DryZone accused of zoning violations

Business owners deny allegations
November 14, 2012

Milton town officials have informed the owners of DryZone that the business is violating zoning regulations and requires immediate action.

Town officials have requested owners Gary and Lydia Lawson submit a conditional-use permit application to bring their business into compliance. The Lawsons deny they are in violation. A conditional use permit would require a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission. The commission would make a recommendation to council, which makes the final decision on an application.

The business, at 115 Atlantic Avenue, is in the middle of a residentially zoned area. In the 1980s, when the property's occupant changed from Milton Manufacturing Corp. to National Screen Corp., DryZone's predecessor, Sussex County Director of Planning & Zoning Lawrence Lank determined the property was a lesser use of the nonconforming property. Lank's letter states the change in use shall not permit any outside storage.

The county transferred zoning powers to the town in 1988, and the property's zoning remained residential. When the Lawsons changed the business from National Screen Corp. to DryZone about 2006, the town said, the owners should have obtained a certificate of occupancy. The Lawsons contend the use remains the same as Lank's determination. Code enforcement officer Michael Trotta, project coordinator Robin Davis and town solicitor Seth Thompson will soon tour the business.

“They can hopefully enlighten us,” said Thompson. “Their response was that the use was the same as prior to DryZone. We're going to walk through and see if that's the case.”

In a notice of violation sent to DryZone, Trotta notes the business is violating previous conditions, notably outside storage and parking in an adjacent lot.

At the Nov. 5 town council meeting, Councilwoman Marion Jones asked Mayor Cliff Newlands why it took the town so long to take action and why no citations have been issued. Newlands said it is a delicate situation, and he doesn't want to anger people the town is trying to get to apply for conditional use.

“They have operated outside the town of Milton's rules for a lot of years and to ask them to comply now is not mean or wicked,” Jones responded.

She said she believes the business has been in violation for many years, and it is time for the town to act.

“It doesn't matter how many mayors there were before this, it's now in our laps and we need to do something,” she said. “The progress in this particular business has been very slow, and the reason it is drawing a great amount of attention is because of the incredible increase in volume of vehicles on that property over the last several years.”

DryZone specializes in basement finishing and waterproofing, and crawlspace and foundation repair.

Dmalier Molina, who owns an adjacent property on Atlantic Avenue, asked town council to take action against the business in March and has pushed the council to act at nearly every council meeting since. Molina, a part-time resident, said he has enforced zoning and building codes in Pennsylvania since 1976. He said he believes the business is violating zoning regulations by using an empty lot as parking and storing materials outside. He also contends the use changed in 2006, requiring a conditional use permit.

Molina said he sees the town's letter as progress and confirmation of his claims.

“I think it reemphasizes what I told them from the very beginning on what they needed to do,” he said. “To my amazement, I don't know why this would take seven months.”

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