By John Burton
RED BANK – It might just become impossible for the controversial convenience store proposed for East River Road to operate 24 hours a day if a measure introduced by the Borough Council last week is adopted.
The council at last Wednesday’s meeting voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance that would amend an existing noise ordinance. The amendment, according to Mayor Pasquale Menna, would prevent any new business to operate from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning if the location falls within 100 feet of a residential neighborhood. The amendment would not affect any existing operations in residential areas or those in the borough’s commercial district, Menna said.
Around-the-clock locations can “cause a disruption in the quality of life” for those neighborhoods, he said.
A public hearing and final vote on the proposal has been slated for May 9 by the borough council.
The proposal’s introduction appeared to meet with approval from the council.
“I think it’s a creative way to protect our residential neighborhoods,” Councilman Michael DuPont said.
Menna would not say if the proposal was in reaction to a controversial application now before the borough Planning Board to have a 7-Eleven operate 24/7 on the corner of East River Road and Spring Street.
Borough Attorney Daniel J. O’Hern Jr. said the borough can “control the hours of operation” of town businesses. “There is case law that towns regularly do this. It’s probably something that should have been addressed a while ago,” O’Hern said.
During a recent planning board hearing on the convenience store proposal, Sharon Hawthorn, an East Front Street homeowner, told the board she asked borough police for a list of calls which they responded to during the last two years involving 24-hour convenience stores. That list, she said, detailed a series of complaints about noise and disorderly person offenses.
Menna acknowledged last week, that the data was a factor in drafting this ordinance.
Dina Enterprises, Inc., the developer, has been appearing before the board to convert an existing Welsh Farms convenience store to a slightly expanded and renovated 7-Eleven franchise on that property.
The fly in the ointment for many homeowners in the area is the plan to have the store stay open continuously. Residents have collected hundreds of names on petitions in opposition and have been coming to the hearings to complain about the proposal, insisting it would have a negative impact on their quality of life.
The Welsh Farms currently operates from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. However, Philip San Filippo, the Red Bank attorney representing the developer, has continued to argue that, when the site first won zoning board approval about 35 years ago for a gas station and grocery store, there were no conditions placed on its operating hours. The zoning does not prohibit a 24-hour operation, he said.
Gladys Bowden lives on Hubbard Park, a narrow side street almost directly across from this site. During last Thursday’s council meeting Bowden said, “I’m delighted that the borough council is supportive of our neighborhood, our citizens. Not just for my neighborhood, but it’s the correct thing to do for
San Filippo did not respond to phone call and email requests seeking comment.
Margaret Chabris, a spokesperson for the 7-Eleven corporation in Dallas, said in an email, that the corporation’s New Jersey counsel was reviewing the ordinance. “7-Eleven Inc. opposes any restrictions on its legitimate business operation but will study the proposal and determine its effect on our proposed site in Red Bank.”
Dina Enterprises, the site developer, is scheduled to appear before the planning board on May 21 when San Filippo is expected to offer his summation. The board could vote on the application that night.