The first meeting of the 2015 Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) not only had an application heard on a proposed canopy over a gas station but it also saw a few changes in members as well as providers of professional services.
Board members Diane Kurz and Scott Nicol were both not re-appointed as new members John F. Kennedy, Owen Iungerman, and Jerry Vitale took their place as alternates. Additionally, Union County Freeholder Mohamed Jalloh became the MLUB attorney, replacing Michael Tripadi, and Neglia Engineering took over Board Planner responsibilities for Vincent Vinegra from Harbor Consultants. Since that meeting Carl Pluchino and Frank Gallicchio have both resigned from the Board while it has been learned that Carol Graves has resigned as MLUB’s recording secretary.
The new board went into action immediately to hear an application by Sher Realty LLC to have a canopy put over its current Delta gas station at 413 East Westfield Avenue to, as their Use Variance application stated, provide shelter from the elements and to focus lighting. During the application it was stated that the station would be changing over to Gulf as its fuel provider.
The 15-foot high, 24-ft. wide, 32-ft. long canopy initially had three (3) lit signs surround it but during the hearing, it was negotiated to only having one lit while the other two – at either end – would remain in place without internal lighting. Various members of the board expressed concern that the number of lit signs in such a small area would be overkill. Additionally, the Cancino family, who own a house right next door on Sheridan Avenue, expressed concerns that the lights would be a burden to their home.
“We’ve been living in that house for 20 years. We’re happy about the neighborhood [and] everything around,” said Cecilia Cancino, commenting that the only objection was the obstruction the canopy would have on the view from their house.
The application was ultimately granted with provisions regarding the signs and that a variance would be needed for a proposed sign on the rear wall. In a rare move, Board President Loren Harm personally addressed the Cancino family from the dais to thank them for their input while he explained the Board’s position. He said, “We appreciate you coming tonight. We appreciate your input, too. We can try to make it a little bit less in the lighting, with your pictures I see what you’re talking about, but at one point we have to try to help our businesses grow and sometimes it affects us in certain way. I’m hoping that when this goes up, it won’t affect that one window. I thank you again for coming tonight and I’m sorry that we couldn’t do something better but at least we cut it down a little bit for you. At least we helped you in that, we thank you again.”
After the meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Cancino stated they appreciated the MLUB listening to their concerns and actually lessen the lighting, which would have been a more significant encroachment to their environment. Sher Realty was advised to not start any work until the approval is legally memorialized to allow for any appeals.
The next MLUB meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall, not the usual third Monday of the month.