NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – In an application before the Planning Board, property owner Seyfo Hawi Realty sought approval for the construction of a 7-Eleven store on part of an existing parking lot separating Provident Bank from Barth’s Market located on the west side of South Street.
The applicant’s attorney, Jason Tuvel, told board members and an audience of about 40 residents (unusually large for a board meeting) that his client was seeking preliminary and final major site plan, minor subdivision, bulk variances and design waiver approvals to construct a 3,010 square foot 7-Eleven store.
Mayor Brooke Hern, who sits on the board, was not in attendance and according to members of the board, he had not provided notice of his absence.
Tuvel said the applicant wants to subdivide an existing lot at 55 South Street located in the commercial business district. One lot would contain the existing Provident Bank which would receive a major external face-lift and blend with the proposed convenience store in the second lot. A convenience store in the area is a permitted use under local ordinances.
“The building was constructed in the 1980’s and in need of an up-date,” the attorney said.
He also told board members that the site application had changed substantially since a preliminary meeting with borough engineering and construction officials was held last December.
Tuvel introduced the first of four professionals prepared to offer expert testimony in support of the application.
Architect Charles Dietz said new plans called for the placement of the proposed store to abut Barth’s Market to the north and entrance to the store from the south parking lot. Old plans called for the store to be set-back on the property with a South St. entrance.
However, by moving the proposed store forward and pivoting the entrance by 90 degrees, the rear of refrigeration units would be exposed in windows facing South Street.
The windows would be non-transparent giving the appearance of tinted glass seen in many office buildings. Dietz said passers-by wouldn’t notice the difference during the day but it would become readily apparent at night with the absence of interior light.
Board Chairman Robert Lesnewich took issue with the window proposal. “I don’t like it when people can’t see in from the street.”
Board member Armand Galluccio also expressed concern. “It’s a security issue and very dangerous,” he said.
Attorney Allan Zark who represented South Street Market, a convenience store located almost directly across the street from the proposed 7-Eleven expressed concern about parking spaces directly adjacent to the front door. “What will keep cars from crashing into the front of the store?” he asked,
Board member Matt Cumiskey said he had problems with barriers in front of store entrances.
Civil Engineer John Palus offered additional testimony building on the architect’s earlier comments.
The entrance to the lot will be kept within a few feet of its current location. An existing exit south of Provident Bank and adjacent to the bank drive-through lanes will also be kept. One additional exit will be located just north of the bank.
Palus also offered operational details. One tractor-trailer truck will make a delivery once a week during off-peak hours. There is no on-site food preparation and daily deliveries of fresh or perishable foods will average two a day with most deliveries occurring around 5 a.m. The store will operate 24/7.
Due to the lateness of the hour (11 p.m.) the parties mutually agreed to delay cross-examination of Palus to its next meeting scheduled for May 7. At that time additional testimony will be taken from a professional planner and a traffic expert.