RED BANK: EXXON V. SHELL ON 7-ELEVEN PLAN

The plan calls for a the convenience store to be built in the northwest corner of the property. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

It’s Shell v. Exxon in Red Bank, and not just over the price of gas.

A proposal by the owner of the Shell station at Newman Springs Road and Shrewsbury Avenue to build a 7-Eleven store where it now has a self-serve car wash has drawn opposition from the Exxon station at the same intersection as well as nearby residents.

Shell station owner Wasseem Chaudhary wants to knock down the existing car wash and replace it with a roughly triangular convenience store in the northwest corner of the property. An existing convenience store would would also be demolished.

The proposal, which requires several variances, has now had two hearings before the borough zoning board, the most recent last Thursday night.

If approved, Red Bank could soon have three 7-Eleven stores. One is on Maple Avenue near West Front Street. Another won approval by the planning board earlier this month to settle a lawsuit over the conversion of the Welsh Farms store on East Front Street.

Allison Coffin, a planner who has previously worked with Hess Gasoline, testified on behalf of Chaudhary that the site could accommodate the proposed building plan, which she said would improve the appearance of what she referred to as “one of the gateways to Red Bank” and serve the 24/7 needs of area residents and passersby.

“The net impact of the proposed changes will enhance the aesthetic impact of the site and improve its compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood,” Coffin said.

Coffin also defended the plan to tear down the car wash, which she said would create the needed room to add the 2,225-square-foot store.

But Gulssham Chaabra, who owns the Exxon/Tiger Market directly across Shrewsbury Avenue, objects to the plan, and had attorney Samuel Convery cross-examine  Chaudhary’s experts.

Elizabeth Dolan, a traffic engineer, faced questioning not only by Convery, but also by angry residents who thought the proposed 7-Eleven would bring unnecessary, harmful traffic to their neighborhood.

Grace Kirk worried that a larger convenience store would increase the daily traffic on residential streets. Dolan and Shell lawyer Philip San Filippo contended that off-site traffic is something that is out of their hands, but Dolan said her studies showed no major changes in the daily flow of traffic would result.

Another hot-button topic, pressed by Convery, was the recommendation of Red Bank police Sergeant Michael Furlong, who said he believed left-turn exits onto Newman Springs Road should be prohibited for safety reasons.

Dolan, on the other hand, argued such a restriction would push traffic onto nearby residential streets. She said her that according to her studies, only one left-turn was made from the Shell station during peak hours of 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Zoning board Attorney Kevin Kennedy, however, told redbankgreen that the board was likely to impose such a restriction.

Hearings are scheduled to resume February 21.