NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A developer seeking to convert a gas station and auto repair center on Easton Avenue into a gas station/convenience store has asked to have the ongoing application carried to the Zoning Board meeting in February.
Representatives for Universal Property Services did not attend Monday’s meeting in yet the latest twist in its application process that dates to the summer.
Board secretary Daniel Dominguez said he was contacted prior to Monday’s meeting by a representative for Universal Property Services who informed him they would miss the meeting because “they want to make some improvements to the property, including fencing before they come before this board again.”
Much of the testimony in the case has focused on cars that have parked on the property at 127 Easton Ave.
At the Sept. 23 meeting, Universal Property Services’ 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 run-down Shell station.
When board chairman John Cox informed him that the property is not zoned for that kind of use, Kazmi said that he would “have that corrected tomorrow.”
The board voted to approve the application with the condition that the cars would be gone.
Cars apparently continued to park there. Dominguez said at the Nov. 25 board meeting that the city’s zoning officer had issued a summons on or about Oct. 10 because of the ongoing parking situation.
Kazmi explained that when he said he would have the situation rectified the next day, it was “a poor choice of words.”
Kazmi said that he instructed the construction workers that they could not use the lot anymore, but he said drivers continued to show up and park there. He tried to put up tape to stop drivers from entering, but he said they would just drive through it.
To demonstrate he was addressing the issue, Kazmi said earlier that day one of the cars was towed.
Board member John Zimmerman, however, said, “I go by there every day and guys are parking there. Even today.”
The board voted 4-1 to approve the application without the condition in November. However, since five votes were necessary, the application was denied. Zimmerman voted against the application.
Board attorney Aravind Aithal said the applicant could take the matter to court and argue that the Zoning Board acted arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. Or the more cost-effective alternative is to ask the board for reconsideration.
“That reconsideration normally has to have some sort of testimony or they have to point to something and say, ‘This was different. You misspoke on this.’ Or, that there was out and out fraud,” Aithal said.
The Zoning Board is schedule to meet on Feb. 24. At 7 p.m.
Universal Property Services’ application dates to the July Zoning Board meeting. David Himmelman, attorney for the applicant, asked for the matter to be rescheduled for the August meeting. At the August meeting, he asked for an extension of time.
A handful of concerned residents from in and around the Shell station attended both meetings. So did Terry Finkelstein, an attorney retained by residents.