Company owners detail zoning dispute with township
The concrete foundation that once supported Beltzville Beverage on Interchange Road. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Crystal Fink stands on her commercial property on Interchange Road. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Crystal Fink started her business All American Concrete Form in 2007.
For Fink, now 39, owning a concrete company was a dream come true; she calls herself and her husband, Michael Fink, “concrete people.”
In 2015, Fink purchased a 2-acre commercial parcel of land off Interchange Road, just a few minutes down from her residence on Stable Road. Hoping to build storage space to house equipment for her growing enterprise, she planned to erect a 4,800-square-foot pole barn on the concrete foundation that once supported Beltzville Beverage.
“We were extremely excited about this,” Fink said in an interview with Times News. She wanted that property to showcase All American to anyone who might drive by.
But that’s a dream that has yet to be realized.
“When I drive by that property today, I’m disgusted. I’m disappointed,” Fink said.
Her discontentment stems from a yearslong struggle to build that barn between herself and Towamensing Township.
Fink says the township zoning officer, Carl Faust, has complicated the process.
Faust declined to offer comment for this article.
Fink says that the township’s zoning hearing board — and Faust in particular — is incorrectly interpreting the code, trying to force her into a zoning classification that would severely limit what she’s allowed to build on the property.
She tried to construct the barn the same year she purchased the lot, Fink recalled, but Faust told her she needed to submit a land development plan first. Her first engineer, who was from Keystone Engineering, told her the project was straightforward enough.
But after the engineer met with Faust, Fink said, the initially estimated $7,000 project doubled in cost. The plans now included underground management systems and pressurized water tanks. Fink ended up taking on a new engineering firm, Allentown-based Gilmore and Associates, which had to reconfirm all of the work already completed by Keystone and paid for by Fink.
Three years later, her plans to build that barn have yet to be approved by the township.
Fink says she’s taken breaks from pursuing the project, partly because she feels like the township is fighting her.
“It consumes you mentally and drains you,” she said.
She noted that there’s also been a financial strain. Between the money paid to lawyers and engineers, and the costs of having her past plans reviewed (and ultimately denied) by the township, Fink said she has already spent upward of $40,000.
“They have seriously hurt us and our business,” Fink said.
In the summer of 2017, supervisors decided to pursue legal action against the Finks, who had taken on a few home improvement projects without township permission. Namely, they ripped out the old sidewalks surrounding their home, pouring new concrete, and built up a white privacy fence along Stable Road.
Fink admitted that she took on the project knowing she hadn’t acquired township permission, but added that it was only because Faust told her she would never gain approval for the renovations.
“How can you stop someone from improving their home?” Fink said.
The Times News published an article about the litigation in June 2017. Fink said after that piece circulated, she received a call from the bank. She was told that she had lost credibility, and her line of credit had been severed, pending the receipt of a letter from the township warranting her home in compliance with its regulation.
“I was in the middle of a ($1 million) dollar job, and to have that shut down — I can’t even tell you how that made me feel,” Fink said.
“They could have seriously put us out of business.”
Fink aired her frustrations to the Towamensing board of supervisors at their June meeting.
When she asked the board for advice on getting her land development plan approved, Solicitor Thomas Nanovic noted that Fink agreed in February to continuations for her plans in both the township’s zoning hearing board and planning commission.
Fink maintained that she did that only because there was a deadlock between the two entities.
“You’re going through the process,” Nanovic told her.