A permit to allow employees of Riverwalck Saloon in Parryville to park in the Lehigh Canal parking lot was revoked Thursday night by the Lehigh Canal Recreation Commission.
The parking lot is along busy Route 248 and across the street from the restaurant. Entrance to the parking lot also has active railroad tracks and is also used by Rockhill, a cement manufacturing business.
Mark Stemler, the owner of Riverwalck, failed to appear to testify in his defense at a hearing scheduled at attorney William Schwab's office, but Carl Eckhart, one of his employees, spoke in the owner's absence.
Schwab, who is East Penn Township's representative on the commission, made a motion to revoke the permit and all members of the commission unanimously agreed.
Eckhart made several comments in response to commission's suggestions, but Schwab said that the permit was being revoked because Riverwalck did not comply with the scope of the permit when the parking lot was extended.
In an August letter to the press, Stemler stated he had permission from the Lehigh Canal Association to use the public parking area for Riverwalk employees. He noted that he would be using a shuttle system but believed a crosswalk would address the problem in a more efficient manner. Stemler met with a representative of State Rep. Keith McCall's office in June, asking to have a permission for crosswalk underneath Route 248. No action was taken on the request.
Stemler paid the Lehigh Canal Commission $1,800 for a year's lease to use the parking area at Parryville. Schwab said the commission would be retaining that amount because Stemler did not abide by the terms of the lease agreement.
Schwab said Riverwalck's actions put the Lehigh Canal Commission in danger of defending itself against a lawsuit by Parryville Council. Schwab also noted that the Delaware and Lehigh Corridor Commission was also unhappy that Riverwalck had extended the parking area in a conservation area that was to have vegetation.
"We were trying to beautify the area," said Eckhart. "You asked us to mulch the exposed ground area and that is what we did."
Schwab said that mulch for an area that needs reseeding should be done with straw, not wood chips.
George Stawnyczyj, Mahoning Township's representative, chastised Eckhart.
"Wood chips will prevent vegetation from growing. Then you laid two by fours on top of the wood chips to define parking spaces," he said.
Eckhart said that there are different interpretations of what mulch is.
Stawnyczyj added that Riverwalck was told to comply with local, county and state ordinances and did not do so.
"We can't afford to defend ourselves in a lawsuit," said Dennis Bauchspies, Franklin Township's representative.
"They're bullying. Some people can't answer why. They are hurting the 60-plus employees who work at the business. We just wanted to beautify the area. We mowed the grass and picked up trash," Eckhart said.
In September, Parryville solicitor Mike Greek sent a letter to the canal commission that he had reviewed the Intergovernmental Agreement and had concerns for Parryville.
He said that since the agreement prohibits parking after closing time, Riverwalck is still using the parking lot after dark when the park is closed on a regular basis.
He also noted that Riverwalck's use of the property is out of character for the area which is supposed to be used for the public's recreation and conservation.
Greek also pointed out that the commission's agreement prohibits advertising for other businesses on public land. He agrees that the commission has the right to grant permits, but doesn't believe that the canal commission has the right to grant "commercial permits." He said the commission's right to granting permits are more for "gathering and assembling" than for commercial parking permits.
Greek noted that the Parryville borough is concerned with the liability of people parking on the canal commission parking area and either walking or being transported across Route 248 to patronize the Riverwalck business or to work there. He also noted that the owner of Riverwalck is performing renovations to the parking area which seem to be beyond the scope of simply permit parking and may be harming a historical area.