Board Nixes Quick Chek
Board of Adjustment on Wednesday denies application to build convenience store and gas station on former State Police barracks property
Quick Chek has been sent packing.
The Board of Adjustment on Wednesday voted unanimously to deny an application by the convenience store chain to build on the site of the former State Police barracks at Allenwood Road and Route 138, ending a hearing that spanned more than a year.
There was no discussion among board members before member Wilma Morrissey offered a motion to deny the application, following more than an hour of presentation, cross-examination and public comment.
Morrissey’s motion was seconded by member Mary Burne. In succession, each member voted to deny the application. Board Chair Mary DeSarno was last.
“I have a problem mainly because it goes against the Master Plan,’’ DeSarno said. “I don’t think it’s particularly suited, mainly because it’s on an arterial road. I have great concern for the traffic in that area and the quality of life for the residents on Allenwood Road.”
The convenience store chain wanted to construct a 5,496-square-foot store and 16-pump gas station at 2101 Allenwood Road, near Route 138 east. The proposed location would be open 24-hours.
Quick Chek began its application in September, 2011. It was immediately opposed by a vocal group of neighbors, who decried the proposal as unnecessary, burdensome to the neighborhood and that it would add to the already heavy traffic in the area.
The application was heard three more times. Each time, numerous residents opposing the plan filled the meeting room to speak against the plan. Some hired their own lawyers to represent them in their fight against the proposal.
One of a pair of lawyers who opposed the plan on Wednesday brought two witnesses on Wednesday. One came with a long list of traffic engineering acumen.
Charles Spitz, of Round Hill Court, is an architect and planner – a traffic expert who previously worked for the Monmouth County Planning Board where he in the late 1970s designed and helped implement the county’s SCAT transportation system. He also is a past president of the state Board of Architects.
Spitz said the traffic impact of the proposed site was far and away higher than the experts hired by Quick Chek had told the board. He said the site would generate upwards of 200 cars an hour onto Allenwood Road, based on previous testimony from the convenience store.
“It’s impossible for that volume of traffic to be borne by Allenwood Road,’’ Spitz said. “It just can’t happen.’’
But attorney for Quick Check, Henry Kent-Smith, on cross-examination, said Spitz was simply making up numbers and that the testimony of the applicant’s traffic expert was not inaccurate as Spitz said.
The exchange between the two was occasionally testy, with board Chair DeSarno having to step in to quiet the pair, who frequently shouted over each other.
In his closing statement, Kent-Smith said the township had a “unique opportunity’’ to create jobs and tax money during a lagging economy, as well as improve a decaying, overgrown site that was becoming an eyesore on a major thoroughfare into Wall Township.
Kent-Smith also said the township would benefit because the Quick Chek application was a non-conforming use, as opposed to the office building the site was zoned for.
“You’re actually going to have more of an impact on Allenwood Road with a permitted use than you’re ever going to have with this Quick Chek,’’ Kent-Smith said.
Not everyone agreed.
“This application should fail both on legal ground and on practical grounds,’’ said attorney for the opposition, Michael Landis. “The project is entirely contrary to your Master Plan. This is going to create a traffic nightmare.’’
Michael Farrell, of Parkwood Drive, was one of the most vocal opponents of the application. He spoke before the board’s vote.
“This will change the character of that whole corridor,’’ Farrell said. “I hope you take that into consideration.’’
Board members apparently did.
Board member Nance-Ellen Draper said that she had to take into consideration the approximately 35 people in the audience who were there to oppose the plan, and that the application did not fit the existing zoning.
“I also feel that this is an accident waiting to happen,’’ Draper said.
And Morrissey, who made the motion to deny the application, said she just didn’t think Quick Chek fit the area.
“I don’t really feel it really ties in with the suitability or the Master Plan or that it really enhances the purposes of the zoning land use law,’’ Morrissey said. “The suitability just isn’t there.’’