Thursday, November 21, 2013
Struggling Deli Owner Granted Expansion, Longer Hours
Things have been tough, but thanks to a 3 to 1 decision by the Zoning Hearing Board at their November 20 meeting, Tomino now has a fighting chance. He'll now be able to operate his deli shop from 10 am to 11 pm seven days a week. What's more, he will be allowed to double his shop size from its current 540 sq ft so that he can offer some hot food and even provide a few tables for patrons.
"How do you support a family out of a 540 sq ft shop making hoagies?" asked Attorney Joe Piperato, representing Tomino.
According to Tomino, he compared his shop to three nearby restaurants in the largely residential neighborhood. They all can set their own hours. They all serve hot food. their customers can dine in. He likened his deli shop to a high school team trying to compete against the NFL. "If I can't compete, I won't exist," he told zoners.
But a small and very vocal army of neighbors opposed Tomino over the course of a 90-minute hearing.
Martha Popichak told zoners she owns a turn-of-the-century home with a fresh coat of paint. "This is not the kind of person you want operating a business across the street," she complained. Her husband Andrew predicted that property values would drop "while he blows smoke over the neighborhood from his deep fat fryers."
Tomino had previously told zoners that he would install exhaust fans for a grill and fryer, but they would be located between two of his own buildings
Grace Kelleher, who has lived in the area for 59 years, told zoners that Tomino has been a bad neighbor, and ticked off a litany of complaints. It took him four months to remove a broken tree limb after Hurricane Sandy caused electric wires to slap onto her roof shingles, breaking some of them. It also took him until June to replace the sign torn from his property during the hurricane. "I find it to be an eyesore," she testified, as Tomino shook his head.
Under cross examination, Kelleher conceded that her abutting property is actually a garage, not a residence.
But one neighbor, and one who has been a Tomino customer for the past four years, supported the expansion request. "Everybody deserves a shot," argued Joel Dellinger. "I prefer to just be able to walk to a restaurant in my neighborhood."
"Do you rent?" shouted out one of the homeowners opposed to Tomino, but an objection to that qestion was sustained while Dellinger told his inquisitor that it was none of her business.
Piperato told zoners that Tomino has a vested constitutional right to expand his business, quoting from a Supreme Court ruling that a zoning ordinance "which would allow the housing of a baby elephant cannot evict the animal when it has grown up, since it is generally known that a baby elephant eventually becomes a big elephant."
"I don't think it's going to become a big elephant," Piperato added.
After twenty minutes of deliberation, Tomino was granted both expanded space and expanded business hours. Only Zoning Hearing Board member Michael Santanasto voted to deny relief.