By Denise Larive
Amity Township officials and its police department are continuing to investigate and address noise issues at Island Pizza, Inc., 300 E. Benjamin Franklin Highway.
Police Chief Noel A. Roy said police responded to two noise complaints at the business on June 17. The first call was at 12:35 a.m., and then again at 2 a.m. Roy said the outside deck area, known as Finn's Bar, was being used for karaoke that night. Island Pizza was approved last July for an inter-municipal liquor license transfer.
"We have a noise ordinance, but it's rather weak," said Roy.
"The noise was so loud [on June 17] that a neighbor a quarter-mile away thought their immediate neighbor was having a birthday party," said Supervisor Richard L. Gokey. "There are several issues going on there."
A motion by Gokey at the June 20 Supervisors' meeting to obtain a transcript of the liquor license hearing failed by a split 2-2 vote. Supervisor Scott Stepp was not present.
Township Code Enforcement Officer Steve Loomis has indicated that Island Pizza has some zoning issues. There is no permit for outdoor seating. Additional seating would also require the business to have more parking spaces. The on-site septic system is also based on seating.
"I handed him a permit form for the deck, but he didn't apply for a permit," said Board Chair Leslie S. Sacks.
Township Solicitor Joan London asked the board what conditions were agreed to with the liquor license transfer.
"I have a clear recollection of things said that night [during the hearing], but I don't want to get into them without a transcript," said Supervisor Joseph M. Karpinski. "There's a reason it's done in a formal hearing and we can confirm what was said. We're ensured with the health, safety, and welfare of the residents."
The Southern Berks News reported in July 2005 that Vanneman said he was proud of the family atmosphere he and his wife, Patricia, had established at Island Pizza since 2002. Vanneman also said at the liquor license hearing, "We're not looking for it to be a hangout. We want to please the customer base we have now, and we want the family atmosphere. I've worked too hard for the family atmosphere and we don't want to change that. We want to please the people that would like to have one or two drinks with their meal. Take out beer would also be sold."
Vanneman also said there would not be any outdoor seating. He did remove the ice cream and games area, as indicated during the hearing, to expand the indoor seating area.
Closing time in July 2005 was 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Vanneman said closing time may change to 11 p.m., depending on the need.
Board members agreed that if the matter is to be referred to the Liquor Control Board or to the district justice, township officials would need the hearing transcript.
Sacks said township officials would discuss the noise and zoning issues with Vanneman in an attempt to resolve before the township pays $200 to $300 for the hearing transcript.
Roy said he would also meet with Vanneman again.
In other business
Brian Ford, Strafford, Montgomery County, said he will proceed with a zoning variance request for the 14 acres of land on the south side of Route 422, across the highway from Hillside Motel. Approval of the variance would allow for the zoning line to be moved 50 feet and allow for all of the commercial uses proposed by Ford. The land parcel has highway commercial zoning 400 feet from the center of the highway. The remaining land is zoned medium density residential.
The Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission has responded positively to Ford's sketch plan for a movie theater (or health club) and three or four restaurants on the site. Ford has an agreement to purchase the land which is located across the highway from Hillside Motel.
"Commercial is what we need to help our economy," said Gokey. "We don't need to burden our school district anymore [with additional residential]."
Ford said he views the plan as a "family destination," adding, "We don't want another strip mall." His other sketch plan is for strip retail, one pad site (restaurant or retail), and 14 small townhouses.
Township solicitor, Kozloff-Stoudt, Wyomising, will research fireworks regulations and distance requirements in the medium density residential zoning district. Township Manager Charles E. Lyon said the township follow the state's ordinance which requires insurance and certified operators to discharge fireworks.
Also, AAA Development, New Hope, received preliminary/final approval for development of a Dunkin Donuts/ Baskin Robbins and a restaurant at the two-acre site occupied by Klein Transportation, Route 422.