Zoning Interpretation Leads to Impasse
A Princeton entrepreneur and business owner who has had his share of disagreements with Princeton Borough over the years, now has a dispute with the Township Zoning Department over a 19-year old ruling regarding business use in residential zoning areas.
Alfred Kahn, owner of Abel Bagel on Witherspoon Street and owner of a piece of Leigh Avenue property that houses a hair salon and massage therapy enterprise, is at the center of the dispute. The Leigh Avenue property had previously been authorized by the Zoning Department for use as a hair salon only.
It is the same property that made waves throughout the community at the end of 2001 when Princeton's first, and last, tattoo and body-piercing parlor moved in.
Blake Carr, the proprietor of Lucky 13 Body Shop, conceded earlier this year under pressure he received from the zoning department for using the facility for an unauthorized purpose, i.e., a tattoo parlor instead of a hair salon. The property's use for a hair salon was dictated in a 1984 approval by the zoning board.
Peter Kneski, zoning officer of the Princeton Township Zoning Department, contends that the 1984 zoning decision only approved usage of the property for a hair salon. The residential zoning of the property does not necessarily allow a hair salon with massage services.
Land use ordinances dictate that an owner cannot change from one non-conforming use to another type of non-conforming use of a building without having proper authorization by the zoning board.
While Mr. Kahn's grievance applies to the Township, the zoning laws in both Princeton Borough and Township follow similar rules regarding uses in residential zoning.
"It's a use intensification that could possibly affect what's going on in the neighborhood," said Frank Slimak, zoning officer of the Princeton Borough Zoning Board of adjustment. "It's the comings and goings of people that make the difference. That's why it's so important for the board to take a look at this."
"If someone came to me and said 'I have a nail salon,' and I want to add a massage feature, I would say 'go back to the zoning board and do it'," said Mr. Slimak.
"Typically, when the zoning board approves a use of a site, they approve one use only," Mr. Slimak said.
Mr. Kahn's disagreements with the Borough in the past have included the operation of a food-vending pushcart on Nassau Street, and painting some of his Borough properties that he rented to University Students orange and black in response to Borough officials claiming that the properties appeared neglected.