WESTFIELD, NJ – After four years of inactivity, the Mr. Good Lube automotive shop located at the corner of South Avenue and Central Avenue has been given approval for renovations – this time, as a restaurant.
The dormant three-bay garage that rests in the back of a triangular parking lot received unanimous consent from the Westfield planning board on Wednesday night, where owner Michael Buonapane sought multiple variances in order to begin the project.
“It will be a complete re-do of the building with kind of a rustic look. The building itself will remain the same in shape and size with the small addition on the back as a walk-in refrigerator,” Buonopane, who’s owned the property for 20 years, said. “I want to call it upscale casual.”
In order to get the idea off the ground, the applicant needed variances to to relieve sections 17.02C7R, 16.04E2B, 16.04E1 and 10.11E of the Land Use Ordinance for new signage, delineated parking and a one-story rear addition.
Buonopane’s biggest hurdle came in the form of parking. The proposition of only six parking spaces left both board members and the public questioning the viability of a restaurant in such a busy location. According to town code, a minimum of 22 off-street spaces are required in this zone.
Gregori Verb, property manager of the neighboring CVS Pharmacy (210 South Ave.), shared personal concerns about parking, requesting that the restaurant urge patrons to park in the public lots available in the immediate surrounding area.
Buonopane assured the parking would not become an issue and agreed that additional signage may be necessary in order to direct drivers elsewhere. The applicant was also compliant in regard to the board’s request to remove a tall light pole from the front of the property owned by PSEG.
While a name has yet to be decided on, the restaurant will feature an open kitchen, cathedral ceiling, 44 seats and locally sourced seafood cuisine, Buonopane said.
“I think we all know it’s a very visible corner in Westfield,” Buonopane said. “It’s going to be beautiful as far as the look of the building and I think it’s the type of restaurant the town needs. We have 70 residents moving in across the street and it’s kind of the perfect gathering place for the people in the town Westfield.”
The board also approved a separate appeal on Wednesday, granting a minor subdivision to owners of 686 Westfield Ave. In order to construct two single-family homes, the applicant requested variance relief in order to have one lot’s width fall just short of the minimum 50 feet at a proposed 49.2 feet.
Despite rebuttal from next-door neighbors claiming that builders are attempting to “shoehorn” homes into a small lot, the application was approved with conditions to relocate outdoor air conditioning units to the backyard of one property. Board member Bill West was the only party to cast a “nay” vote.
“I can’t disagree more with the concept, the thought that we’re ‘squeezing’ two homes into these lots. If someone were to build a McMansion on this lot, this room would be filled with residents screaming about how we’re allowing this town to be overbuilt with huge homes,” Sam Della Fera said. “We’re trying to accommodate lot sizes that are fully compliant.”
The next planning board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m.