La Plata business owner says town code is not business friendly
Businesses in La Plata have spoken up about their issues with the town code, but business owner Iossif “Joe” Gressis, owner of Galazio Restaurant as well as two OBO Pizza establishments in Charles County, said he is frustrated with how the town treats its local businesses.
Gressis took to Facebook this week to voice his concerns about the town code’s edicts and his personal views toward the Town of La Plata not being more business-friendly. Since it was recorded Sunday evening, the video has been viewed 29,000 times and shared 597 times — as of Thursday morning — on social media.
“My frustration would be the micromanagement of a small business,” Gressis said. “If I don’t have a lot of business in my restaurant, the first thing I want to do is get a sign promoting a special and call a sign shop to have it made. But in this town, I can’t just go do that. I can in the rest of Charles County, Indian Head, Waldorf, but I can’t do that in La Plata.
“I have to go put in for a permit that has to go
in front of the [La Plata] Design and Review Board and then they will let me know,” he continued. “That could take two weeks or a month and a half because they meet once a month. Nothing against the Design and Review Board, but it’s a hassle every time I have to do something for my business and my time is valuable.”
Gressis said he has a trash pile in the back of his business that has been there for five months and no town inspector has advised him to clean it up. He installed two pergolas on his deck at Galazio Restaurant, which he says he had no idea required approval by the Design and Review Board beforehand. Gressis also received a wedding gift that he placed in front of the gate to his deck, which he claims is a plaque.
“I was told to take it down because it’s a sign and it needs to be approved by the town,” Gressis said. “I also put pergolas up and the Design and Review Board said they were concerned about the walkway and where the bar is going to be. It feels like they are picking on me. The support is prevalent in other towns where my businesses are located but here in La Plata, it feels like they are micromanaging businesses. I’m not here to fight the town. I just want to run a nice establishment.”
On Sept. 14, Gressis went before the Design and Review Board concerning his pergolas, two of which were previously constructed and two future ones, as well as his “plaque.” The planning staff explained their concerns about the pergolas and new sign.
“The sign was up there without a permit and during formulating a staff report we realized that the property is governed by a Master Sign Plan,” said Planning Director Jeremy Hurlbutt. “From the planning staff perspective, it meets the definition of a sign because it’s conveying a message. We don’t have anything in the code in terms of a plaque. The only thing that I can suggest to the applicant is to place it on the bar top on the deck itself, or ground, so that it’s not attached to the building.”
“Gressis is caught between the DRB and the town code and when there is a conflict, the town code takes precedence,” said Bob Turgeon, chair of the Design and Review Board. “The easiest way to go about this is to amend the Master Sign Plan and deal with the shopping center.”
Gressis said it is simply a plaque and not a sign because it was never intended to attract customers to his restaurant. He believes the town needs to give some leeway to businesses when it comes to signage in order for establishments to market themselves.
According to Gressis, La Plata’s guidelines are so strict that many business owners are charged more by sign companies because they have to go before the Town of La Plata Design and Review Board multiple times.
“We typically charge more to go to a planning review which the Town of La Plata requires,” said Eddie Kloiber, owner of Empire Graphics in Waldorf. “What makes it more complicated is that you can’t send the town anything electronically. It must include 10 copies of each drawing for their staff to look at, and samples of the material being used. If it doesn’t get approved then you have to go back again and it’s very time-consuming. It can get very expensive, so people tend to spend more for the permit than to actually make the sign.”
Kloiber said after pulling the sign permits, the cost of the sign can increase to an additional $600-$700 from the originally stated price.
“It’s not a friendly process,” Kloiber said. “There are difficult signage processes in other areas but the Town of La plata is especially hard, and a lot of
On Sept. 14, Iossif “Joe” Gressis, owner of Galazio Restaurant in La Plata, holds up a plaque he received as a wedding gift. He was told by the town inspector that he had to take it down because it is considered a sign.
Pergolas were constructed on the deck of Galazio Restaurant in La Plata by owner Iossif “Joe” Gressis. He was told by the town inspector that he needed to get the pergolas approved by the Design and Review Board.