I want to start by thanking Susan Wild's office. While she should be worrying about things of national importance, enough of you reached out to her that her team took the time to call us today. This is not what the she needs to be spending her time on, and while we are incredibly grateful for her support it shouldn't take the intervention of a US Congresswoman to open a 1,400 square foot roastery at an address that is in a neighborhood commercial business district.
Some clarifying points. It is clear as mud what this process actually entails. So I am going to do my best to explain it in regular words. Let's take a look at the process, as it has been explained to me.
To start a business in Upper Macungie, the first step is to submit your Business Use and Occupancy permit. In order to apply for this permit, you need to have the signature of the owner of the property where you want to put the business. Which means that until you have a lease and a landlord you simply cannot even begin the process. So for the few of you out there who keep saying why did you sign a lease before you had an answer: you literally cannot have a final answer without a signed lease.
You sweat through the atrocious flex space real estate market for several months and finally one day the perfect spot is listed. It is Zoned Neighborhood commercial. A review of permitted uses includes several close relatives of your business so you sign your lease and complete your application.
You ask for guidance electronically, they tell you they will not review anything until a check is recieved.
Once you submit your application on paper and pay them $150 they are not required to make any contact with the you or the property. There is no site visit. There is no inside tour. There is one paragraph on a piece of paper.
And then Marv can reject you if he feels like it. I believe the quote from the Supervisors meeting was, "when the word it isn't in zoning specifically , sometimes they will give it to you, and sometimes they won't." Rationale and decion tree: unknown. In the rejection letter it innocently says that if you think the decision has been made in error, to appeal.
So following their process, you appeal, pay them another $800 dollars, ask why youve been rejected so you can make business decisons and mitigation plans, but are ignored until the press gets involved. The email you recieve tells you it would be inappropriate for anyone to talk to you because your case is on appeal.
Then you learn that there is no difference in process between an appeal in Marv's decision making, and an appeal for a known zoning variance for a multi million dollar development. It is all handled in the same manner in the same queue with the same procedures. You learn that while not required for an appeal hearing, without a lawyer you cannot win an appeal.
So now, in order to start a new business in Upper Macungie Township, right out of the gate a new small business needs first a signed lease, money for security deposits and for liability insurance and utility bills. They need a total of $950 in fees, a retainer for a lawyer, and two months runway. And only then are you granted the privilege of an audience with Marv and the board of Supervisors.
So can we ask who Marv is? This has to be an elected position right? This seems to be a lot of power to give someone without some basic checks and balances. According to testimony we heard last night, and confirmed on his public LinkedIn, Marv doesn't work for Upper Macungie Township, he works for Keystone Engineers. He is not elected, he is appointed, and it appears he doesn't even live in the township he is ruling with an iron fist.
No one is asking for anyone to break any rules or make special rules, to not follow process. We are asking for an employee to be held accountable to actually do his job with a level of thought, critical thinking, and customer service fitting of his role. Is Marv so infallible that it takes court hearings and lawyers for someone to double check his initial assesment of an application. He made a mistake, and we are the ones being punished.
Nowhere will be fine because our community is standing behind us. The love and support that poured through our doors today means the world to us. Thank you.
To everyone who has reached out with pro bono advice and offers of help you are amazing and we thank you. We ask that you take that same generous spirit and find other business that are dealing with the same challenges. This isn't about Nowhere: small businesses are being crippled like this every day.
To our coffee friends who have come through in a major pinch: you know who you are. We thank you and we are eternally grateful. We hope we can be there to return the favor in times of bean crisis.