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Judge to rule on dispute between Pa. township, body shop

July 11, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County judge will decide whether a preliminary injunction preventing Antrim Township from possibly closing Todd's Auto Body Inc. will remain in effect.

The township has not filed an enforcement action against Todd's Auto Body, but the Board of Supervisors in June authorized its zoning officer to have owner Jeff T. Todd sign an agreement to bring him in compliance with the zoning ordinance.

The agreement was not signed and Todd filed for the preliminary injunction last week. On Tuesday, attorneys for the township and business were before Judge Douglas Herman arguing whether the injunction should be upheld or dismissed.

Todd Auto Body did not meet several requirements for an injunction to be issued, said township solicitor John Lisko. One of those requirements, he said, is that the company have no other legal remedy available.

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Had the township filed an enforcement action, Lisko said Todd Auto Body has the right under the state's Municipal Planning Code to appeal that to the township's Zoning Hearing Board. A stay of the enforcement action would be automatic and the business could continue to operate until the matter was resolved, he said.

"The Municipal Planning Code does not grant the Zoning Hearing Board the authority to hear this kind of case," said David Martineau, Todd's attorney. The business has already been harmed by the township finding it in violation and by negative publicity, he said.

Todd testified he began working from his house on Worleytown Road in 1985 and the township granted him several building permits to expand the business in the residential district, which now employs 18 people.

"My whole life's there. Two million dollars' worth," Todd testified. Because the permits had been granted, he testified he believed the business was a permissible use.

"I had no clue I was doing anything wrong" and the business had never been cited for a zoning violation, he testified. The possibility of an enforcement action against him had caused his business go from 25 to 30 cars a week to about 20, he testified.

Township residents were present in the courtroom to testify on behalf of the township and the effect of the business operating near their homes, but the hearing never reached that point.

Lisko asked the injunction be dismissed, in part, because Todd had failed to show evidence of immediate and irreparable damage to the business from an impending action by the township.

Herman said he would review the evidence and briefs from both sides. The judge could decide to dismiss the injunction, or resume the hearing at a later date.

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