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Save Rite Auto zoning dispute in Newberry Twp. still unsettled
A zoning dispute in Newberry Township over whether the owner of Save Rite Auto expanded his business without the proper municipal approvals continues.
The township’s zoning hearing board listened to more than five hours of testimony Monday, Sept. 24, but members said they needed more time before rendering a decision. Members have 45 days from the hearing date to announce it.
Tom Reed, who said the auto body, sales and service business is his livelihood, has clashed with three nearby neighbors who say the expansions at Save Rite have affected their quality of life.
“From my clients' perspective, Mr. Reed testified about his lost profits and how he would have to curtail his business,” said attorney Anthony Bowser, who represents Reed’s neighbors. “Mr. Reed ignores the significant negative impact on their property. There’s a reason zoning is in place.”
Reed testified that he purchased the business in 2014 and contacted the township to find out what he needed to do to expand Save Rite Auto. He claims he was misguided.
The township issued him a building permit April 29, 2014, following an approved codes inspection, Reed said. John Ogden, Reed’s attorney, noted no one ever told Reed he had to request a special exception.
Reed added that his three neighbors were aware he planned to expand his business. Ogden mentioned that no one appealed Reed’s building permit request during a 30-day appeal window.
Save Rite Auto is his and his wife's life investment, Reed explained. They poured $446,443 into it, he confirmed. He testified that he could "go broke," depending on the township's decision.
However, the township sent Reed warning letters asking him to bring his property into compliance. He chose the alternative, which is to go through a zoning hearing to contest the noncompliance claims.
Township officials noted that both land development and stormwater management plans are mandatory requirements that all builders must supply to a municipality.
Township zoning officer Jeff Martz wrote Reed a letter explaining that the property’s use, since 1988, has “expanded considerably” without zoning approval. The last zoning approval on the books for the River Road property was in 1988. The former owner was denied a variance in 1993 to expand the use, according to Martz.
Structures have been built, lighting added, parking spots increased, business hours extended, services added and the scope of the vehicle sales expanded in that time, the township official stated.
The township has admitted it "erroneously" issued Reed a building permit, but the municipality still has the right to ask the business to comply with local ordinances, Bowser said.
When Reed made changes to his business, it impacted nearby properties, Bowser emphasized.
“These are very quiet, rural, residential properties,” Bowser said. “Now, because of Mr. Reed’s expansion without proper zoning approval, they’re forced to deal with pervasive loud noise, significant amounts of noxious odors."
He continued, "And, again, it’s not just a monetary investment. It’s their home, their ability to enjoy the use of their home. They bought property in a rural area and believed it would continue to stay that way.”