|Second Hand Shop Attracts a Crowd|
Operating on a corner property owned by Dean Nguyen, Garcia told zoners he was unaware he needed a variance. Calling it a "really small business," Garcia explained he is "just doing what I can to survive." His inventory? Used laptops, small TVs, phones, VCRs and toys. In his two years in business, he claimed there had only been one complaint, concerning a charger.
Garcia explained that he knows 85% of his customers. He photographs them and asks for ID before accepting merchandise. Nevertheless, he admitted that in 2010, he purchased laptops and ipods that had been stolen from Lehigh University. Garcia denied knowledge they were stolen, and testified for the prosecution.
A dozen or so local businesses and neighbors were at the hearing, and six of them spoke against it. Mary Toulouse described a "shabby appearance," the regular presence of police and loiterers whose very presence "intimidates" potential customers at other businesses. Shannon Patrick, whose Puppy Palace is just two doors away, complained about snowblowers, washers and dryers, bicycles and car trailers on the sidewalk outside the shop.
"It's a detriment to the neighborhood," claimed Patrick, who added that Garcia's customers do not appear to be from Bethlehem, or even from the area. But after the hearing, a tearful Garcia claimed he is a life long Bethlehem resident.
Another neighbor, Michael Keyock, pointed out that parking problems in that area make the business unsuitable He noted there is considerable loading, off-loading, double-parking and parking on sidewalks. "It's just not the right location for that business," concluded Keyock.
Neighbor John McGeehan, who also is employed as Director of Public Safety at the Northampton County jail, seemed more upset with the building's owner, Dean Nguyen, than he was with Garcia. He chided Nguyen for letting Garcia, who is illiterate, operate a business without zoning approval. He then added this would be in bad taste, "even in Ho Chi Minh City."
"I wouldn't know. I never stepped foot in there," Nguyen responded after the hearing. Nguyen also pledged to help Garcia find another location where he can do business.
Despondent and fighting back tears, Garcia observed he "never had anything" until he had that business. He claimed he cleared snow for the entire block, but Patrick disputed that assertion.
Garcia plans no appeal.
In other business, zoners denied a variance for a family daycare center at 83 W. Goepp Street. Owner Antonio Tejada appealed to operate the daycare without required fencing for an outdoor play area and a safe pick-up. He failed to appear before zoners, which made their denial both quick and unanimous.