New Hope zoning board to review councilwoman’s cafe following citations – The Intelligencer

At its Thursday meeting, the borough’s zoning hearing board could give the River Cat Cafe permission to lawfully prepare food onsite.

New Hope’s zoning hearing board is poised to decide Thursday evening whether to give a local breakfast and lunch cafe permission to prepare food onsite.

The borough cited the River Cat Cafe, operated by former council President Alison Kingsley, in November for preparing food despite a zoning prohibition. The board approved a restaurant use at the property in 2015, after it was presented to members as a “low key” coffee and tea shop in a limited commercial zoning district, conditioned on there being no onsite food preparation.

The cafe now is appealing a borough enforcement notice and seeking a variance to allow onsite food prep. The existing ban is ambiguous in a way that prevents “reasonable compliance,” and constitutes a hardship, in that it “prevents the operation of a restaurant in a competitive manner,” said attorney Paul Cohen, representing cafe property owners Ted and Eva Short.

Borough zoning Officer James Ennis sent the cafe the enforcement notice Nov. 7, a few weeks after next-door landlord George Fernandez alleged a conflict of interest for Kingsley at a council meeting.

The cafe at the corner of South Main and Waterloo streets already has remedied other noted violations, by moving dumpsters and outdoor seats that encroached on a property line setback, Cohen said.

Kingsley resigned as council president at the borough’s Dec. 20 meeting; she will remain on council and members intend to select a new president at their meeting later this month. Later asked why she stepped down, Kingsley said, “It’s time for someone else to take the reins.”

Staff writer Chris Ullery contributed to this story.

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