Mount Pleasant closed the cabinet door on another bit of nasty political infighting and petty vindictiveness last week when it gave a reprieve to a small cabinetry shop that has operated in the village before it was even a village.
On a unanimous vote — that was met with applause from the spectators present — the village Zoning Board of Appeals reversed a flawed 1992 closure order for Ron’s Custom Cabinets, 8312 Gittings Road, and said it would be allowed to continue operation as a “lawful non-conforming business.”
That means the shop owner, Ron Primuth, will be able to continue in business and the four employees in the small shop will continue to have work.
The vote came after Primuth’s attorney, John Bjelajac, argued to the board that the shop had been in operation since 1971 with a permit from the then-Town of Mount Pleasant and that the shop should have been grandfathered in to allow continued operation after town adopted zoning ordinances which would have precluded construction of such a business in residential area.
The shop had been in operation for about 20 years when it caught the attention of the Zoning Board in 1992 after Primuth constructed an illegal building addition — which he later tore down. The Zoning Board was looking to shutter the shop. Instead, in what was probably a well-meaning gesture, but a legally curious one, the board deferred a closure order until the year 2005, which would have allowed Primuth to continue running his business until he reached age 65 when he estimated he would be retiring.
2005 came and went. Primuth changed his mind about retiring — as many people facing retirement age do — and the shop continued to hum along building cabinets and providing kitchen and bathroom remodeling services to residential and business customers.
Then, politics raised its ugly head. Primuth’s wife, Juliet Primuth, a former Mount Pleasant town and village clerk who then was known as Juliet Edmands, spoke to the Village Board last October in opposition to delaying special assessments for residents along Highway V — the hugely controversial water and sewer project that had embroiled the village for months.
That was shortly followed by a complaint to the Zoning Board against the cabinet shop by community activist Kelly Gallaher.
“It was kind of ironic. She and her husband had received an unprecedented deferment to run an illegal business, yet she felt the people on Highway V should have to pay those assessments,” Gallaher said last spring. She said the cabinet shop should be forced to move to an area that was zoned for such commercial operations and also suggested it should have been fined $100 per day past the 2005 deferred closing date originally ordered by the zoning board. Those fines would have totaled more than a half-million dollars.
That’s a lot of cabinets.
Fortunately, the Zoning Board saw it differently last week, after hearing attorney Bjelajac’s arguments that the shop should have been grandfathered in as an existing use. He had previously argued the 1992 Zoning Board order was flawed because such boards are not empowered to insert an expiration date on a zoning variance.
With last week’s commonsense vote, Ron’s Custom Cabinets will continue to operate as it has for nearly a half-century. The village might want to consider ordering something with a pigeonhole for petty and vindictive complaints. It could probably get a good price.