BZA Craggy Gardens LLC Jan. 8 2013

 The Newbury Township Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing was called to order by Mr. Ray Fidel, Chairman, at 7:30 p.m. on January 8, 2013 with Board members, Bill Skomrock Sr., Chris Yaecker, Ken Blair and Lou Tomsic present


All in attendance who wished to speak for this hearing were duly sworn and asked when testifying to state their name and confirm being sworn in. Ray Fidel read the applicants request:


Lorinda Nawrochi, dba Craggy Gardens LLC, requests a use variance to locate a landscaping business (vs, Art. IV & XVIII, Sec. 4.01A & 18.00- non permitted use in B-1) located at 10635 Kinsman Rd. in the B-1 commercial district.


Mr. Fidel questioned the board regarding this landscaping business applying for a Use Variance that stays with the property, or whether a conditional use that is reviewed every 5 years is more appropriate.  Discussion continued between Mike Joyce and the board regarding the BZA’s authority to grant a Use Variance, or a Conditional Use for a non-permitted use that might be considered spot zoning.  In summary, the BZA has only two choices; approve or deny.  The denial could be challenged in court.  The court challenge could result in: an agreed Judgment Entry with the Township Trustees (ordered by the court), a court approval or a court denial.


Mr. Fidel asked the board for comments.  Mr. Skomrock Sr. said he sees no problem with the applicants’ request.  Mr. Yaecker cited prior examples where the prosecutor disagreed with the BZA’s changing/approving a Conditional Use that could result in problems with a future sale and financing.  He advised the applicants not to accept a Conditional Use.


Mr. Fidel asked the applicants to state their case.  Mrs. Nawrochi read from a prepared statement offered as Exhibit A.  In summary:

a)      location: presently Varner’s Auto Body Shop at 10635 Kinsman Rd. with setback & parking variance issues,

b)      their purchase agreement is contingent on zoning approval,

c)      landscape business background: 26 years as Outdoor Concepts “providing quality landscape services installed by professionals”, 20 years rented (outgrown) space from Chester Rental - now need to expand, they are 13 year Fairmount Rd. Newbury residents, who employ 4 to 15 employees Monday thru Friday occasional Saturdays with 3 trucks for snowplowing starting a t 4 am.

d)     neighboring businesses along Rt, 87 identified with similar services to the community as allowed in the B-1 commercial district – there are no retail sales at this location,

e)      improved streetscape/landscaping designs illustrated on presented drawings,

f)       proposed interior building renovations for offices and equipment storage,

g)      outside parking – office & handicapped next to the building, spaces for 15 employees plus 7 trucks and 5 trailers,

h)       space for bulk material (mulch, soil, gravel, etc.) & pallet storage in the rear,

i)        education, certification & company landscape image – employees wear uniforms, trucks have logos to reflect professionalism.

j)        Business plan implementation – an asset to fit in with the changing business climate from neighborhood retail to big-box stores - citing numerous vacant retail locations & the difficulty selling older “auto body” businesses vs. the newest auto-technology requirements.

k)      Operations:  only office employees on site during the day, employees arrive 6:30 to 8 am - leave 9 am - return by 5 to 6 pm with little activity on site during the day.


Mr. Fidel inquired about the current car dealer lease  - it expires on 3/19/13.


Jeff Nawrochi presented easel drawings: the Property Layout showed the proposed building improvements for offices and equipment, acknowledging the current 65 ft. building R-o-W setback vs. the current 75 ft. requirement.  He pointed out the physical lot restrictions: a swamp and a creek in the rear making it unusable and a culvert limiting the west side setback.  He noted the location of the well and septic at the rear of the building.  On the second drawing he showcased the proposed exterior landscaping designs with evergreens in the green setback areas, a new planter-bed at the corner of the building and a stone planting wall as the east boundary.


Mr. Yaecker asked how much of the rear area was usable – Mr. Nawrochi estimated about 150 ft. with the brush cut down and gravel overlay added.


Mr. James Varner asked to speak.  He identified James and Charles Varner as owners of the property presenting a brief history: the property was purchased in 1975, now older “body-men” are retiring, reduced business revenue with newer required auto technologies. They tried unsuccessfully to sell for four years with successive lease tenants – latest expires 3/19/13 - tenant is aware of this variance request.   Their auto shop equipment is portable and will be sold separately.  The trailer goes with the property – Mr. Nawrochi will dispose of it.


Mr. Vic Cizek, a 29 year broker with Realty Net, reviewed the commercial sales of auto related dealerships all with other industry buyers.  Older auto body shops are the most restricted due to newer automation equipment requirements – suitable buyers may all need variances.


Mr. Fidel asked the board for comments.  Mr. Tomsic asked if there was a cover on the well – yes.  Mr. Skomrock Sr. said he had no problems with the application and would favor a R-o-W setback in line with the front of the building.  Mr. Blair said he had no questions at this time. 


Mr. Yaecker asked whether the well and septic had been checked by the Health Dept.  Mr. Nawrochi said the system has been functioning as designed – he offered a copy of the certificate # 1020304 dated 7/26/12.  He also indicated any future expansion would take place to the rear of the building now used for exterior material storage.


Mr. Yaecker cited the goals for the improvement of the 87 Corridor that favored Landscape designers not simply “grass cutters”.  Mr. Nawrochi said he currently operates out of 750 sq. ft office with parking for 7 trucks plus supplies of gravel and mulch.  He displayed his website showing promotional photos, before and after, of previous jobs in various eastern suburbs.


Mrs. Narochi said she had spoken with Glen Quigley who seemed very interested in their project.


Mr. Fidel said the hard part was the Use Variance requirements.  Mr. Varner offered “looks like a win-win situation”.  Mr. Yaecker recited the previous Judgement Entry process used by Impulletti resulting in a model landscape business model.  Mr. Nawrochi agreed “do it right – image is most important”.


Mr. Fidel described the 14 to 17 landscaping companies in Newbury, some here even before zoning.  Mr. Yaecker insisted the Judgment Entry was the proper legal way allowing the trustees to negotiate a more comprehensive and permanent agreement.  Lou Tomsic said he favored the proposed improvements to the property via the Judgment Entry route.  Mr. Skomrock Sr. said he was all for the project, done either way, citing the applicant’s right of appeal.  He favored changing the setback to be in line with the building front with material piles no larger than 15 cubic yards.  Mr. Blair said he was in favor of granting the variance.


Mr. Yaecker reminded the board that they must first answer the Use Variance questions – the board raised to opposition.


Mr. Fidel called for a motion.  Ken Blair moved to grant the use variance as requested; Bill Skomrock, Sr. seconded the motion.  The board then answered the questions for written justification presented by the applicants:


a)      The conditions are not unique to this lot,

b)      The applicants did not create these conditions,

c)      The variance would not affect the rights of adjacent owners – many are of “like” businesses,

d)     This business use would have no adverse side effects on public health, safety or general welfare,

e)      The zoning spirit and intent were debated – the use is not currently permitted but could be an improvement in line with the 87 Corridor goals,

f)       There are other options to afford minimum relief: request a zoning variance or a Judgment Entry agreement.

g)      There may be other viable commercial uses for this property but the auto-repair facility has been for sale for over 3 years with no interested buyers.  There were no neighbors in attendance to voice any objections.


Mr. Fidel stated the BZA has authority to grant a Use Variance.  He then read the “conditions for landscapers” allowed in the M-1 district.


Mike Joyce reminded the group they must act on the motion before the board.



Mr. Fidel suggested the board agree to a hearing continuance to allow for due-diligence deliberations.  He asked the applicants whether they would agree to re-convening this hearing on Jan. 22, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. here at the Town Hall – they both said “yes”.  The board unanimously approved the continuance request.


Mr. Blair asked whether he should withdraw his motion – no - the motion was still open and active for voting at the next continuance hearing. 


Mr. Fidel reminded those in attendance that all information has been given at this hearing – there would be no further testimony taken at the Jan. 22, 2013 continuance hearing.


Mr. Fidel adjourned this public hearing at 9:00 p.m.