MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Planning Board will need to reverse its rejection of a Wawa market and gas station if a lawsuit filed by Pine Brook property owner Raymond Eshaghoff prevails.
The board rejected an application to install the 24-hour Wawa in the Pine Brook section of town on April 13, 2017.
The application to allow the Wawa company to build on the property located at the corners of Changebridge, Bloomfield Road and Route 46 East was made by Eshaghoff prior to the area becoming designated a redevelopment area. Wawa had wished to build a 24-hour quick-purchase market and gasoline filling station.
Residents in the area stated concerns at the hearings regarding traffic accessing the business’ rear entrance off of Bloomfield Road, which already snarls at rush hour due to Route 280 in Parsippany. They were concerned about the noise of deliveries to the business and the need for a Wawa so close to the other location on New Road.
The planning board rejected the application, stating reasons such as the signage variances requested, increased traffic, the fact that gas stations pose hazards, and township ordinances that state that such a business has to be separated from residences and churches by a certain number of feet.
Eshaghoff's attorney Steven Schepis filed a lawsuit against the board and Montville Township on his client's behalf in July 2017, due in part to the redevelopment definition, the definition of the property as a service station, and the board’s disregard for the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
The suit maintains that the property will be a “retail establishment,” while planning board planner Joseph Burgis of Burgis Associates advised the board that the business falls under the category of “automobile service station” by Montville Township ordinance.
Schepis maintains in the suit that no servicing of vehicles will be done and no lubricating oil will be sold at the business as stated in the definition of service station. TAPinto Montville visited the Wawa in Parsippany and found automobile oil to be for sale on the shelves at that location. No servicing of vehicles is conducted at that Wawa.
The planning board also rejected the application due to lack of distance of the proposed Wawa from the residential zone, a church and from another motor vehicle service station, which includes the car wash located further down Route 46. Schepis’ suit dismisses the separations due to vagueness, and further states in the suit that the town’s 13 existing service stations do not meet the requirements of distance.
“The board imposed on the plaintiff, arbitrarily and without right, a set of standards that no one has met nor can meet,” the suit states (page 8).
Schepis’ suit states that the application as a service station limits the signage that the applicant can therefore use.
The suit also states that improper references to the zoning requirement and the goals and objectives of zoning to meet the redevelopment plan were used during the hearings. The application was filed before the redevelopment plan was set as ordinance, so redevelopment standards should not have been used, the suit states.
Route 46 borders one side of the property, and Changebridge Road is actually a county road (CR 621) and the suit charges that in denying the application, the planning board is denying the jurisdiction of the Morris County Planning Board and the NJ Dept. of Transportation to dictate sign size and lettering. Further, the suit states that claims of concern for traffic and noise associated with the proposed use are “unsupported.”
“Said wanton disregard of the NJDOT and Morris County Planning Board pre-emptive jurisdiction by the Montville Township Planning Board resulted in its arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable denial of the plaintiff’s application aforesaid,” the suit states.
The suit is requesting the reversal of denial, approval of the application, and counsel fees and costs of the suit, plus any other relief that the court deems just and equitable.
Schepis is still waiting for discovery and no pre-trial hearings have been scheduled, according to Land Use Secretary Jane Mowles-Rodriguez.
To read TAPinto Montville’s coverage of the three Wawa hearings, click:
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