December 7, 2011 at 6:26 PM
LIVINGSTON, NJ – The owners of Sweet Basil Café & Grill want to move their restaurant from West Orange to 498 S. Livingston Avenue and on Dec. 6 they came before the Planning Board to apply for site plan approval.
Co-owner and Chef Allan Platt explained that his Zagat-rated café wants to occupy an empty space in the S. Livingston Avenue strip mall that previously housed another eatery. His original plans called for a 76-seat restaurant with a 36-seat party room, but by the end of the hearing he had agreed to put the party room on hold due to concerns from neighbors and board members about parking overflow.
Platt said he would like to open as soon as possible but he needs several variances before the board can vote on his application which they plan to do on Jan. 3.
“A long hiatus would be devastating to my business,” Platt told the board.
A sticking point in the application was a shared parking agreement that Platt had struck with neighboring businesses to use their spaces for his overflow at peak restaurant times. Several neighbors who live on Concord Drive expressed concerns about increased traffic in the area that the restaurant would generate and they also had concerns about storage facilities and waste containment on the property.
The restaurant would be open Monday through Sunday for breakfast and lunch and Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, which Platt said would be the peak time for business and the time when his customers might have to park at neighboring businesses if his lot was full. He had arranged for a shared parking agreement with businesses located at 508 S. Livingston Avenue to accommodate his customers as they would be closed at night when his establishment would be the busiest.
Without the planned party room, the entire lot would have to hold 52 parking spaces instead of the 51 spaces that are now there, necessitating a one parking space variance from the board.
In response to concerns from Concord Drive neighbors about waste containment on the property, plans call for a 19-foot long trash enclosure which will be used by all the strip mall’s tenants. The enclosure will have self-closing composite gates which should help to contain the trash. There will also be a 17-foot long shed which will hold paper and other bulky products. The applicant assured neighbors that the shed will not contain a refrigeration unit.
The Planning Board is expected to vote on the revised site plan on Jan. 3. The applicant will come back on an as-yet unscheduled date to further discuss addition of the party room, off-site parking and the addition of a monument sign to advertise all the businesses in the mall.