24-Hour Convenience Store Vote A Month Away

April 21, 2012
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RED BANK – Residents opposed to a 24-hour convenience store in their neighborhood will have to wait more than a month before a planning board vote on the proposal.

Philip San Filippo, a Red Bank lawyer representing the developer, asked the planning board at Monday’s meeting to offer his summation at a later meeting.

At the hearing there were only five board members available to vote on the controversial application to build a 7-Eleven at the site of a Welsh Farms convenience store, on the corner of Spring Street and East River Road.

San Filippo asked for another hearing in the near future when he could offer his closing arguments, and there would a full contingent of board members available to render their vote on the application.

“We could vote tonight if we wanted to,” Planning Board Attorney Michael Leckstein explained to a questioning audience member. But the board was inclined to grant the adjournment as “A courtesy to the applicant.”

“Let’s be fair to everybody,” said Mayor and Board member Pasquale Menna.

The board would need a minimum of five members who have heard the testimony or hearing tapes to be eligible to vote, and could have seven or more members present to participate in the vote.

The board is expected to reconvene on this application on May 21, where at that time San Fillippo will wrap up.

The board on Monday may not have heard from the lawyer, but it did hear from some neighbors who are not happy over the prospect of a 24-hour location operating in their neighborhood.

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“The Welsh Farm property extends like a sore thumb,” into what is largely a residential area, said Gladys Bowden, who lives on Hubbard Park, across from this site. “I join with my neighbors and request the planning board deny this application,” Bowden concluded.

William Maloney, East River Road, said a Google search revealed 52 armed robberies occurring at 7-Eleven stores around the country in the last year. “They may have improved security at 7-Eleven but they still have a problem,” Maloney said.

Karen Hawthorn, Hubbard Park, presented to the board with a list of police calls over a two-year period arising from disturbances at the borough’s other 24-hour 7-Eleven, operating less than a half mile west on West Front Street and Maple Avenue.

Security, noise, traffic and other quality of life issues have been at the forefront of neighbors’ complaints about the plan to have the location operate around the clock, with the property sitting on the border of the borough’s downtown commercial district and a residential area.

“Noise, garbage,” complained Rosemarie Costa, who has lived next to this location on River Road for 55 years. “It really is everything.”

San Fillippo has argued previously the location has been a commercial operation since 1975, operating as a gas station and grocery and then the Welsh Farms store. Nowhere in the original approval, San Fillippo has said, were there constraints on the operating hours.

But at the previous hearing earlier this month, the borough planner, Richard Crammer, countered by noting there was some documentation indicating the store and gas station’s hours would be from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and it was a valid assumption that the initial board and its approval took that into consideration.

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“Whether it’s legal or not legal, this 24-hour operation does not fit in,” said River Road resident Steve Murphy.

The Welsh Farms currently operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.


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