RED BANK: SHELL GETS SHOP OK ON THIRD TRY

red bank shell stationThe car wash at left is to be replaced by a convenience store. (April, 2019 photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

After a favorable zoning change last year, Red Bank’s lone Shell station won approval to add a convenience store Monday night.

A neighbor called the proposal “lipstick on a pig.” The planning board’s chairman called it “a better pig.”

Station owner Waseem Chaudhary’s plan calls for a 2,999-square-foot convenience store on the station site, on the northwest corner of Newman Springs Road and Shrewsbury Avenue.

In 2013, the zoning board rejected as “too dense” a plan by Chaudhary to replace an unused car wash on the site with a 7-Eleven store. Last year, he filed, and then withdrew, a plan for a Dunkin’ coffee shop on the site, amid signs of misgivings by members of that board about traffic.

The latest plan, though, went before the planning board, which has lower legal hurdles. The change in venue followed a zoning amendment by the borough council to allow combined gasoline sales and convenience stores in the highway business zone along Newman Springs Road.

Previously, station owners would have to seek variances to add the shops.

The plan needed setback variances, including one that would allow the store to be 33 feet from the street, instead of the 50 feet required in the zone.

Tracy Kohnstam, a Shrewsbury Avenue resident whose home is two doors away from the station, acknowledged that Chaudhary, through representatives, had reached out to neighbors about their concerns, and offered concessions.

Still, she said, the plan was “lipstick on a pig,” with a store that should be reduced in size by at least 25 percent.

“I think we’re getting more than lipstick here,” replied board Chairman Dan Mancuso. “It’s still a pig. But we’re getting a better pig,” he said, noting that the plan would improve buffering with adjoining properties, one of which Chaudhary also owns.

At the request of board member and Councilman Michael Ballard, Chaudhary will create sidewalks to the shop for pedestrians coming from both sides of the property, said attorney Rick Brodsky.

Still, Ballard cast the lone “no” vote on the project. “Putting a convenience store there, four times the size of car wash, is going to create many, many more headaches,” he said.

Vehicles turning left onto Newman Springs Road from northbound Shrewsbury Avenue, and then immediately into the site were responsible for accidents at the site, Ballard said.

But Nick Verderese, a traffic consultant for the station, said a realignment of the circulation aisles would make it less likely that vehicles would be queued up on site, improving access.

New driveway configurations will also prohibit left turns out of the station on both frontages, he said.

James Henry, an engineer for the project, told the board that Chaudhary does not yet have a tenant for the store. Once one is found, construction is expected to take about three months, he said.

Both earlier proposals had drawn flak from the owner of the Exxon station on the opposite side of Shrewsbury Avenue, where there’s been a convenience store for about 25 years. But former Mayor Ed McKenna, an attorney who had represented the Exxon station in the past, did not appear Monday.