A Red Bank gas station/convenience store will begin making a case next month in objection to the prospect of a neighboring gas station/convenience store expanding its services with a 7-Eleven.
Representatives from applicant 390 Red Bank LLC completed their testimony Thursday before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which is considering whether to allow the Shell station at the corner of Newman Springs Road and Shrewsbury Avenue to knock down the exisiting market and build a 7-Eleven on site.
The Shell owners are proposing to convert the existing 515-square-foot market to a 362-square-foot kiosk for gas attendants and remove the current rollover car wash in favor of a 2,225-square-foot 7-Eleven at the northwest corner of the site. The proposal would necessitate site plan approval, conditional use variances and bulk variances.
"The location is ideal for this combination of uses," said planner Allison Coffin, who testified Thursday for 390 Red Bank LLC. "The nature of this application overall is to improve the uses on the site."
Red Bank Mart Inc., which owns the Exxon/Tiger Mart directly across Shrewsbury Avenue, stands in opposition. Red Bank Mart attorneys Michael Convery and Samuel Convery have questioned and challenged 390 Red Bank LLC's experts, and much like a court trial, will be afforded the chance to present an affirmative case to argue why the board should not grant relief to the Shell station owners.
"The uses (gas station, convenience store) are both principal uses, and they should not be considered for an amended use variance or an expansion of a previously approved use variance," argued Michael Convery in documents filed with the borough Zoning office.
The 7-Eleven is a permitted use at the site, located in the borough's Highway Business zone, but the gas station is a conditional use, albeit one whose approval dates back to 1966.
"It's exactly the sort of use that should be within the Highway Business zone," Coffin testified.
The planner noted Thursday that the almost 30,000-square-foot Shell site is "one of the gateway entrances of Red Bank" and argued that the proposed "significant renovations" would improve the outlet's aesthetics and offer the west side of the borough an improved convenience store option.
"The net impact of the proposed changes will enhance the aesthetic impact of the site and improve its compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood," Coffin said.
While she noted that the Shell's owners could apply to divide the lots, Coffin testified the "lot is of sufficient size" and it's "more efficient to have the two uses" on the same site.
In 1984, the zoning board approved the car wash slated for demolition and the small market that sits under the Shell canopy. Samuel Convery, who represented Red Bank Mart Thursday, raised the issue of the board also opining at that time that the lot's shape and size precluded a free-standing building, such as the now proposed 7-Eleven.
Board member David McGuinness posed the question to Coffin, who said the opinion isn't relevant to the current application. The board had determined the roughly 30,000-square-foot site couldn't accommodate a car wash, gas station and free-standing building.
Residents also questioned 390 Red Bank LLC's traffic expert, Elizabeth Dolan, who offered testimony in December suggesting traffic would not be adversely affected by the presence of a larger convenience store at the corner of the two county roads.
"The problem I have is the site isn't really big enough" for the anticipated traffic that would come with a 7-Eleven, said Joseph Krimko of Ocean Grove, a member of the Neptune Planning Board. He wondered how many customers per hour a 7-Eleven receives.
Dolan said, "Based on a number of their New Jersey facilities approximately 68 customers during the busiest morning peak hours and 42 customers during the evening peak hour."
Other residents worried about the affect the site's conversion would have on traffic in nearby neighborhoods.
Attorney Philip San Filippo, representing 390 Red Bank LLC, said "what happens offsite is something we can't control. There's basically case law that says offsite conditions are not to have a bearing on an application for development."
A police review of the application recommended the board not allow motorists from making left-hand turns when exiting onto Newman Springs Road, a condition that 390 Red Bank LLC opposes. Dolan admitted that such a provision would in fact push traffic onto residential roads.
"If a truck cannot turn left back out onto Newman Springs Road it's basically going to have to go around the block to get back to Route 35 which would mean Leighton (Avenue) and (Dr. James) Parker Boulevard would be visited by the tanker trucks as well as the deliveries that would then be made to the 7-Eleven," Dolan said.
Attorney Michael Convery and Red Bank Mart Inc. will proceed with its objections when the board meets at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 in Council Chambers at Borough Hall, 90 Monmouth St.