Lehigh Valley

Barbeque owner displays Texas-sized charm during hearing

Fate of Tex's Smokin' BBQ still in question

Fate of Tex's Smokin' BBQ still in question

NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa - The second night of hearings on whether Tex's Smokin' Bar-B-Q can continue to burn up hunger for their customers ended just like the first night of hearings on the matter last month - outcome yet to be determined.

After 150 minutes of testimony Wednesday night the North Whitehall Township Zoning Hearing Board opted to continue a hearing on whether to grant a special exception request to the township's zoning ordinance to the owner, Tex Wells.

It was Wells himself who dominated the majority of the hearing, answering copious amounts of questions from his own legal counsel in a manner befitting of a Southern gentlemen, often responding with "yes sir" or "no ma'am" and a twang in his voice not indigenous to north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Wells, who was dressed in blue jeans topped with a prodigious Western belt buckle, white rancher shirt and black-as-ink cowboy hat, worked in sufficient entertainment value in his responses to keep the late night talk show hosts a little nervous for their jobs.

At one point during a myriad of mind-numbing questions, he was asked if the police had ever been summoned to his establishment.

"Well, no," Wells said in a tone of voice that reflected an aura of genuine confusion. "Except when it's time to eat."

When asked the elementary question by his attorney if he knew a man named Kevin Hunsicker, the owner of the lot where Wells parks his trailer Friday through Sunday to sell his hickory-smoked barbeque across the highway from the Hunsicker Funeral Home, he replied:

"Sure, he's the guy I write the check to every month," Wells said perfectly reasonably."He's the landlord."

It was that everyman honesty that has endeared Wells to many of the dozens of enthusiasts of his establishment who turned up Wednesday night to support him, the majority of whom believe that the township is harassing him due to a personal vendetta of a township resident rather than their desire for enforcing the law.

Wells testified under oath Wednesday night that he had "no prior knowledge there was a problem," about whether his business was not operating compliant to a zoned planned commercial region, a zone which does not allow for mobile food stands such as his business.

"I do not consider my operation as a restaurant," Wells said during testimony. "I'm 3-feet off the ground and I can come and go as I please."

Wells stated that at the end of the day, he's not looking for trouble with township officials.

"Everything you people have asked me to do, I've done it," he said at one point to officials.

When asked if he would agree to any restrictions or exceptions should he be granted a special exception request Wells said, "within reason, just name it, and I'll do it. "I would be more than happy to comply," he said.

Prior to Wells' testimony, Hunsicker told the board under oath that he "did not recall receiving" several letters from the township indicating the legality of the establishment and did not sign letters the township had sent certified mail during that time period, that had in fact been signed for.

When asked who signed the document, Hunsicker replied he did not know.

He also testified that several letters the township sent to him regarding a problem between July 19, 2013, and October 30,2013 were sent to the 18069 zip code rather than the correct zip code where he receives mail at 18079.

The hearing is scheduled to continue at 7:30 p.m. on June 12th.

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