NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A developer seeking to convert a gas station and auto repair center on Easton Avenue into a gas station/convenience store will be coming back to appear before the Zoning Board.
Universal Property Services wants to address the board about a condition it agreed to at the Sept. 23 meeting when it received approval for a series of variances and a design waiver, board attorney Aravind Aithal said at Monday’s meeting.
Universal Property Service’s application was scheduled to be memorialized Monday, but Aithal said the developer’s attorney, David Himmelman, contacted him and asked to reappear at the Nov. 25 meeting.
Aithal said the developer wants to address the board about a parking condition it agreed to at the September meeting.
At last month’s meeting, Universal Property Service’s Syed Kazmi told the board he was allowing workers from the construction site on the corner of Easton Avenue and Hamilton Street to park their cars at the shuttered Shell lot at 127 Easton Ave.
When board chairman John Cox informed him that the property is not zoned for that kind of use, Kazmi seemed surprised. He asked, “Excuse me?”
“It’s not zoned for you to use as a parking lot,” Cox said. “It’s only zoned for parking to be used for parking for that business.”
A little later, Cox added, “As of right now, you are in violation of the zoning law for that property.”
Kazmi said that he would “have that corrected tomorrow.”
Board members said cars have since continued to park on the 13,822 square foot lot, however, and the city has issued summonses.
Universal Property Service’s return to City Hall's Council Chambers represents an unexpected turn of events after the developer was issued variances for such things as side yard setback, building coverage and freestanding sign setback. It was also granted a design waiver for the driveway on Sept. 23.
A handful of residents living near the gas station told the board that it is run down and has become a location for loitering and drug dealing. They question why the developer hasn't done anything about the situation.
Kazmi said Universal Property Service, which operates 30 locations across the United States with various major brands such as Shell, Exxon, Mobil and others, is currently leasing the site. He said he plans to not only clean the lot and refurbish the building, but also upgrade the lighting and landscaping. He estimated he would invest about $800,000 on the site.
If the project moves ahead, soda, candy and potato chips would be sold where once brakes and mufflers were repaired. The gas station/convenience store would have seven parking spaces, including one handicapped spot, and would be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., he said.
Himmelman seemed to indicate the revitalization of the property would remedy some of the issues there when he told the board, “I feel that unfortunately if we don’t move in this direction, things could get worse.”