Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Application for Grocery at Former Barney's Steak Shop Denied Again

By Christina Georgiou

The Easton Zoning Hearing Board again
denied a  variance for a small grocery store to
occupy the former Barney's Steak Shop on
West Nesquehoning Street in the city's South
Side neighborhood.
Photo from Zillow real estate listings

Almost a year to the day after Easton's Zoning Hearing Board refused an application for a variance to allow a small grocery store that would have sold hot sandwiches and other take-out foods at the former Barney's Steak Shop on West Nesquehoning Street in the city's South Side neighborhood, the board again denied a pared-down proposal from the same applicant Monday evening.

The application, made by would-be owner Vincent DeLaCruz of Emmaus, this time omitted cooking on the premises and take-out foods. He told the board he would sell basic grocery items--"quick stuff people would use on a regular basis"--as well as lottery tickets and newspapers.

DeLaCruz also hoped to employ some people in the neighborhood to deliver items by bike or car to customers who wanted that service.

But while property owner Georgina Ricka submitted a petition she said was signed by 17 neighbors in support of a small grocery at her 156 West Nesquehoning St. property, other neighbors on the street submitted another signed by 11 other neighbors who they said oppose such a shop.

Gail Groman, who also spoke against the proposal last year, said the store would create too much noise and trash in the residential neighborhood, and that parking for those visiting the location would be cause additional problems for residents as there already is a shortage.

She also said the property is neglected compared to others around it.

"The property is not very well taken care of," Groman said. "I'm just concerned for all of these reasons."

Groman said with a CVS and the C-Town supermarket in South Side, the grocery isn't needed.

"It's just not a good spot to have a store," she added.

Judy Werkheiser, another neighbor on the street, also opposed the shop.

"The property is a complete eyesore," she said. "I just think all in all, it's just not a good idea."

But one tenant who is about to move into an apartment above the former Barney's location said he would welcome a small grocery below.

"I don't think it's an eyesore," said Hiram Rosado. "It's actually quite nice, and I'm pickey where I live."

He added, "A grocery store there for me would be very convenient...it would be perfect for walking."

Ricka also testified the space would be difficult and expensive to convert to a residential apartment.

"Not including the windows, you're talking $50,000 to put a full bathroom and kitchen in," she said. "By the time you put in appliances, yeah, $50,000."

Zoning hearing board members were split on whether to allow the variance for the grocery use, voting 2-2. Michael Civitella, chairing the meeting, and Michael Brett voted against the application, while Pamela Panto and Lynne Starke voted to allow the shop.

A tied vote is a denial under the zoning hearing board protocol, the board's solicitor Robert Nitchkey noted.

Jim Edinger, Easton zoning hearing board chairman for nearly two decades, resigned from the position upon being sworn in as an appointed city councilman earlier this month. His was the sole vote in favor of the grocery application last year when it still included hot food preparation and a take-out menu.

His replacement on the city zoning hearing board is likely to be selected and sworn in in September, city officials have indicated.

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