Bensalem neighbors put truck issue to bed

img_5532A heated dispute between two Bensalem residents ended in a small victory for Bernie Bernstein and his nine prized possessions.

Bernstein collects hot rod cars. To transport them to meetups and shows, he used to keep a 2011 International 4300 flatbed truck on his property. Then a neighbor complained that he was running a business out of his home, using the truck to tow cars and make a profit.

That doesn’t jive with the township’s zoning code, as the Times reported last week. Neither does having a 25,000-pound truck on your property — the weight limit for noncommercial vehicles is 10,000 pounds.

Bernstein sold the truck, and got in front of the zoning board last Thursday to defend that he does not run a business out of his home, and that the flatbed was for personal use only.

He also made the case for a variance allowing a light-duty truck, which he estimated would weigh about 17,000 pounds.

“It’s going to be a brand-new vehicle, it’s not going to be a used flatbed … I’m not gonna mess around.” Bernstein said. “I take pride in my neighborhood. I take pride in my house … it’s only for my own personal stuff, and I mean, I have some nice stuff.”

He got what he wanted, kind of.

The zoning board granted a variance unanimously, but only to allow a flatbed that weighs up to 15,000 pounds, and not before a neighbor made his case to prevent it.

Ken Houser, Bernstein’s next-door neighbor, contended that Bernstein’s “big, giant, noisy” truck wakes him up in the morning and may be unsightly for people looking to buy his house when he tries to sell it in the spring.

“Anybody who comes up to buy my house and sees that big old tow-truck sitting there is not going to buy my house,” he said. “And that is a big problem.”

Bernstein came armed with 100 signatures from neighbors in support of his cause, and a few to speak on his behalf.

Tom Mahoney, whose back yard connects to Bernstein’s, said he’s never been awakened or disturbed by the truck.

“My living room is maybe 50 feet away,” he said. “I never hear that truck.”

Two other neighbors, including a stay-at-home mother, spoke to this point and supported Bernstein’s claim that he keeps his property well-maintained.

Matt Takita, Bensalem’s director of building and planning, also noted that an investigator monitored the property for two months and closed the complaint because it was determined no business was operating on the property.

Bernstein does have a part-time towing business in Philadelphia, Bernie’s Towing and Flatbed Service, though he uses a separate truck that’s kept in the city.

Ultimately, the board sided with Bernstein, under the condition that there is no name or number on the side of the truck and it adheres to a 15,000-pound weight limit. Bernstein wanted the 17,000-pound limit, which is just under Pennsylvania’s 17,001-pound limit. But as the zoning board’s solicitor Barbara Kirk reminded him, Bensalem residents must abide by local zoning code.

Bernstein also had an answer for Houser’s concerns about selling his house.

“They’re going to see my house and they’re gonna want to live next to me.”

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