For about 30 years, a local dentist drilled, pulled and polished teeth at his former office on East Smith Street.
Before that, a longtime Corry doctor based his medical practice there.
The city’s zoning hearing board decided Tuesday that a hairdresser won’t be setting perms or giving facials or manicures in the brick building anytime soon.
The board ruled 4-0 to deny Mary Frontera’s request to operate a beauty salon and demi spa in Dr. Richard Steves’ former dental office at 101-101 1/2 E. Smith St. The neighborhood is zoned R-2, general residential.
Frontera now operates Innovations by Mary Frontera beauty salon at 29 E. South St.
If the board had granted her request, she said she would have liked to purchase the vacant building from Steves and then operate the shop from her new home in a 936-square-foot, first-floor space that most recently served as Steves’ office. The building previously housed the medical office of the late Dr. Hugh O’Hare.
“I’d like to move my business to a house, so I’d still be able to see my kids,” Frontera said.
The zoning board ruled that a nonconforming-use variance that once afforded the East Smith Street property an exemption to the city’s current zoning regulations had expired and no longer applied.
In order to grant Frontera’s appeal for a variance, the board would have had to allow Frontera to open what would be considered a new commercial venture in the residential neighborhood, a move not permitted by the current zoning ordinance, zoning board Chairman Phil Chaffee said.
Also, the city’s zoning ordinance states that a beauty shop does not meet the conditions to be considered as a “home occupation,” he said.
“We are more like judges. We don’t have the authority to make changes in the code,” said Chaffee, adding that any zoning changes must be approved by Corry City Council.
According to the city’s zoning ordinance, once land or a structure reverts to conforming use, it cannot be changed back to nonconforming use, Chaffee said. The previous exemption is wiped off the books 12 months after the property is vacated. Steves moved to his current office at 983 N. Center St. in 2005.
Sheri Taylor, whose property at 54 E. Frederick St. borders the backyard of the Steves’ lot, attended the hearing in council chambers to argue against having Frontera open a beauty shop in the neighborhood. She presented each zoning board member with a photocopy of the nonconforming use regulations from the ordinance.
“It’s clear,” Taylor said, “the nonconforming use has been abandoned.”
Dorothy Johnson, who has lived across the street at 116 E. Smith St. for 30 years, also opposed Frontera’s request. Johnson said there were occasional problems over the years associated with having a dental office nearby and didn’t want to see another business move in.
“We moved here because it was a residential area. We don’t want it changed,” she said. “We’re not against a beauty shop — just not on our street.”
The zoning board also considered other issues in denying Frontera’s appeal.
Chaffee said one parking space would be needed for each 100 square feet of business space. That would have required Frontera to create nine parking spaces for her anticipated 936-square-foot shop.
Also, Chaffee said the zoning ordinance stipulates that first-floor office space must not exceed 20 percent of the total first floor square footage. The total first-floor space, including the office space, is about 2,200 square feet, which exceeds the maximum space allowed.
Frontera said she had no plans to operate a loud, attention-attracting business.
“We have no plans to make outside changes and have a large commercial space with an overbearing spa and salon,” Frontera said. “We like to be quiet and very peaceful and give superior service. I’m just a little guy.”
Frontera now employs two people who would have moved with her to the new location if the board had granted her request.
Amy Reiff, who has worked five years for Frontera, attended the hearing and spoke up for her employer.
“I think this would be a great move for her and good business for the area,” Reiff said. “She’s committed to keep it quiet, mellow and family friendly.”