WEST ORANGE, NJ - In recent weeks, the St. Cloud neighborhood in West Orange has seen a groundswell of opposition to a proposal by Quick Chek to replace the vacant restaurant at 555 Northfield Ave. with a gas station and convenience store.
A special meeting of the Zoning Board will be held on Thursday, July 24 beginning at 8 p.m. in council chambers at 66 Main St. to give residents a chance to voice their concerns and for the board to continue its examination of the 22 variances that would be required for the gas station retailer to build on the site.
According to St. Cloud resident and Councilman Victor Cirilo, there have been three principal areas of concern expressed by residents: first, that by operating 24 hours a day, the station might become a target for criminal activity; second, that the gas held in underground tanks at the station could affect the environment; and third, that the current proposal violates too many building codes, including one that prohibits gas stations from building within 500 feet of a public building.
Because the gas station would be adjacent to the Stagg Park playing fields, and only a few hundred feet from St. Cloud Elementary school, Quick Chek will need the zoning board to approve variances that override these codes. Requesting variances for a new development is not uncommon and as part of application process, developers and businesses often modify plans to satisfy zoning board requests for changes. Since the property at 555 Northfield is not owned by Quick Chek, but by Cece Holding Corporation,* the owners of that property are involved in the process as well.
Local business owners, some of whom would face direct competition from the Quick Chek, have also attended recent town meetings to monitor the situation, and are expected to be in attendance on Thursday. One of the businesses likely to be affected is the recently renovated BP gas station just west of the proposed Quick Chek. The attorney for the Board of Education is also expected to attend the Zoning Board meeting to express concerns on behalf of the school district.
Several residents have indicated a preference for a family-friendly, moderately priced eatery. TAP into West Orange contacted Quick Chek Tuesday evening for comment and were told to expect a response soon.
(*Editor's Note: This article was updated to note that Cece Holding Corporation owns the property at 555 Northfield Avenue, and not the owners of Turtle Back Inn, as previously reported.)