NO DECISION ON MEXICAN MARKET PLAN

juan-torresJuan Torres, owner of Juanito’s restaurant, testifies about his proposal for a large grocery on Red Bank’s West Side Thursday night. (Click to enlarge)

A plan for a supersized bodega on Shrewsbury Avenue didn’t make it to the checkout register Thursday night.

A hearing by Red Bank’s zoning board ended with more testimony, and objections, expected when the matter resumes on August 4.

Juan Torres, who owns Juanito’s restaurant, Juanito’s Bakery and El Guero grocery – all on the borough’s West Side – is seeking board approval for what would be the borough’s largest ethnic food store.

But first he’s got to clear hurdles related to the store’s size, parking issues and pedestrian safety, as well as the resistance of at least one other bodega owner.

Torres recently bought the property at Shrewsbury Avenue and Catherine Street, occupied for 25 years by Red Bank Antiques. Information about the transaction is not yet available in Monmouth County property records.

The building contains 5,310 square feet on its ground floor, 1,500 of which will be devoted to refrigeration, and another 1,500 square feet on a second floor for use as store offices, an architect testified.

The selling area is nearly double the size of Torres’ El Guero bodega one block north on Shrewsbury, at the corner of East Leonard Street. Torres told the board El Guero would become a seller of baked goods if the new store, to be called Juanito’s Market, gets the green light.

The plan, though, requires a handful of variances. Zoning law permits a grocery store use at the site, but requires a variance for one exceeding 2,000 square feet.

That shouldn’t be an impediment to approval, suggested Ray Liotta, a planner for Juanito’s. He said the space could now legally be subdivided into three shops, each occupied by a separate grocer, and no variance would be needed.

But Kevin Asadi, an attorney for La Chapparita owner Jose Camargo, told redbankgreen he plans to contest the application.

“This is a non-conforming use,” he said. “If approved, it’s going to put all the conforming uses out of business, which will completely undermine the zone plan approved by the borough council.”

Zoning board members also voiced concerns about pedestrian safety, zeroing in on the absence of a crosswalk spanning busy Shrewsbury Avenue. The nearest crosswalk on the Monmouth County roadway is several blocks away, at Drs. James Parker Boulevard, said borough engineer Christine Ballard.