Canvas: Survey Results For Sullivan Property

Canvas: Survey Results For Sullivan Property thumbnail
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Published: June 14, 2015 @ 10:00 PM EDT

Results are in for the second Roselle Park News Canvas survey that was completed last week. The phone survey randomly called 750 residents to ask them their opinions regarding the upcoming Preliminary Application Hearing on Monday, June 15th, for the proposed development at 10 West Westfield Avenue, commonly known as the Sullivan property.

The development is being planned by MAS Development Group and, according to a Proposed Site Layout submitted to the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) for the hearing, will have four (4) separate uses for the almost four-acre lot that will include an AutoZone (Building A), a retail trade store (Building B), a fitness sports center with office space on the second floor (Building C), and a bank/financial institution (Building D). Only one of the proposed uses have been specifically identified – that being the AutoZone, and it is proposed to be at the western end of the development with the retail store next door to the east of it. Building C will be located where the current shell of a building is located on Westfield Avenue. The building that will be at the entrance of Chestnut Street will be an undisclosed bank or financial institution.

The property was a former car dealership named Sullivan Chevrolet and has sat undeveloped and pretty much abandoned since it closed its doors in 2009. 33-year-old Sal Garcia, founder and principal of MAS Development Group, purchased the property in 2011 and in 2013 began demolition, leaving the main structure as a shell. In an application dated June of 2014, Mr. Garcia submitted an application to have a proposed use heard before the MLUB. It was not until the start of this year, when a new administration was voted into office and repealed a significant section of a local ordinance dealing with parking between a store/building and the sidewalk that MAS Development Group went before the MLUB in February. Due to an issue with proper protocol not being followed regarding the publication of the legal notice for that meeting in a municipally-recognized newspaper, MAS Construction’s application could not be heard in February.

Since then, a small yet vocal group started a call to action to notify residents of the proposed use. But they have also focused on AutoZone – one of the four proposed uses – as something that is detrimental to the future of Roselle Park. It has gotten to the point that one of the opponents to the development, former Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Accardi, has publicly made statements such as “Four years of broken promises, a bad fence and a horrible neighbor. We deserve better.”

This even though Mr. Accardi has not gone into any detail as to what the ‘four years of broken promises’ entailed other than one specific example of “agreeing to paint the scarred building façade, a horrible and uneven coat of paint was applied, and empty paint cans thrown around”. Still he has repeatedly used those five words as a catchphrase.

Apart from Mr. Accardi, a narrative was being presented by those opposed to AutoZone that made it appear that residents, for the most part, were against AutoZone and MAS Development Group’s proposal. A part of that narrative was that AutoZone was going to be at the entrance of Chestnut Street and those opposed were not so much against AutoZone but its location.

In reaching out to the community using a legally obtained list of registered voters – current up till May 2015 – a group of 750 random residents were called via an automated survey that asked them specifically what their thoughts were on the proposed development.

Out of the 750 phones called, 493 took the survey with 400 of them finishing the survey completely. The remaining 257 either had disconnected phone number (43) or heard the survey and opted to not participate. Below are the questions, results, and margins of error for each. A phone survey was opted to provide a random sampling of the population. All results were measured at a 95% confidence level. It should be noted that the survey was conducted prior to the latest Proposed Site Layout being delivered to the municipality.

The first question asked was out of those four proposed uses, which would those who took the survey least want to see at the Sullivan property. With a margin of error of ±5, the largest number of participants, 45%, stated that they would not oppose any of the four proposed uses.

CHOICE
COUNT
%
Auto Zone
92
18.7%
Bank
31
6.3%
Fitness Gym
62
12.6%
Office Retail Space
85
17.2%
Do not oppose any of these businesses
223
45.2%
TOTAL
493
100.0%

Those who responded to the fifth choice (not opposed to any business) were skipped to the third question. Those who chose one of the businesses were then asked which type of business or store they would like to see at the Sullivan property. 32% of those surveyed chose mixed use with residential on the second floor and commercial on the ground floor with close to 29% picking a box chain store.

CHOICE
COUNT
%
Big Box Chain Store
77
28.6%
Small Boutique Retail Stores
48
17.8%
Mixed Use
86
32.0%
Restaurant
58
21.6%
Other
0
0.0%
TOTAL
269
100.0%

Addressing the point of lessening the burden of property taxes and whether residents would want to have some sort of development to help with property taxes or wait for the right development to help with Roselle Park’s future, almost two out of every three who responded to this question preferred not to wait. This had a margin of error of ±5.

CHOICE
COUNT
%
Getting Something There So It Can Help With Property Taxes
261
65.4%
Wait For The Right Development To Help With Roselle Park's Future
138
34.6%
TOTAL
399
100.0%

The fourth question specifically dealt with how long residents would be willing to have nothing developed at the Sullivan property in order to wait for a type of business that would most suit the borough. With a margin of error of ±5, almost half of those surveyed (48.1%) stated the most they would be willing to wait was two years.

CHOICE
COUNT
%
Two Years
185
48.1%
Three Years
77
20.0%
Five Years
8
2.1%
10 Years
0
0.0%
Do Not Care As Long As Something Goes There
115
29.9%
TOTAL
385
100.0%

The final question asked how important is development on the Sullivan property to the downtown and Roselle Park. The question did not specify between the current proposed development or any other possible development. Almost ¾ of those who took part (72.9%) agreed that having the property developed was of significant importance to the Borough.

CHOICE
COUNT
%
Extremely Important
269
72.9%
Somewhat Important
85
23.0%
Not That Important
15
4.1%
TOTAL
369
100.0%

Although the survey was by no means perfect, it reached out to a random group of people in order to provide a less myopic view of what Roselle Park residents wanted, were aware of, or were concerned with regarding what most can agree on as a key property in the Borough.

The preliminary hearing for the Sullivan property application is scheduled for the Monday, June 15th, MLUB meeting in Borough Hall starting at 7 p.m.