After franchisee Mohammad Khan told Patch all options are on the table for how to respond -- and none of them are good.
"I have no clue right now, you know?" he said when asked what his next step would be.
Khan says no other businesses in the Firelite Shopping Plaza on Old Tavern Road are required to have a handicap-accessible ramp. And it's that ramp -- or the lack of it in his building plans -- that brought Million Snacks' plans for a location in the plaza to a grinding halt last night.
"Why would they deny this? Why would they ask for a handicap ramp when they didn't ask any other business? They've been basically playing games. if we have to take legal action, we will do it. If we have to take it to the next level, we'll take it … I think there's something else. It doesn't sound right."
Khan says he's been treated "differently" by Orange planning and zoning officials. He says he's not sure why, but he has serious suspicions.
"Very simply, maybe because they know my name is Mohammad. Maybe they don't like Mohammads."
At Firelite Plaza, independent observation confirms several neighboring businesses do not have handicap ramps, at least ramps that are immediately visible.
"It's a very big plaza," says Khan. "Nuvita Yogurt opened up, and the barbershop opened. They did not require any of these businesses to put in a handicap ramp. Why would they ask us to do that? All i'm asking is two simple questions. Are you treating us different? And am i saying something wrong? I'm just trying to ask them. And i think we're going to have to challenge this."
Town Officials Respond to Khan: "This is the Strangest Thing I've Ever Seen"
Building Inspector Fred Trotta declined comment on specifics of the application, but did tell Patch, "The businesses that don't that don't have any [handicap ramps] may not need any."
Zoning Enforcement Officer Paul Dinise declined to comment on Khan's suspicion of "different" treatment due to his name. He says he suspects the delay came from miscommunication between Khan and Scott Herman of All-American Construction, the company handling the building application.
"Scott Herman has failed consistently to even come back after a night's meeting," says Dinise. "I don't work for Mr. Khan. If Herman had done some very brief footwork and a change or two on a map, everything would have been accomplished."
"This is strangest thing I've ever seen," says Dinise. "To not even get a response from them, I'm just bewildered."
Herman did not respond to calls for comment. All-American Construction, based in Bristol, specializes in "REO Repairs, Asset Management, Insurance Recovery and Repair as well as General Construction," according to its web site.
Planning and Zoning commission chair Walter "Beau" Clark IV says the commission offered representatives from Million Snacks and All-American Construction an opportunity to attend a pre-submission meeting to work out specifics, including the presence of a handicap ramp.
Clark agreed with Dinise that the committee did not feel Herman had been in adequate communication, saying Dinise had "bent over backwards" trying to get in touch with Herman. Clark also addressed the lack of handicap ramps at other businesses at Firelite Plaza.
"When you have a site plan, that's your opportunity to address outstanding issues. Whether our commission erred [previously] in not requiring that ramp, I can't tell you. But you're not bound by your errors at the time. This is about codes -- the state handicap code that we have to adhere to. As for the Chinese restaurant, I can't tell you. Perhaps it was shown on the plan and never built. I honestly don't know. But right now we do have a site plan, and that's the time to make the other changes current."
At present time, Herman was still not responding to calls for comment.