WESTFIELD, NJ – An abandoned gasoline and service station at 800 Central Avenue may be the home of a new 7-Eleven under a proposal made to the town’s planning board earlier this summer.
Representatives appeared on behalf of 7-Eleven at the July 6 board meeting presented three concept plans. The board made recommendations that are not binding at this time.
The company must come before the planning board for site plan approval before using the property, but 7-Eleven has not yet filed a site plan application, according to board.
Appearing before the board last month were attorney Howard Geneslaw and licensed professional engineer James Henry of Dynamic Engineering.
According to the minutes of the meeting, which were adopted on Aug. 3, Geneslaw stated that 7-Eleven proposes to use the vacant space as a convenient store with parking and that the size of the store is half the size of what is allowed by code.
Henry, the engineer, told the board that the 7-Eleven, Inc. is in the process of buying the property from the current owner, Cumberland Farms. The proposed store would be operated as a corporate-owned store as opposed to a franchised one. The environmental status of the site is uncertain at this time.
The proposed store would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Henry said, according to the meeting minutes. One or two tractor trailer deliveries can be limited to an eight hour window in the evenings when the store is less busy. Box truck deliveries, however, cannot be controlled.
Variances would be required for a parking setback from the main building, trash enclosure in the side yard and loading in the front yard to keep activity away from residences. Grass and other plantings were also proposed.
The property had been used as a service station since the 1950s but it has sat idle for several years. Still, some local residents worried about how the store might affect their neighborhood.
“I've talked to some neighbors who are mostly concerned with additional traffic on Grove. However, I'm more concerned with a 7-Eleven being a place where bored kids hang out, and that's not something I would want around the corner from my house,” said Kerry Young, who lives several doors down from the proposed store location on Grove Street.
At the meeting, Henry identified the nearby properties and explained that the company would renovate the site and create a large evergreen buffer adjacent to the residences nearby on Grove Street. A trash enclosure would be located on the east side of the building, while a loading zone would be located on Central Avenue.
A second concept plan called for concrete to be used in front of the building in lieu of asphalt. A third concept plan would move the store closer to the intersection of Central and Grove, while parking, a driveway and loading would be closer to residential areas.
Three building signs are also proposed, including a freestanding 4’ x 4’ monument sign which 7-Eleven believes is a safety feature because it allows drivers to see the site earlier and to avoid abrupt turns into the parking lot.
“Window signage will be considered. A red box is not proposed,” the meeting minutes stated. “Mr. [James] Foerst stated that internally illuminated signage is not allowed by ordinance.”
In their comments, board members told representatives that they preferred the first concept plan and would like “the site and signage to be as subtle as possible.” They also requested that the applicant provide details of the delivery schedule and that trash removal “should be limited to humane hours.”
An opportunity for public comment will be allowed at the hearing for site plan approval. The site plan approval has not yet been filed with the board.
Westfield is already home to a 7-Eleven located at 1200 South Avenue West. 7-Eleven opened 14 stores in New Jersey in 2014 and expects to open 18 more this year. Spokespeople for the company did not return calls for comment.