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Woman says she was not told full zoning story

October 10, 2006

FUNKSTOWN - A Mercersburg, Pa., woman who said she was looking forward to opening an antiques store in Funkstown told the town council Monday night that she believes she was misinformed about what she could do with the downtown property she leased.

"I don't feel this was good for ... I made a bad business decision based on how this was handled by the town," said Karen Suranno, who told the council she did not realize she would have to add ramps to set up shop in a home that once housed a business.

Suranno said when she talked to Dick Grimm, town zoning administrator, about starting the business, he told her he saw no problems but advised her to consult county officials or an architect about issues with the American With Disabilities Act. According to Suranno, an architect said the property posed no issues, and a few days later, she signed the lease.

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More than two weeks later, Suranno said, Grimm called to say the property, which had reverted to a residence after once serving as a business, would need modifications like ramps. It no longer was zoned for business.

"But, nobody ever called me, nobody ever told me anything," Suranno said.

Grimm and town attorney Robert Kuczynski said Suranno bore responsibility for checking into the property. By talking to Grimm and the architect, Suranno argued she had.

Kuczynski said Suranno, who is a real estate agent, should have known better. When she tried to interject, he told her, "May I proceed? If not, I'm going to make it very simple and say, 'Tough luck.'"

During the discussion, Councilman Jerry Walker announced he is planning a meeting for business owners interested in starting a town chamber of commerce. One of the group's goals would be creating procedures for how to deal with prospective business owners, he said.

"That's all I'm trying to accomplish: Don't let this happen again," Suranno said.

After the meeting, Suranno said while the property's owner is applying for a change of zoning, she still is not sure what she will do.

She was hesitant to say how she felt about town officials' reaction to her complaint.

"I think that it's just a town that's going through some growing pains, and everybody goes through that," she said.

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