Dorrance Twp. Board Denies Trucking Firm Zoning Appeal

After months of complaints lodged by neighbor Keith Hazlak, the Stairville Road based Mountain Express, Inc. truck repair company was denied authorization to continue doing business as the result of a zoning hearing board appeal.

The company, owned and operated by Robert Powis on land rented from Robert Engler, was cited in August by Dorrance Zoning Officer Alan Snelson for non-compliance with township zoning rules after several complaints to the board of supervisors.

In May, Hazlak reported loud noise and constant traffic. He said Mountain Express Trucking was operating, “24/7. I can’t sleep at night. They are directly across the street from me. I’ve got dust issues; I’ve got fume issues from the trucks’ excessive idling.”

He added that a letter from Snelson to the company had not improved the situation, it had made it worse.

The zoning officer conducted a review of his records and sent the company a letter indicating he had found no application for zoning approvals. In August he advised Mountain Express that it was operating without the necessary credentials and explained that they must come into compliance.

A few weeks after the August 13th letter, Snelson received an application for an appeal to the zoning hearing board of his determination.

Representing the trucking firm, Attorney Mark McNealis had informed Snelson in May that it is his position that the use of the property for truck servicing predated the zoning ordinance which Snelson cited in his non-conformance decision.

The attorney wrote, “Mountain Express, Inc. has been operating at the property location since early in calendar year 2006.” At that time, he said, the parcel was zoned B-3. The following year a new zoning ordinance and map was developed and approved which “apparently” changed the zoning to a B-1 classification. He added that the property was previously in use for the storage and repair of motor vehicles, “it is my understanding that the property has been improved with commercial garages since the 1950s.”

However, Snelson’s August notice also contained a reference to the previous zoning ordinance dating back to 1984 which also required a zoning permit be secured for the “use and occupancy of the property… Specifically, Section 2.02 provides that no land, building, structure or premise shall be used, except in conformity with the regulations specified for the zoning district in which the business is located.”

In addition, Snelson asserted, the 1984 ordinance mandates the issuance of a zoning permit, and a certificate of occupancy –neither of which could be found in the records, or produced by the company.

With the issuance of the Notice of Violation, the firm applied for the appeal before the Dorrance Township Zoning Hearing Board to reverse the determination of the zoning officer.

The board and its attorney Thomas Mosca conducted hearings on November 7, recessed and resumed the hearing on November 26th.

At the reconvened meeting the board rejected Atty. McNealis’ conclusion, voting unanimously to uphold the determination of the zoning officer.

The written decision states, “The parties have presented their case before the Board…Now, this 26th day of November, 2013, upon consideration of the testimony and

See Denies page 4