By Kaylee Lindenmuth
On Wednesday, Oct. 17, a zoning hearing was held regarding a request from Tommy Boy’s Pizza for a variance needed for them to purchase and move into a building currently occupied by the Young Ones CD and video store.
Before a crowd of at least 40 gathered in the Kutztown train station, the Kutztown Zoning Hearing Board heard a request for a continuance by a lawyer representing the pizzeria, and a subsequent motion was unanimous, continuing the meeting on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. The request was made citing mistaken postings of the meeting.
The board convened at the request of Tommy Boy’s owner Thomas Mathias, who is looking to purchase the property at 26 South Whiteoak Street to open a restaurant. Currently, the property is the site of Young Ones. According to Berks County property records, the site is owned by the Georgetown Holding Group, 334 West Main Street.
Prior to the motion, a member of the Kutztown Planning Commission read into the record a recommendation that the variance be approved.
Chris Holt of Kutztown operates Young Ones and leases the building. He attended the hearing and said his objections lie, not with either business, but with the prospect of zoning allowing restaurants succeeding Tommy Boy’s to move into the property.
“A restaurant there is not good. The Tavern, across the street, during lunch and dinner, fills the entire [municipal] parking lot,” said Holt. “On the weekends, they fill, not only that lot, but they fill the four-hour lot, and that’s what one restaurant does to that parking lot. What is two restaurants going to do to that parking lot?”
Mathias issued a statement via Facebook through the Tommy Boy’s page saying the purchase is to expand their business, including “adding more pizza ovens to keep up with the high demand of food orders.”
Mathias added, “It will also allow me to expand my dining room which is currently 16 seats to 60 seats which will provide the town with another great sit down location for families, business professionals, or large groups of any sort to have a spacious, comfortable, and private meal with their parties.”
Holt worries that a restaurant of such size in that location would deplete downtown parking for most businesses in the neighborhood. Mathias believes otherwise.
“Currently my staff has to find parking on Main Street and move their cars as to avoid a 2-hour parking ticket,” said Mathias. “Although the 26 South Whiteoak location does not meet the required spaces for zoning, it does have enough parking on property for my staff to park, which will clear up parking spaces on Main Street.”
“In turn, the move would actually help with the parking issue by clearing up spaces on Main Street,” Mathias added.
Asked about prospects for the business if the variance is approved and Tommy Boy’s takes the location, Holt says it would most likely move out of town, as locations in town would require too many big changes.
“The only place that’s potentially big enough is the Hibbett’s location, but they want a crazy amount of money,” said Holt. “Outside of that, everything’s too small. Not only couldn’t we have live bands play, but we would have to cut down our inventory, and we can’t.”
A GoFundMe page was started to raise the funds for Holt and Young Ones to purchase the property, and within a few hours of its establishment on Oct. 17, $610 had been raised.
A petition was also launched in support of Young Ones, attaining over 2,700 signatures by the evening of Oct. 17.
The zoning hearing board will reconvene on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Kutztown Train Station, 232 Railroad Street, where both sides, as well as neighboring property owners, will present their cases, and a decision will be made regarding the variance.