By BILL RETTEW, JR.
PHOENIXVILLE - Jane Tucker of Steel City Coffee House lobbied Borough Council at Tuesday's meeting for relief from an ordinance that calls for a $1,000 fee to be applied toward a conditional use application that would allow the shop to offer yoga exercises.
Council decided to re-examine the matter at the April 26 Finance Committee.
Borough Code Enforcement Officer Mark Zeleznick informed representatives of the coffee house located at Main and Bridge streets that the yoga exercises includes an instructor and would be considered a "commercial school."
Jane Tucker along with other coffee shop owners wrote, as part of a letter which Tucker read to Council, that the activity occurred on Monday nights only when the store was closed.
"We cannot afford the $1,000 fee at his time for hosting yoga classes," read the letter. "Since we already have a conditional use permit for live entertainment, we would like the Borough Council to consider amending the current conditional use permit to include yoga, and other instructional events, such as songwriting seminars, poetry writing classes, art classes, and coffee roasting/ preparation classes."
Councilman John Messina (D-North) asked Borough Solicitor Glenn Diehl whether the conditional use application might be reopened to reflect a change and after-the-fact allow yoga exercises as a use.
"Is there any way around this with the conditional use already granted?" said Messina. "Can we open a conditional use to new conditions?"
Diehl said no.
"A conditional use application fee is for the defined application," said Diehl. "After council makes that decision it's a done deal. If you have an application and the application gets decided you can't review it. It's done."
Councilwoman Tish Jones (D-East) asked Zeleznick if a $10 fee charged per participant led to the conditional use fee.
Zeleznick again said that the conditional use process was necessary because the yoga exercises would be "described as a commercial school."
Councilman Henry Wagner (D-Middle) asked Zeleznick if a non-profit enterprise might have a better chance of having the fee waived and Zeleznick replied, "Anytime a fee had been waived it was always been for a non-profit."
Zeleznick said that typically $500 of a $1,000 fee might be used to pay for direct borough costs, including advertising, and typically the other $500 would be held by the borough to establish an escrow account and would likely be returned to the applicant if no special development costs were incurred.
Both Buckwalter and Jones considered re-examining the fees structure and the ordinance to, as Buckwalter said, "See what else is down the road."
Buckwalter urged future prospective business owners to consult the borough's Main Street Manager prior to submitting a conditional use application to insure themselves that all possible applicable uses are submitted at the same time for a single fee.
"A visit to the Main Street Program could keep your options open and make (requested uses) broad," said Buckwalter.