FAIR HAVEN: INVESTORS BANK PLAN STALLS
The Investors Bank proposed for River Road would be identical to this branch in Woodbridge, the developer said. (Photo by M&M Realty Partners. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
A proposed drive-thru bank on the site of a former filling station in Fair Haven ran out of gas Tuesday night.
The Investors Bank project encountered continuing objections to a traffic-flow plan that would put two driveways — for an entry and an exit — on River Road, which planning board members said raised child-safety concerns.
Also an issue: the brand-specific look of the one-story building, which called for a shallow glass atrium dome that one resident likened to a “blister.”
The site plan, showing three drive-thru lanes at left exiting onto River Road, at bottom, with Cedar Avenue at right. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
“At our last meeting [in May], we explained why this doesn’t fit,” said board members James Banahan. “Design-wise, this is way off the palette” of what the town considers acceptable for commercial structures, he said.
The Sunoco station, at the corner of Cedar Avenue, closed in December, 2011, and the lot has been vacant ever since. M&M Realty Partners of Piscataway has a contract to purchase the site and plans to lease it to Investors, developer John Taikina had previously testified.
Taikina detailed changes made to the proposal since the last hearing on the matter, in May. They all dealt with landscaping and matters other than the 2,700-square-foot bank building itself.
Still in the plan was a three-lane drive-thru that board member Bill Folker referred to as “the Churchill Downs gate.” He and others wondered why, when other banks are paring their drive-thru facilities down to one, Investors wanted three.
Taikina responded that his prospective client insisted on them.
Citing feedback from residents in a survey taken in advance of a Master Plan review that there are too many curb cuts allowing traffic to enter River Road, board chairwoman Joan Jay told Taikina that the board “would prefer that you enter from Cedar.”
“I can’t think of another River Road bank that has two driveways,” she said. A Krauszer’s convenience store across River Road and other businesses that attract children elevated the safety issue, she said.
Taikina said his prospective client was unbending on the driveways.
“I’m kind of in a box because my tenant’s telling me to get this approved” as-is, he said.
Rather than risk a formal rejection of the plan, Taikina invoked his right not to call a vote for the plan, and the board granted him two months to come back with a revised one.
Taikina said he was all but certain that Investors would bail.
“They’re going to break my lease,” he said, “and that’s OK.”
Still, Taikina said his firm would go ahead with its purchase of the site and hoped to come back with a revised plan, possibly for a restaurant or retail store.
“I’m not promising it’ll be a bank he said, and if it’s not a bank, it’s not 2,700 square feet,” he said, indicating that it could be larger without triggering the need for variances.
The current plan needed a variance for the shallow roof dome that Taikina said Investors Bank insisted on as “their thing,” but would only be permitted on a house of worship under the town ordinances. Resident Ruth Blaser said she’d checked out the dome on an Investors branch in Middletown and “it looks like a blister,” she told the board.