The Parryville Zoning Hearing Board continued a variance hearing Thursday night that ended with two attorneys debating an issue that only the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can answer.

The hearing, held at the request of Mark Stemler, owner of Riverwalck Saloon in Parryville, was a continuation of one that was originally held last Nov. 17.

According to a legal notice that was printed in the TIMES NEWS in November, Stemler is seeking approval for several special exceptions from the zoning ordinance relating to set backs and footage, parking requirements, allowing usage of decks/porches seasonally, a variance from dimensional requirements for parking spaces, a variance to eliminate the off-street loading space additional requirement, plus to convert one of the outbuildings to a garage and storage facility.

He also wants to add attic space in one of the secondary outbuildings and seeks a variance to modify the structure. He also seeks a variance to convert a second outbuilding to allow the building to be used for covered parking and storage and to convert the second building from residential use to covered motorcycle parking and storage. Another variance is sought to permit the entryway to remain because it controls the flow of traffic and access to the premises, and another variance from the sign setback.

The debate between attorney Gregory Mousseau, solicitor for the Parryville Zoning Hearing Board and attorney Carole Walbert, Stemler's legal representative, centered on whether Stemler had approval from the Department of Transportation to have his archway encroach on PennDOT property.

Stemler testified that while the sign does encroach on PennDOT property, it has no problem with that issue and that it happens frequently.

At the end of the hearing, Mousseau asked Stemler and his attorney to provide a letter on PennDOT stationary stating that there was no problem with the encroachment.

At the November hearing, Rudy Wolff of Keystone Consulting Engineers, Kresgeville, noted that the log structure archway is four feet on the road right-of-way, but that it does not interfere with sight distances.

Walbert instead asked that the hearing be closed with present testimony and that her client, Stemler, did not want to supply the letter to the board.

Mousseau, who said he wanted the letter and that he would subpoena her client for the letter, also refused to close the hearing. Instead, the two attorneys settled on another hearing date of Feb. 24 (6 p.m.), also at the Parryville Fire Co.

The meeting began with a recap from Wolff and John Reda of Associated Drafting and Design of Kunkletown, who said that the building complies with the International Building Code enacted in 2006 and that he believes that the structure can seat 80 people on the first floor and 100 on the second floor, plus there is outdoor seasonal seating for 240 people on the decks.

Stemler said that he only wants permission to seat 180 people which is what his kitchen's serving capacity. He said that when the decks are in use, the interior of the building is not used as in nice weather people prefer to sit outside.

Stemler said that the concept of his restaurant is to provide a pleasing atmosphere for customers, such as the deck seating along the river with good food at modest prices, with volume sales. The decks can seat another 240 people.

Reda testified at the November meeting that the first time he looked at the building was Jan. 15, 2010, but the drawings were started quite a while before that.

On Thursday night, Wolfe, who said he was a registered land surveyor, testified that the revised plans (as built) were presented on Nov. 18, 2010.

Both Wolff and Reda briefly recapped the testimony they had offered at the November hearing. Wolff said that the parking lot could hold 90-plus vehicles – 65 cars and 26 motorcycles.

Reda testified that the restaurant could accommodate 190 inside according to calculations by the International Building Code (IBC). He noted that the owner is proposing using the former banquet area in the basement as an arcade instead of seating area. He also noted that the owner has plans to add handicapped bathrooms, but has not started construction.

When Stemler testified, he noted that he has permits to build the decks, but that he should not have been given that permission. His attorney said that she was asked her client to refrain from discussing the decks permit issue because that there is a pending lawsuit about the decks.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Mousseau said that the stenographer needs two weeks to type up a transcript of the meeting and Walbert said she needs two weeks to prepare a Finding of Fact and Conclusion of Law. The fifth week will give the zoning hearing board time to review the documents.

However, since the meeting was not closed, Mousseau said the board will be able to accept any new testimony, which will allow Stemler opportunity to provide the letter of approval from PennDOT to be included in the record.