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Microbrewery hits official wall in Maxatawny
[February 27, 2013]

Microbrewery hits official wall in Maxatawny

Feb 27, 2013 (Reading Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Plans to open a microbrewery and brew pub in the former Mente Chevrolet building in Maxatawny Township received a setback Tuesday.

The Northeast Joint Appeals Board of Maxatawny Township, in effect, left stand a stop work order issued in December by township building code officer Christopher Paff.

The three-member panel, which hears appeals on building code issues, said it lacked jurisdiction to rule on an appeal filed by Saucony Creek Brewing Co. and the building's owner, 222 Development Group LLC.

The board's attorney, Matthew J. Creme of Lancaster, explained that the board's inaction validates the stop work order.

"The board instructed the appellant that if it had jurisdiction, it would have determined the stop work order was proper and no work could be done until a building permit is issued," Creme said.

The brewery's attorney, Joseph O'Keefe of Kutztown, indicated the owners could appeal the decision to Berks County Court.

In an at-times-intense two-hour hearing, O'Keefe argued that a building permit was not necessary since the former dealership service area was classified as a factory under international building code standards.

Brewery owner Matthew Lindenmuth testified that no work had been done on the building as of Dec. 11, when Paff issued the stop work order.

Lindenmuth acknowledged that four large vats had been delivered to the building, but insisted they were inoperable.

"I was sweeping the floor when Chris (Paff) arrived," Lindenmuth testified.

Paff testified he went to the Mente property after a Liquor Control Board agent and a plumber inquired about what needed to be done to convert the property to a microbrewery.

Paff testified he entered the former service area and saw the vats and exposed wiring that suggested work was under way.

Township Solicitor Jill E. Nagy argued that Paff's action was justified since the brewery had not submitted an application for a building permit.

"The point is, without an application we didn't know what was going on there," she said.

At one point, O'Keefe accused Paff of engaging in a profanity-laced tirade when he visited the property Dec. 11.

Appeals board Chairman Thomas Hyland vouched for Paff's integrity in past dealings with the township.

Nagy's and O'Keefe's legal sparring matches caused Creme to remark, "This hearing has been hijacked, and I'm taking back control of it." Ricky Geist, appeals board secretary, added: "This is a complete circus, and 99 percent of the questions are irrelevant." Lindenmuth said he was considering the Mente property after plans to put a microbrewery in Kutztown "went south." As of Dec. 11, Lindenmuth testified, he had not decided to locate in the Mente property. The tanks were merely being stored there while he was exploring whether state and federal regulations would allow a brewery on-site.

During testimony, it was revealed that the former Mente building, 15032 Kutztown Road, had been considered for a Jeep dealership and a Pizza Hut.

Contact Ron Devlin: 610-371-5030 or [email protected].

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