La Plata busi­ness owner says town code is not busi­ness friendly

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIFFANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com

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

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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