Salisbury Press

Saturday, April 20, 2019

ZONING HEARING BOARD

Thursday, April 11, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

Two-unit East Emmaus Avenue apartment conversion rejected

A property for which the address is said not to exist was discussed at the Salisbury Township Zoning Hearing Board April 2.

Discussed was an alley called Slate Street, which apparently doesn’t have a clean slate.

These are not the makings of an Agatha Christie novel, but rather a township zoning hearing board.

The mystery surrounds a request for a two-unit apartment conversion of a building that housed the offices of a succession of two doctors and before that, a workshop.

The Salisbury Township Zoning Hearing Board voted 4-0, with three board members absent, to reject the appeal of Julius Ewungkem to convert a commercial use to a residential use for a building he owns at 321 E. Emmaus Ave.

Conversion of an existing building into an increased number of dwelling units is not permitted in the R-4 medium density residential district. Ewungkem requested a favorable interpretation from the board to allow the building to be converted into two residential properties.

During approximate 1-1/2 hours of testimony, five residents who live in the vicinity of the property spoke in objection to the conversion of the building to two apartment units.

Atty. Victor F. Cavacini, township zoning hearing board solicitor, said to Ewungkem of his property and the zoning ordinance, “I’m anticipating it can be used as a single-family use. It allows a single-family dwelling, but it must meet setback requirements.”

Said Ewungkem to zoners, “I’m trying to improve this property. I’m trying to make it better. My plea is that I’m coming to make this place better. I don’t come as a problem person. I’m coming as a problem-solver.”

Ewungkem said he purchased the property last year.

The 18,278-square-foot lot has a building with an approximate 2,500-square-foot first floor and an approximate 2,400-square-foot basement.

“I am not going to live there myself. I am putting it up for rent,” Ewungkem said.

“The zoning ordinance does not allow your use. That’s why the zoning officer rejected it,” Cavacini said to Ewungkem.

Cavacini asked Ewungkem as to who owns the driveway, aka Slate Street, which Ewungkem said would be used as access for the proposed two-unit apartment.

Ewungkem produced documents he received when he purchased the building in December 2018, which he claimed assured him of access to it via the alley.

Among residents objecting to conversion of the commercial-use building to a two-unit residential use were: Megan Shocki, Greg Reihman, Larry Schaedel, Don Brinton and township board of commissioners Vice President Debra Brinton.

Prior to the zoners’ vote, Cavacini said of the appeal concerning the property, “It’s a very complex case. I can’t solve it here this evening. The only thing before you [zoners] is this: Can it be used as a two-dwelling unit? But that’s not a permitted use.”

The property’s address was questioned.

Reihman said the address of his residence is 321 E. Emmaus Ave.

“There’s no property address there,” Reihman claimed of the property for which the appeal was filed.

“The impact on me, if it becomes a residence, would be financial, and if a two-unit, intolerable,” Reihman said.

Based on testimony at the hearing, the building was previously used as offices for doctors and workshop, the latter going back to 1998.

A lawsuit in 2000 attempted to establish use of Slate Street, also known as Trout Lane, at the back, or approximate north side of the property.

Several residents at the hearing said they maintain the alley, which is a “paper alley,” i.e., one not dedicated to the township, which means it’s not maintained by township public works crews.

Some residents said they gain access to driveways at their residents via the alley.

“I don’t want traffic going in and out of Trout Lane,” Shocki said.

“My concern is how are we going to make sure that alley isn’t being used,” Schaedel said.

“It’s a physical alley. It’s never been dedicated. And we maintain it,” Don Brinton said.

“Slate Alley or Trout Alley was never taken over by the township,” Deb Brinton said.

“That alley was not a township alley, so he [Ewungkem] has no access,” Todd Laudenschlager chairman, zoning hearing board, said.