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A York County judge has ruled that Save Rite Auto in Newberry Township can continue operating and that the township's zoning board was correct to affirm the business owner's vested rights.

The ruling is another blow to Save Rite's neighbors, who have spent more than a year fighting the auto shop's expansion.

Common Pleas Judge Todd R. Platts wrote in his Feb. 14 opinion that business owner Thomas Reed acted "with due diligence and in good faith" when he expanded his auto repair business in 2014 and 2016 based on two permits issued by the township.

Save Rite Auto is at 275 River Road.

Three neighbors who each live in the 300 block of River Road — Michael Haugh, Chadd Ettline and Anthony Balek — filed a lawsuit against the Newberry Township Zoning Hearing Board in December 2018, asking a judge to reverse the board's ruling that Reed was within his rights to operate his expanded business.

The dispute over the auto business dates back to 2018.

The township issued a notice of violation to Reed after receiving complaints from neighbors that Reed's two business expansions were illegal and out of compliance with the township's zoning ordinance.

Reed appealed the violation, citing the fact that the township had issued building permits for both of his expansions.

After a lengthy hearing in September 2018, the zoning hearing board ruled that the township had issued the permits erroneously and that although Reed should have been required to apply for a special exception, the township's zoning officer never told Reed about this requirement when Reed reached out to him to ask what he needed to do to legally build on the property.

The board stated Reed had acted in good faith based on incorrect information and invested more than $460,000 in the expansions based on the township's approval of the permits.

Those funds would have been unrecoverable if the township had rescinded the permits, the board stated and Platts affirmed.

State law protects property owners in cases such as these, when the municipality is at fault, by granting vested rights, variance by estoppel and/or equitable estoppel to the property owner.

Platts also noted that Reed had properly posted notice of his intent to build on the property in 2014 and 2016.

The neighbors were aware of the expansions and didn't oppose the building projects during the proper appeal window after the issuance of the permits, the judge wrote.

Anthony T. Bowser, the attorney representing Haugh, Ettline and Balek, said Wednesday he was still reviewing Platts' ruling with his clients and couldn't say immediately whether they would appeal.

John M. Ogden, the attorney representing Reed, did not respond to a request for comment.

More: Save Rite Auto neighbors appeal, ask judge to stop auto shop's expanded operation

More: Save Rite Auto zoning dispute in Newberry Twp. still unsettled

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