the case.

The Shuhlers were represented by Atty. Richard H. Pepper, who also asked questions of Sopka, as well as of his client, David Shuhler.

Atty. Blake C. Marles represented James C. Mertz, the friend of a neighbor of the Shuhlers.

Atty. Victor F. Cavacini, zoning solicitor, clarified several of the zoning issues.

Cavacini said the Shuhlers were in violation at the time they were cited by Sopka. “They were not resolved at the time of the zoning notice.”

David Shuhler testified he had rectified the violations. However, zoners determined at the time of the enforcement notice, the Shuhlers were in violation. Zoners also concluded they didn’t know if and when the violations were corrected.

The enforcement notice was issued July 19 to the Shuhlers. David Shuhler acknowledged he received the letter. Sopka said she looked into the zoning matters after receiving a complaint about the Shuhlers’ property from a neighbor.

Sopka provided photos of the alleged violations. The Shuhlers didn’t submit photos for evidence that corrections were made. Sopka said she made a request to visit the property, but was refused. Sopka said she asked again for a site visit to evaluate compliance, but was not allowed to.

“One of the things is we won’t go on people’s property [without permission],” Sopka said.

Sopka said she and Nicolo visited the exterior of the property, which is along the north side of Martin Luther King Jr., Drive, approximately across from the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, 2050 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

During his approximate 35 minutes of questioning, Pepper asked Sopka if several of the violations had been corrected, would that resolve the issue?

Sopka said permits were needed but were not obtained.

The Shuhlers sent a letter Aug. 16 to the township, stating measures were taken to rectify the alleged violations. The Shuhlers’ appeal was apparently only for the playhouse.

Said Marles, “I think all of the issues are in play.”

“I agree,” Cavacini said.

“This applicant [the Shuhlers] gave no indication that it was going to be [corrected], just a letter that he would clean it up. We have nothing but the word of the applicant that this was fixed. There are no photos,” Marles said.

Concerning the “shed,” which is a children’s playhouse, Sopka said, “A child’s playhouse would be considered an accessory structure.”

During his questioning of David Shuhler, Pepper asked, “Have you addressed those issues addressed in the letter?” “Yes,” David Shuhler replied.

Concerning the “shed,” David Shuhler testified it was his daughter’s playhouse. “It’s for her birthday,” David Shuhler said.

“When we came to ask at the window [in the municipal building lobby}, we were told they don’t permit playhouses,” David Shuhler said.

“I’ve lived in Salisbury all my life and there are playhouses all over the township,” David Shuhler said.

Pepper said he filed a right to know request and was told the township hasn’t issued permits for children’s playhouses.

It was stated some of the three vehicles and a trailer parked on the property lacked up-to-date inspection stickers. Said Cavacini, “By definition, it’s a junked vehicle if it doesn’t have an inspection sticker.”

Questioning concluded 9:15 p.m.

Cavacini said the Shuhlers had 30 days to cure notice of enforcement.

Said Ashley, “We believe township violations existed and there’s been no demonstrable truth the violations have been cured.”

“We stand by the invitation to the zoning officer to see,” Pepper said.

Cavacini said that, according to the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code, corrections were required by Aug. 21. “I didn’t hear any testimony as to time,” Cavacini said.

“How do we look into the past and determine when this was done?” zoning hearing board member Edward Hare asked.

“We don’t know when, in fact, it was cured,” Cavacini said.

“The township will have to decide what it does next,” Cavacini said.

“Probably inspect the property,” Ashley said.

According to Ashley and Sopka, the Shuhlers’ zoning violations case may be heard before a district judge, or township officials could resolve the matter in a mutually-acceptable matter with the Shuhlers.