Grocer loses bid to stay in business


Domingo H. Kim spent $40,000 to open the Poppleton Food Market near the Lexington Terrace apartments, but he will lose his business because of a mistake by Baltimore's zoning office.

Mr. Kim opened the store in May at 805 W. Lexington St. after the zoning office mistakenly told him that the neighborhood's zoning did not prohibit groceries. In August, he learned that the area is zoned for residential use and a grocery cannot operate there without a special exception from the zoning board.

Yesterday, the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals voted 3-2 in favor of Mr. Kim's request for a special exception. But a majority vote was not enough -- four votes are needed to approve most zoning appeals.

Before the vote, Charles J. Purnell, a competing grocer at 19 N. Fremont St., dropped his opposition to Mr. Kim's store.

Mr. Purnell, the owner of the Last Stop Confectionary, complained in October that the Poppleton Food Market violated zoning regulations.

He said that his receipts were cut in half after Mr. Kim's store opened and that the continued loss of revenue would drive him out of business.

A financial settlement prompted Mr. Purnell to withdraw his opposition, his lawyer, John Denick, said yesterday.

Mr. Purnell and Mr. Denick declined further comment. They left the hearing before the board's vote.

"I don't know what's going on," Mr. Kim said after the vote. "My mind is blank."

Zoning board Chairman Lalit H. Gadhia, Herbert Brown and Barbara Green voted for the special exception, but M. Scott Smith and Giavonna A. Blattermann voted against it.

Mr. Gadhia tried, without success, to persuade Mr. Smith and Ms. Blattermann to change their votes.

A lawyer for Mr. Kim, Daniel W. Quasney, told the board that his client should be allowed to operate because his investment was made on the basis of erroneous information from city zoning officials.

"This is an extremely special circumstance," said Mr. Quasney, He said his client may appeal the matter to the Baltimore Circuit Court.

Mr. Quasney said Mr. Kim has been an outstanding resident in the West Baltimore neighborhood where the store is located.

He said the grocer had donated rat poison that enabled residents to fight the rodent problem and he restored a building that had been an eyesore.

Residents testified that the store was convenient and well-kept, and that Mr. Kim's presence has helped the area.

"Anything that will help us to be a little more worry-free is a plus," said Felicia Cooper, one resident. "That's the way I feel about the Poppleton Food Market."

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