13 Nov HE Chinese restaurant fined $3,000 more for parking issues
Another six citations for what Middletown borough says is continued use of an illegal parking lot has led to another $3,000 in fines being imposed on the owner of the HE Group Chinese restaurant at North Union and East High streets.
Restaurant owner Howard Dong told District Judge David Judy he cannot find a contractor to bring the lot into compliance with stormwater regulations, because of the negative publicity associated with what Dong contends has been a pattern of harassment against him by the borough.
Judy in August had given Dong a 30-day grace period to try and work something out with the borough, before imposing nearly $3,000 in fines and costs from the first set of five citations that Middletown Zoning & Codes Officer Al Geosits had filed against HE Group in May and June.
Nothing was resolved during that hiatus — although Dong contends he repeatedly reached out to Geosits by email — and Judy imposed the first set of fines Sept. 11.
Dong had told the Press & Journal he would appeal the first set of fines to Dauphin County Court, although it is unclear whether any such appeal has been filed. The borough as of Monday had received no notice of an appeal, Geosits told the Press & Journal.
Geosits filed the second set of six citations on Sept. 30, Oct. 1, and Oct. 3.
Three of the citations are for the stone parking lot being out of compliance with a permit that had been approved by the borough.
The three others are for HE Group allowing people to park on the lot even though it continues to be out of compliance — which Judy found perplexing during a Nov. 7 hearing on the six latest citations.
“Why are people still parking there?” Judy asked, to which Dong responded he cannot “control” customers who choose to park in the off-street lot, which HE Group has built in a side yard of the property next to the restaurant.
Judy advised Dong put up barriers to block the lot so customers know they have to park on the street, adding, “Why didn’t you do that two months ago?”
Dong during the hearing repeatedly asked Geosits to help him find a contractor to bring the lot into compliance with the stormwater regulations.
Geosits said it is up to Dong to find a contractor, and that if he doesn’t find one soon it will be winter, and the lot will have to stay as is until spring.
“I hope there is no stormwater or runoff issue with the neighbors” until then, Geosits said.
Geosits said borough zoning does not require Dong to provide off-street parking for his restaurant. However, “borough council cannot change stormwater regulations for the state of Pennsylvania.”
This time, Judy did not provide any grace but said that the fines would be imposed immediately. Each of the six citations carries a $500 fine, plus another $40.25 in court costs and fees.
“I don’t want to take your money from you but you are not doing anything. You have to follow the law,” Judy told Dong.