Zoning hearing board allows cafe to open

PAT FRIDGEN

Whether Pure and Simple Cafe moved to the old Greencastle Coffee Roasters site rested in the hands of three people. Cafe owners David and Cathy Pence asked the Greencastle Zoning Hearing Board April 29 for a special exception to change and expand the use of the building at 164 E. Baltimore St.

Board members Michele Emmett, Gerald Pool and Gregory Overcash took testimony on why the current non-conforming use for retail sales should be allowed to switch to a restaurant, health counseling and massage therapy service, and associated accessory uses. None of those uses are normally approved for an R-2 neighborhood.

The Pences wanted to relocate their business from 628 E. Baltimore St. and planned to buy the corner brick building from Charles Rake. "We're under contract but this (hearing) is the contingency," said Cathy.

An hour later they received the answer they wanted.

Business plans

David Pence explained that the cafe would be open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with other services offered until 5 p.m. However, food service might be continued the extra two hours to catch the school employee crowd. He had 11 parking spaces in the back lot, and customers could park on the street or at the church he is leasing across the street. The couple pastors The Life Center.

The cafe, which specializes in organic foods, fit into the borough's guidelines for non-conforming uses.

"We better fit the zoning ordinance because we are a community service, which is an ordinance exception," said David. "We offer healthy tools to the community."

Cathy added that they would be an asset by helping people learn how to cook healthy meals. As a naturopathic doctor, she would also be doing one-on-one life coaching. The restaurant would have seven employees, and two independent contractors, a massage therapist and a registered nurse to handle colon detoxification.

They planned to add central heat and air conditioning to the building, and provide seating for 38. They would put their office in a two-bedroom apartment attached to Alternative Choices, a store in a separate building in the back of the complex, along Allison Street. In the future they considered hosting an indoor Farmer's Market.

"That's another trip back to the Zoning Hearing Board," said Zoning Officer Kenneth Womack.

The decision

Board solicitor Jeffrey Evans said the borough's non-conforming use rules were strict, and businesses were allowed to function in a residential area because they pre-existed the zoning ordinance. It was important not to disturb the flavor of the neighborhood, but he didn't see a problem with the Pence's proposal.

In her favorable motion, Emmett clarified that 'nutritional' be attached to the counseling component. The special exception was unanimously approved.

Evans told the Pences he had 45 days to issue the written decision and after that the public had 30 days to appeal the decision. "You could be at risk with the purchase during that time. I'm not saying you're at risk or not at risk, but stranger things have happened," he said.

With the green light, the couple hoped Pure and Simple could be open by July 1.