WESTFIELD, NJ — At Tuesday night’s town council meeting, Westfield resident Saul Drittel appealed to the council to call for a boycott of local ShopRite supermarkets in retaliation for a legal battle that has blocked the expansion of Downtown Westfield’s Stop & Shop for years.
Stop & Shop has claimed that the objector in the case of James Hughes v. the town of Westfield and the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, LLC, is merely a “straw man” for a competing supermarket. The Westfield Leader has reported that that competitor is ShopRite.
Stop & Shop filed an application with the planning board in August of 2012 proposing the demolition of existing office space, expansion of its parking lot and construction of an 18,129-foot addition. It also asked for multiple variances.
The board approved the application in December of 2013. In March of 2014, Hughes filed his complaint, preventing Stop & Shop from moving forward.
In June, many hoped that the legal battle had finally come to a close after Judge Karen Cassidy of the Superior Court of New Jersey dismissed the case and affirmed the planning board’s decision to allow Stop & Shop to expand.
The plaintiff appealed just before the 45-day deadline, according to Town Attorney Russell Finestein. Next, it goes the appellate division for further legal argument. It could be a year before any decision is made, Finestein told TAP into Westfield.
“This is the second time that ShopRite in Garwood has thumbed their nose at Westfield,” Drittel told the council. “It’s time that we take a stand to do something against them.”
Drittel explained that the Stop & Shop needs to expand to stay competitive.
“You can see what’s happening downtown. We have a lot of empty stores and we don’t need another one,” Drittel said. “I know it’s a difficult thing to ask the citizens of Westfeld. Ban that store for an amount of time. Let them feel it in the pocket.”
Mayor Andy Skibitsky responded that the case is in its final appeal.
“We do not disagree. It is a frustrating process, but we have to stand by the legal process,” Town Administrator Jim Gildea added.
But Councilman Frank Arena told Drittel, “For what it’s worth, I have not set foot in the Garwood ShopRite … It’s very upsetting to me and I’m won’t be supporting that ShopRite.”