BAIT SHOP LANDS OK; HOTEL PLAN TABLED

pride-bait-tackleThe former Harper’s Copy Center on East Front Street won approval for conversion to a bait and tackle shop. (Click to enlarge)

Neighbors raised a stink about the prospect of rancid fish waste, but a proposal for a bait and tackle shop sailed through the Red Bank zoning board Thursday night.

In other board business, a plan for a six-story, 76-room Hampton Inn hotel at the foot of the Cooper Bridge was tabled for two weeks, and a dentist won approval for an extensive remodeling of a home on Maple Avenue provided he install a sidewalk along one side of his property.

Fair Haven resident Max Berry told the board that his planned retail operation, Pride Bait & Tackle, which is to take over the former Harper’s Copy Center on East Front Street, would feature “higher-end” offerings of stylish sportswear as well as rods, reels and other fishing hardware.

He also said he would post signs at the store telling customers trailing boats that they’re not welcome in his seven-car parking lot.

“They’ll be asked to leave,” Berry said in response to questioning by board members. “If I lose a client that wants to trailer a boat into that lot, I would be happy to lose that client.”

Berry also agreed to paint directional arrows on the asphalt to discourage customers from exiting his lot at the eastern end, near a blind curve in the roadway, and to make cosmetic improvements to the site.

Objections were raised, however, by residents of nearby Hubbard Park, who said they feared fish odors from bait products. They said a ravine behind the store is busy with raccoons and other animals that would feast on any waste bait left in a dumpster.

Berry, however, was firm that less than 10 percent of his business would come from bait sales; that his only live bait would consist of less than two gallons of killies, the waste of which he would dispose of off-site; and that all other bait would arrive at and leave his store frozen and prepackaged in plastic.

“I don’t want any of it in my trash whatsoever,” Berry said. “I don’t want anything to do with funky smells.”

The plan won unanimous approval, and Berry said he would open “as soon as possible” in the hope of catching some of the current season’s business.

Dentist George Zeik (pronounced ‘zeek’) outlined a plan to enclose most of a a wrapaound porch in order to expand a longtime dental office he acquired last year at 179 Maple Avenue. The property, at Waverly Place, formerly housed the dental practice of Dr. Arthur Oberle, and contained a rental apartment on the second floor.

Zeik plans to live on the second floor of the expanded house, an 1880s Queen Anne Victorian, after extensive renovations.

But the absence of a sidewalk along the Waverly side of the property was a concern for board member Vince Light, who lives on that street. The property is the only one on either side of Waverly without a sidewalk, owing for to the fact that, for unknown reasons, there is no public right-of-way along that side of the house.

Borough engineer Christine Ballard testified that a few years back, when the town repaved Waverly, she tried to persuade Mrs. Oberle to allow the borough to install a sidewalk. But the owner demurred, citing concerns that skateboarders would use it to ride up and down a handicapped-access ramp to the dental office.

Ballard said that in order to comply with federal regulations, she was forced to design a rare mid-block crosswalk that lands in front of another home and forces pedestrians who simply want to turn south onto Maple to first cross to the north and then cross south.

Marty McGann, Zeik’s lawyer, said that a sidewalk would saddle his client with legal liabilities that other homeowners whose sidewalks are in the public right-of-way don’t have. But Light forced the issue.

“I think we have a chance to rectify this situation, instead of leaving it this way for another 20 or 30 years,” Light said.

Board member Kevin Moss agreed, and unanimous approval was granted on the condition that Zeik install the 132-foot sidewalk.

An existing sidewalk on the Maple Avenue side of the property is in the public right-of-way, McGann said.

The hotel plan was tabled until May 19 because the other two applications on the board’s agenda ran long.