During the Borough of Northampton’s council meeting on Thursday, June 20, members of Northampton Borough VFW Post 4714 urged council to reconsider a decision that rejected a zoning use change of their social hall.
Jonathan Wolfel, Senior Vice Commander of the Main Street post, spoke on behalf of the post and its members.
He said that costly building repairs, a loss of membership, and a lack of volunteers have rendered the organization unable to sustain itself. The VFW hoped to sell the post’s headquarters and use the proceeds from the sale to continue operations.
“We struggled to make the place what it is today…but we are running out of gas,” he said.
Two offers fell through, but a third offer from ABRA Development proved successful. ABRA Development had a tenant lined up for the building, a catering and pierogi business. The tenant agreed to cover the costs of the VFW and allow the organization to continue operating in the building.
“We were elated,” said Wolfel. “We could continue the post and have a new business in town.”
However, the business would require a change in zoning use: from social hall to food processor. On June 13, the Zoning Hearing Board heard the argument for changing the use. Council sent its legal professionals to speak against the change and the Zoning Hearing Board denied the request.
Wolfel told council he was upset that the VFW or the tenant could not give testimony. He said that plenty of businesses produce pierogies, pies, and other foods without issue.
“The decision was predetermined,” he told council. “This was all about the purchaser of the building…Abe Atiyeh.”
Wolfel informed council that Atiyeh will still be purchasing the building, the only difference being the tenant and the fact that a new tenant will not be as generous as the previous one, leaving the VFW without a home.
“Military items must be removed and sold,” he said, through tears. “Flags will be lowered and never raised again.”
“The VFW did its best to work within the borough…all of which would have continued if the variance would have been approved,” he continued. “No home. No post.”
Wolfel asked the council to reconsider the hearing board’s decision, which would require an appeal.
“At least you know what you are going to get,” he said.
By the meeting’s end, council did not state whether they would pursue Wolfel’s request. Instead, they went into a private executive session.