Home service station proposal remains under review
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Lower Towamensing Township Zoning Hearing Board members (clockwise) Keith George, James DeRosa and Chairman James Ord conduct an on-site meeting with the Christmans at their property at 3224 Fireline Road on Tuesday. The couple wants to operate an automobile service station as a home occupation.
A proposal for an automobile service station to operate as a home occupation in Lower Towamensing Township remains under review.
Rather than meet inside its municipal building, the township's Zoning Hearing Board conducted an on-site meeting Tuesday at the property of David Christman at 3224 Fireline Road.
Christman is in search of a variance and special exception to operate the business as a home occupation. The property is located in a R-4, Medium Density Residential District.
In addition, he must also obtain a variance and special exceptions for outside storage, a sign, and operation of a home occupation from an accessory structure.
Zoning Hearing Board Chairman James Ord cautioned that excessive noise would not be tolerated, nor would a property that turns into an eyesore.
"In a situation like this, we don't ever want to discourage people from having an occupational business," Ord said. "We grant a variance or special exception to address those issues."
Ord added that if approved, the zoners wouldn't want to see the business evolve into a tire business.
"We would want to make restrictions to limit high volume," he said. "People were worried you were going to do something that would involve big business."
David Christman reassured Ord that wouldn't be the case.
Zoning board member James DeRosa suggested the couple would need to install some sort of fencing to serve as a barrier.
Ord told the couple they would need to put in various trees, and specify what kinds, as well as the initial size of them.
"You're probably going to have to comply with all things in the zoning for a home occupation so that it's not an eyesore for your neighbors," Ord said. "We'd want to know the height and free space between them."
Ord said he was concerned with the slope of the property because it would do less of a job hiding the business from Palmerton Area High School, which is located adjacent to the Christmans' property.
Zoning Hearing Board member Keith George noted there were other matters that had to be worked out.
"Along with addressing the site right now, we might want to address the noise," George said. "The other issue is a sign was included."
Ord told the couple that such a business would likely cost them plenty of money up front.
Upon review of the area in question, Ord estimated that the couple would need room for between eight to 10 vehicles.
George said that a 60-by-60-foot space would likely be able to house up to a dozen vehicles.
Ord said the hearing will again be continued until 7 p.m. March 13, at which point the zoners are expected to render their decision.
Earlier this month, zoners heard the request from Christman, but chose to continue the matter so that they could do a site assessment.
Christman's request was previously denied by township zoning officer Duane Dellecker, who, in his rejection letter dated Nov. 30, noted a section of the zoning ordinance "prohibits the storage of materials or products related to the home occupation from being stored outside of buildings."
Dellecker said in his letter that the applicant's intent is that vehicles awaiting repair would be parked on the property for short periods of time.
Also as part of his letter, Dellecker noted a section of the zoning ordinance "limits the size of an advertising sign to a maximum of 2-square-feet." However, Dellecker said the applicant's letter of intent "indicates a 12-square-feet sign being proposed."
Dellecker also states in his letter that a section of the zoning ordinance requires home occupation be incidental or secondary to the use of the property as a residence, and limits them to those occupations customarily conducted within a dwelling unit. But, Dellecker said the applicant's letter of intent "indicates the main use of the property will continue to be residential. However, an auto service station is not considered to be a type of home occupation that is customarily conducted within a dwelling unit."
Finally, Dellecker states in his letter that a section of the zoning ordinance requires a home occupation to be conducted within a dwelling unit, provided that by Special Exception of the zoning hearing board may permit the home occupation subject to such controls they deem necessary. But, Dellecker said in his letter the applicant's letter of intent indicates he plans to conduct the home occupation out of his detached garage.