HARVEYS LAKE — Edye Schneider’s plan to construct a floating dock-like eatery on Harveys Lake encountered choppy waters as residents and the Zoning Hearing Board poked holes in her concept June 6.
Over 50 residents filled Harveys Lake Borough’s meeting room to standing room only capacity to quiz Schneider on her preliminary plans to establish a 30-by-30-foot floating restaurant named Kanu. The eatery would be anchored to the left of the public boat launch within 100 feet of shore in a no-wake zone, she said.
“There are no homes where this will be placed,” Schneider, of Scranton, said, citing the restaurant would be located between poles 173 and 181.
The eatery proposal features five boat slips along two sides of the structure. A ramp would lead onto the floating dock, she said.
A small boat that could accommodate four to six people would be used to ferry guests from the public boat launch to the restaurant, she said.
A small structure in the middle would house the kitchen and restrooms, Schneider said. Customers would order in the front and walk around to the side to pick up their food, she said.
Patrons would then dine at lunch counters or benches with small tables located along the perimeter of the facility.
Schneider said the maximum capacity of the eatery and the type of anchor is dependent on the weight of ADA accessible restrooms and reinforced septic tanks, which are still being determined.
“It (capacity) is changing only because there are restrictions and rules regarding how much weight it is going to be,” Schneider said. “We have to have a handicap bathroom on the boat, so it needs to be larger, which takes away from the occupancy of the boat.”
Zoning Hearing Board attorney Mark McNealis asked Schneider for an estimated maximum occupancy of the structure.
“I would say between 35 and 55, maximum,” she said.
The proposed seasonal business will operate within hours ranging from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., she said.
Planned lighting for the restaurant consists of string lights along the railings, which surround the perimeter of the dock and under the awning of the kitchen roof, she said.
“I am required by law to have a small light in front of the structure that is as powerful as a garden solar light,” Schneider said.
The kitchen and lights would be powered by a generator, which will be housed in a relatively soundproof room, she said.
“It can’t be totally soundproof because we have to have air circulating,” Schneider said.
The unprecedented business plan is not covered by the borough’s current zoning ordinances, which raised many questions about regulating the eatery, protecting the lake waters from potential pollution, patron parking and many other issues.
After a nearly two-hour meeting, the Zoning Hearing Board tabled further action on the proposal until 7 p.m. July 17, giving Schneider time to address the impact and how daily business functions would occur without negatively affecting the lake community.
Residents added to Schneider’s list of concerns by questioning the seating capacity of the structure, how guests would access the eatery, removal of trash and sewage and protection of the lake’s environmental health. Other areas of concern involve lack of property tax generated from the eatery and the potential to create future floating business growth.
“I am not cutting any corners,” Schneider said. “I am doing everything that I possibly can by law to make this an enjoyable thing for everybody who wants to come.”
However, Borough Council President Bill Hilburt and council members Michell’e Boice and Tom Kehler ask her why she did not come to them first when she devised the business plan nearly seven months ago.
“You should have come to the council,” Kehler said. “We should have had a chance to address issues like parking.”
Schneider said she was told by the Fish and Boat Commission, located off Lakeside Drive, that her patrons could park in their lot to be ferried to the eatery.
Also, Schneider did not know she was supposed to present the concept to the council. She believed she was following protocol by receiving state approvals first.
Schneider said she already obtained approval from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Boat Commission and the Department of Labor.
“They know exactly what I am doing,” Schneider said. “They know exactly where the launch is, where I can pick up people and I have the approval to do that.”
Colleen Connelly, the community relations coordinator at DEP, sent an email to the Dallas Post/Times Leader on Wednesday, June 7, clarifying the agency’s position.
The email contained a copy of a letter addressed to Schneider, dated June 1, 2017, that stated the DEP received a “permitting determination request” for the restaurant.
The DEP’s letter said, “activities addressed in this submission do not appear to constitute an encroachment or an obstruction. Therefore, they do not appear to be subject to regulation under the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act and, as such, would not require a Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permit from DEP.”
Also, Schneider was informed no sewage planning was necessary under the agency’s Clean Water Program, according to Connelly’s email. Schneider was told sewage planning was “likely a local issue” and was referred to the Department of Agriculture.
“The DEP has been in contact with Edye Schneider regarding her proposal for a structure on Harveys Lake in Luzerne County,” Connelly said in an emailed statement. “The department has determined that no DEP permits are necessary for the project at this time.”
Shannon Powers, deputy communications director at the state Department of Agriculture, said Schneider would be advised to meet with the zoning board first to determine if the business plan is feasible before applying to the agency for a permit.
If she obtains zoning approval, she would submit an application for a “mobile food” business classification, Powers said.
Then, before opening the eatery to the public, an inspector would examine the facility to issue a final approval, Powers said.
Duke Dalley, who hosts a local bass tournament on Harveys Lake, asked Schneider if she was aware of bass tournaments held on the lake during the summer.
She answered no.
Dalley said the fishing event draws a crowd and the location where Kanu is planned may be surrounded by about 20 boats.
“You can’t do a thing about it,” he said.
Boice, a lifetime resident, asked Schneider if she ever drove into the boat launch on a hot summer weekend or summer holiday.
“There is not a lot of parking there,” Boice said. “Another issue is that is the area where the boats come in and leave from.”
“When it is congested and there are 50 boats that want to get off the lake, that is where they float around out there.”
Schneider answered there would also be times when it is not that busy.
“I might be in other people’s way but if there are 50 other boats — those boats are in other people’s way,” Schneider said.
Resident Brian Orbin voiced support for Schneider’s plan, citing how Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake used to have a variety of businesses and attractions years ago, such as hotels and Hanson’s Amusement Park.
“People need to be more open-minded on things like this,” Orbin said. “One little restaurant is not going to bog down the lake. It is not like we are putting it on a pond.”
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.