STORE CONVERSION PLAN RAISES CONCERNS

The owner of the Welsh Farms store hopes to turn it into a 7-Eleven open around the clock. Nearby homeowner Sharon Hawthorn, below, is rallying opponents. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

East Side residents are gearing up for a showdown over a plan to turn the East Front Street Welsh Farms store into Red Bank’s second 7-Eleven.

Concerns about hours of operation, traffic, lighting and trash are expected to be aired when the proposal goes before the borough planning board later this month.

For Hubbard Park resident Sharon Hawthorn, the core issue is where to draw the line between homes and businesses.

“It should concern any resident of Red Bank to think that you live in place where a dentist, for example, could apply to put in something else,” said Hawthorn. With Pride Bait and Tackle across the street, the convenience store is easternmost walk-in business on East Front Street, which continues as River Road into Fair Haven.

From Welsh Farms east, the northeast corner of town is residential, something Hawthorn says the planning board was mindful of when it allowed the creation of the Welsh Farms predecessor Fairview Farms in 1975 by requiring it to close by 11 p.m.

That was a condition that Hawthorn and her husband, John, relied on when they bought their house in 2003, she said.

“We went downtown and did our homework,” Hawthorn said, and were reassured by the fact that the board had restricted the store’s hours of operations.

The 7-Eleven would be open 24 hours a day, she said, making it a target for robbery. “To me, it’s begging for trouble,” she said.

Store owner Atul Patel of Dina Enterprises also wants to add 356 square feet to the rear of the existing building for a walk-in cooler for milk and other beverages, and plans exterior upgrades to the facade and landscaping.

But larger windows and signage would also generate more unwanted commercial lighting into nearby homes and yards, Hawthorn said. “Now, the lights go of at 10,” she said.

Patel could not be reached for comment, and the store’s lawyer before the board, Philip San Filippo, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A large group of neighbors rallied at borough hall last month for a hearing on the plan, but the matter was tabled until January 18.