SUMMIT, NJ - Bench-pressing, toe-tapping and the stowing away of memories could replace the lost echoes of power wrenches, oil changes and price haggling on River Road in Summit, if ideas currently under consideration by the city’s Planning Board sprout into reality.

The board is considering the expansion of the uses permitted in the light industrial zone in the areas of River Road and Chatham Road.

Currently prominent on the River Road section of the zone are two unoccupied automobile dealerships.

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According to Planning Board Chairman Jeff Wagenbach, the current purpose of the light industrial zone is “to permit the manufacture and warehousing of small and lightweight packaged items.”

Uses permitted at this time include research laboratories, product development laboratories, offices, printing facilities, warehousing and manufacturing of small packaged items.

Wagenbach said the board on March 28th unanimously agreed to add health clubs, dance studios and personal storage facilities into the mix.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing personal storage facilities like the Westy’s facility on River Road, Chatham,” he added.

The Chatham facility is one of 16 in the tri-state area. Westy Self Storage buildings are designed and constructed from the ground up with white architectural precast concrete. 

According to the company’s website, lobbies invite customers into “a light-filled granite tile atrium.  Art and music soften the atmosphere and create a feeling of comfort.” 

Storage rooms give those who lease them a choice of more than 14 different room sizes from 12 square feet to over 500 square feet.   Westy also provides custom storage rooms up to 5,000 square feet. Leases can run month-to-month or for as short or as long as the customers like.

Existing facilities are open seven days a week--Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturdays, from 9 am to 6 pm and Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm.

Facilities are closed on New Year’s Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  

In addition to the above uses, the board also may come up with a more comprehensive list of additional uses, Board member Judith Mandelbaum recently told the Summit Environmental Commission.

“We are anxious to see some productive use made of the area currently occupied by the vacant car dealerships,” Wagenbach said.

He added although no one has presented a formal plan to the Planning Board, Diversified Properties, developer of the mini-mall that is located across Morris Avenue from the Merck & Co., Inc. building, has expressed an interest in the River Road site.

Spokespersons for Diversified Properties were not available for comment.

A former automobile dealership could possibly contain toxic substances, but Wagenbach said it would be up to the new owner of the site to determine if any environmental challenges exist and to how to handle those challenges.

In addition, board members have discussed a proposed greenway that would offer access to passive recreation along the Passaic River in Summit, the chairman said, and any development of the site should not impact that proposal from becoming a reality.