Variances with conditions granted East Rock Road house
A Salisbury Township couple has been allowed to continue to live in their house that was subject to several alleged township zoning ordinance violations.
The alleged violations, for which the owners of the house off East Rock Road atop South Mountain were cited, are said to have pre-existed prior to the couple’s purchase of the house.
The Salisbury Township Zoning Hearing Board voted 5-0 to grant several variances for the house owned by Greg Cicconetti and Valerie Ackerman, 937 E. Rock Road. The property is in the Conservation Residential Zoning District.
The variances granted are:
•To maintain a two-story garage;
•Home occupation within the second story of the garage;
•Garage exceeding the maximum permitted height of 22 feet.;
•One-story permitted for a detached garage when two-stories exist;
•Second kitchen within the principal dwelling, and
•Accessory apartment not permitted in the house.
There were 28 participants listed on the Zoom meeting platform for which the public and the media registered in advance. The zoning hearing board and township officials met in the meeting room of the municipal building, 2900 S. Pike Ave.
Because of the Jan. 31-Feb. 2 blizzard that dumped an estimated 31 inches of snow in the Allentown area, the Feb. 2 Zoning Hearing Board meeting was postponed until 7 p.m. Feb. 23. The public may register for the meeting on the Salisbury Township website at: https://www.salisburytownshippa.org/township-government/meetings/zoning-hearing.
Attorney Christopher M. McLean, of Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, P.C., law firm represented Cicconetti and Ackerman during the approximate 1 1/2 hour portion of the Jan. 5 hearing, for which eight participants were listed.
Attorney William J. Fries, zoning board solicitor, substituted for Attorney Victor F. Cavacini, of Gross McGinley LPP law firm, the regular zoning board solicitor.
According to testimony under questioning by McLean, the detached single-family home at the end of a lengthy gravel drive off East Rock Road was purchased by Cicconetti and Ackerman in August 2020.
The couple moved in Aug. 7, 2020.
The swimming pool at the house failed inspection in late July, according to testimony. The pool failed a second inspection. Township officials said the pool should not be used.
Cicconetti and Ackerman testified they had received a property disclosure statement.
The seller of the property, East Rock Construction, LLC, was not aware of any violations or issues per the closing statement, according to testimony.
Cicconetti and Ackerman were “misled and deceived by the prior owner,” according to testimony.
Interior photos of the house were shown during testimony.
The house’s first-floor area includes a second living room. It was used as an in-law bedroom, according to testimony. The house seller’s wife’s parents lived there when the seller owned the house, it was testified.
Cicconetti and Ackerman testified the bedroom has been unoccupied since they have owned the house and they have no plans to use it as in-law suite.
The couple said they also have no plans to rent the suite. They would agree to the condition they not be allowed to rent the suite as an apartment.
It would cost $6,000 to gut the house’s second kitchen, the couple testified. They agreed to not use the kitchen as part of an apartment.
The 960-square-foot garage has a height of 24.6 feet when 24 feet is allowed, it was testified.
Two estimates were $200,000 and $156,000 to tear down the garage and rebuild it. An estimate was $35,000 to meet the proper height requirement and remove the office.
The office was previously used by East Rock Construction, LLC, according to testimony.
Cicconetti said he works from home alone for a business he owns.
“We like the home we’re in and we like Salisbury Township. My fiancée drew me in because she likes the school district,” Cicconetti said.
Rick Hunter, a participant registered via Zoom, said, “I am appalled by what went on back there by the previous owner.
“As long as any safety issues are taken care of ... I heard the pool can’t be used ... I would not have any objections,” Hunter said.
“We are not asking for relief to allow the main residence as an apartment. However, we are asking for the use of the second floor of the garage,” McLean said.
Justin Turk, a participant registered via Zoom, said he was previously denied permission to build a secondary building.
“This area is protected,” Turk said.
Turk, who said he’s a builder by trade, challenged allowing an in-home business on the property.
“Are you aware that you have legal recourse to remedy and the Realtor who represented you?” Turk asked of Cicconetti and Ackerman.
“I can’t believe that everybody was in the dark about this,” Turk said.
“I don’t believe the septic was sized properly,” Turk said.
“I don’t have an objection as long as it stays single-family use only,” Turk said.
“I don’t want any kind of apartment in that building. I don’t want to see the building torn down,” Turk said.
“God bless him [Cicconetti]. It’s a beautiful home. And I look forward to meeting him,” Turk said via Zoom.
“I don’t want to see anything taken out of the house,” Turk said.
“The township is aware the previous business was well overused,” Turk said.
Turk said an agreement is in place to share use of the gravel drive. “It’s on a commonly-used driveway,” Turk said.
“I am asking that the kitchen and bathroom are removed,” Turk added.
Marilyn Wolfe asked about home inspection.
Cicconetti said the home inspection was done, but the septic tank was not inspected.
Attorney Kent Herman, chair of the zoning hearing board, said, “There’s a facility issue and a use issue.
“He’s [Cicconetti] not requesting relief for use, but not having to remove improvements.
“It’s subject to those restrictions,” Herman said of conditions for variance approvals, adding, “If the property is sold, those restrictions remain.
“What he’s [Cicconetti] requesting is that he does not have to tear out these facilities,” Herman said.
Salisbury Township Zoning Officer Kerry Rabold, referring to an Oct. 7, 2020, letter, said, “They stated that they’re not using it as a in-law suite.
“For the attached garage, they’re looking for use,” Rabold said.
Fries said to zoning hearing board members, “You’re certainly within your rights to impose those restrictions.
“And even if they tried to use it as an in-law apartment, they would need to get relief,” Fries said.
Zoning board Vice Chair, Attorney Ian Baxter asked about the home occupation use.
Fries said that Cicconetti would have the right for the home occupation use.
“It would seem that the general variance criteria has been met,” Fries said.
“We can simply craft language that the in-law apartment can’t be used,” Baxter said.
“The home occupation would be permitted by right. It’s just that the second floor cannot be used. He would need a variance for that,” Rabold said.
“I would suggest you consider granting the variances, subject to conditions,” Fries said.
Zoning board Member Ronald Evans moved to grant the variances, subject to conditions, seconded by Baxter.
“We’re on to step two of our journey,” McLean said at the conclusion of the zoning hearing, which ended 11:05 p.m.
According to a Yelp listing, the East Rock Construction, LLC contact name is David Tomcics and the address is 937 E. Rock Road.
According to more recent listings Facebook, findglocal and Cortera websites, the East Rock Construction, LLC address is 4333 Still Court, Slatington.
According to a Facebook page listing, East Rock Construction, LLC. “is a fully insured and licensed contractor.
“We provide full construction services. ERC has 15-plus years of experience working in residential and commercial settings. We specialize in new home building, electrical work, remodeling services and deck-patio building,” states the Facebook page.
According to a Feb. 26 article in The Press newspaper and website, Eastern Salisbury Fire Company held a reorganization meeting Feb. 3, 2020, and elected new officers following the January 2020 resignation of Eastern Salisbury Fire Company Chief David Tomcics.