MONTVILLE, NJ – Residents from the Pine Brook section of town came to the zoning board meeting Sept. 4 to protest an application to renovate an existing building on Changebridge Road, which would turn an industrial building into a retail wine store.
Attorney John Wyciskala presented the case for applicant H.G. Martin, who wants to take 289 Changebridge Rd., currently zoned industrial, and divide it. Currently the 10,000 square foot building, near Stiles Lane, houses Level One Construction company, which “has different needs in size, configuration, and the number of employees,” Wyciskala said. Owner Martin proposed to divide the building, leaving 4,200 square feet for Level One, and using the remaining 5,800 square feet for a Wine Outlet store. The company already has locations in Wall, Point Pleasant and Secaucus, Wyciskala said, and this would be a fourth store.
Architect Greg Cox of Aquatecture said the building will undergo improvements, such as enclosing the loading dock, changing materials and upgrading the two facades that face Changebridge. However, the applicant had not yet brought these changes to the Montville Township Design Review Committee for approval, including two three-dimensional wine barrels that would be part of the signage.
Wine Outlet General Manager Thomas Alviene testified that he had been with the company for 12 years, and that it is a mid-sized wine shop of which 65% of the inventory is wine, with the balance made up of beer and spirits. He said the company wanted to relocate to Montville because it is a “special town,” and said the store would be open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m., which brought gasps of dismay from the audience. He said there would be about four or five employees in the store, and up to four trucks per day at the store.
Professional Engineer Corey Chase of Dynamic Traffic testified that there would be no degradation in the level of service, meaning that Changebridge would not be affected by extra traffic due to the change to retail.
Mike Pessolano, a license Professional Planner, said that the property, across the street from the Bader family farm stand, lends itself to retail use since it “bookends the commercial area” and adds a “new finish which will represent a statement of vitality for the area.” He called it an “efficient use of land that promotes planning goals.” He said there would be no negative impacts from the change.
“The site will function safely and efficiently,” Pessolano said. “I see no conflict in the office/retail usage.”
But the neighbors were vehement in their dismissal of the testimony offered.
Ida Spata, who lives near the property, said traffic has been very bad on Changebridge Road, and she had other worries about the application as well.
“I moved to Montville to be in a quiet area, but this store will be open until 10 p.m.,” she said. “I live two minutes from Route 46, yet it takes 15 minutes to get there. I thought we lived in a residential area. Now I have to have a bar across from my house?” Spata referred to tastings that could take place at the location.
Neighbor Jean Bader called the change an “intense use” of the property.
“The construction company closes at 5 p.m.,” she said. “It’s not open on weekends. Our quality of life will change drastically. We are a residential zone. Hurricane Irene [flooded] the parking lot. Now you’re putting up a fence that will stop coyotes, bears and turtles from [circulating]. This is a highly sensitive area.”
She also complained of the traffic that occurs when there is an accident on Route 80, causing Changebridge to be bumper-to-bumper, and the noise that will come from the store. Neighbor Michael Lyons worried about more accidents due to the traffic and the possible necessity of hiring more police officers.
Neighbor Barbara Khan implied that the traffic counts were not valid, since they were conducted between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., before school let out. She also doubted the benefit a new liquor store would bring.
“This is not tantamount to the vitality of the town,” she said. “This would bring down this residential area – there is no unmet need. I’m in favor of revitalization of the industrial area, but I’m against a liquor store. We moved here for family. This is not a six-pack town. People want to bring their kids to soccer games, not sit on the couch and drink.”
Her husband, Evan Khan, agreed, and said he worried about the decrease in property values the store would represent. He also worried about the traffic the store would bring to Changebridge Road.
The next hearing on the application will be Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
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