York City Planning Commission recommends against boarding house

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch
The owner of the Lincoln Hotel and Pandora's Box Bar and Grill is seeking to change the variance to allow her to run a boarding house a few buildings down, at 454 E. Market St.

The York City Planning Commission Board unanimously voted to recommend the Zoning Hearing Board deny a variance for an East Market Street single-family home to become a boarding house. 

The board also voted 6-0 during a Monday, Oct. 8, meeting to recommend approval of a variance to create a storage facility on South Court Street and a variance to create an apartment unit on West Market Street. 

The Zoning Hearing Board will review the cases at a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 18. 

Applicant Elizabeth Kinard is running a boarding house at 454 E. Market St. with six bedroom units, with one occupant in each room, she said. 

Kinard said the property was already a boarding house when she bought it last May. City officials said it is zoned as a single-family dwelling and was turned into a boarding house illegally by a previous owner. 

This is common throughout the city, according to city officials. The city typically only becomes aware of an illegal boarding house issue when a complaint is filed. 

Rather than vacating the building when a complaint was filed — and putting six tenants on the street — Kinard said she filed for the variance to run the boarding house legally. 

Kinard said she runs a clean operation and does not allow for drugs or other illegal activity in her facilities.

Kinard said she has 22 years of experience running boarding houses. She also runs an 18-unit boarding house, known as the Lincoln Hotel, which is allowable under hotel zoning.

The Lincoln Hotel is attached to Kinard's other business, Pandora's Box Bar and Grill, 466 E. Market St., and just a few doors down from the building in question. 

Kinard said there is not enough housing for low income people, adding that she often takes in tenants who cannot pay at first in order to give them a place to go. 

"We need more of these for people who can't function on their own," she said. "There's nobody to help them."

Kinard also doesn't live in the building, which breaks from city code that requires an owner to occupy the building they are renting out for it to be considered a boarding house, according to city planner Nicole Gallup. 

Kinard, who lives in Wrightsville, said she regularly drops in at all hours of the day to check on boarders and always has someone there to watch over tenants. 

While several board members said they believed Kinard does run her operation well, they said they could not recommend the variance because of the precedent it would set. 

If the variance were approved, it would remain even if Kinard sells the property. 

Board member Matthew Davis said that while Kinard may be a good owner, it is unlikely that a future owner would be. 

Storage facility: During the meeting the planning commission also recommended the approval of two variances for applicant Jamus Bryant. 

Bryant is seeking to create a storage facility at 229-237 S. Court St. 

He said he plans to start with about 30 storage units and save about 10 for people in emergency situations.

Bryant said he's spoken with local shelters that report people who are forced to leave in middle of the night, such as battered women escaping dangerous homes, often have no place to put their possessions.

The other units would be open to the general public, he said. 

The emergency units would be available 24/7. The general public would have access during business hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. 

The board voted to recommend the approval of the storage facility with an amendment that it be open during regular hours except in case of an emergency. 

Apartment site: Bryant is also seeking to create a multiple-family dwelling at 612 W. Market St. 

The building was previously used as an 18-unit boarding house and was declared a nuisance property, according to city officials. 

Bryant is looking to create six units, two on each floor of the building. Each unit will have its own bathroom, he said. 

The basement will likely be used as a laundry room with communal access, he said. 

Illegal activity, such as prostitution and drug deals, is prevalent in that area, according to neighbors who attended the meeting. 

There is also constant garbage around the building, they said.

"I understand that frustration," Bryant said. "The exact thing they're complaining about is what I want to fix."

He said he's not "playing games with criminal activity" and is looking to "clean that up."

"It may not help the whole block," Bryant said, but he intends to start with his building. 

City officials said Bryant has been cooperative throughout the process.

During the meeting the board also recommended the approval for Anna Lisa Gojmerac to add a solar panel on a shed of a community garden located at 351 Cottage Hill Road. 

Editor's note: This story has been changed to show the correct date of the Zoning Hearing Board meeting.