|Marcus Dixon (center) has a rough night|
"It would set a very dangerous precedent," Szy warned, although Attorney Erich J. Schock, representing proposed beer distributor Marcus Dixon, insisted that they have no binding value at all.
Dixon told zoners he'd distribute domestic and imported beers from a 1,655 sq ft vacant building, located next to Leslie's Swimming Pool Supplies. He'd be renting the facility from Patricia Fodi, who told zoners that its becoming more and more difficult to find small businesses, especially as a shopping center like the K-Mart Plaza springs up all around her. She and her husband at one time operated a carpet business at the site, which also once served as a dry cleaner.
She called Dixon a "Godsend," saying he would fit in nicely with the pool business next door. People could pick up pool supplies and weekend beverages in one trip, she explained.
Though surrounded by a sea of businesses, from a China King to K-Mart, and though no member of the public opposed this use, Chairman Szy was reluctant to bend. "We can't change the zoning law," he declaimed. "The law is the law."
Representing the Township, Attorney Jim Preston agreed. "The use variance standard is pretty severe," he noted.
Like Szy, ZHB member Jerry Batcha called a use variance a "slippery slope."
But zoner Robert Furst, who abstained from the otherwise unanimous rejection, noted that they were effectively rejecting a needed small business owner who would be paying taxes. "I think you're missing the big picture here," he told other zoners.
Although Dixon's request for relief was rejected, Township Commissioners can change the zoning ordinance to permit a beverage distributor, something zoners all suggested to this trucker.
Commissioner Paul Weiss, who sat in in the hearing, agreed that Dixon and Fodi "made a lot of valid points." Though warning everyone that he is only one of five Commissioners, he stated he "would entertain any request."
Schock could be seen speaking to Weiss after the meeting. Owner Patricia Fodi smiled and said that though the Zoning Hearing Board is very strict, "I respect them."