Proposed Quick Chek Gas Station of Concern to Butler Residents
Majority of audience members who spoke oppose the plan.
The proximity of gas pumps to residences and the size of the lot of the proposed Quick Chek convenience store and gas station on Route 23 North from Bartholdi Avenue to Boonton Avenue dominated the conversation at Thursday night’s Butler Planning Board meeting asr residents voiced their opinions one last time on the application.
All but one member of the public who made statements opposed the application. Although many have spoken up multiple times at the hearings that have spanned back to January 2011, this was the first time they were allowed to comment instead of asking cross-examination questions of specific witnesses.
Proximity of Gas Pumps
The majority of audience members were quick to say they have no problems with Quick Chek in general. Lafayette Avenue resident Jerry Allison said he has been a loyal customer of the New Jersey-based chain since the 1970s, having “purchased thousands of pints of Häagen-Dazs ice cream from Quick Chek.”
Many even said they aren’t as bothered by the proposed 24-hour convenience store. The problem cited by several residents is the gas station portion of the proposal, which would feature 12 gas pumps.
“It’s too close to our homes, too close to our children and too close for comfort,” Allison said. “The mega gas is a bad idea.”
Allison also said he has driven up and down Route 23 in the Morris County area and has not yet seen any instances of mega gas stations being located adjacent to homes.
Representing Elizabeth Lyons, a Lafayette Avenue resident in her 80s, attorney John Delaney said his client is concerned about “the noise, the fumes, the danger, the intensity” and is fearful of a car hitting the pumps, possibly causing problems for nearby residents. In addition to what he said would be a strain on privacy, Allison also said he worries about the danger that children playing in backyards would face if something negative happens to the pumps.
“God forbid there should be an accident,” resident Richard Watt said. “Within a quarter of a mile, there are three schools and two churches.”
Residents Mary Anne Holdsworth and Saleem Akhtar, the latter of whom is a chemist, both brought up the health implications of being exposed to benzene, a highly flammable liquid found in gasoline.
‘Too Much in Too Little’
Another theme echoed by much of the public who commented at the meeting is dismay at the size of the lot versus how much is proposed for the project.
Allison brought up that Butler’s requirements for this type of use is at least two acres. Likewise, he mentions that Quick Chek lists a “two-acre minimum” in its site criteria for convenience stores with gas pumps on its website.
However, the lot for which the project is proposed is less than 1.2 acres. To accommodate for the borough’s regulation, Quick Chek has applied for a variance, one of many throughout the project.
“That’s like fitting 10 pounds into a six-pound bag,” Allison said. “It’s just too much in too little.”
The size of the lot is the main detractor for resident Bob Norman, who also said he finds nothing wrong with Quick Chek and that “no matter where they go, they are to be commended for the way they keep their [stores].”
Norman also brought up some of the other variances for which Quick Chek is asking, including having a building with a height of 21 feet when planning board regulation calls for 15 feet.
“It’s not going to be a peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack place,” Norman said. “It’s really going to be a small grocery store.”
Speaking for Lyons, Delaney said his client urges the board not to put too much on the site.
“It’s going to be a detriment to [Lyons], the community and her neighbors,” Delaney said.
Bartholdi Avenue resident Katherine Lambiaso expressed more of a problem with the proposed layout of the Quick Chek than with the project in general.
She said she would prefer the building be closer to Bartholdi Avenue than Boonton Avenue, only the former of which has sidewalks.
“If they want me to use that convenience mart, I want it to benefit our community, not just necessarily the highway traffic,” Lambiaso said.
Traffic and Entrances
Norman said he does not believe it would be safe to pull into the entrance of the proposed lot going faster than 30 miles per hour, citing that Route 23 has a 50 miles-per-hour speed limit in that area.
“In order to go down to 30 miles an hour, all of the cars behind you must also slow to 30 miles an hour or even slower,” he said.
Bartholdi Avenue resident Kathryn O’Neill said getting into the far right lane on Route 23 while approaching her street is already a scary experience without Quick Chek being there.
“I fear for my life and my children’s lives in my minivan,” O’Neill said. “What will happen, I assume, is that cars going to Quick Chek will go speeding past me in the right hand lane, or I will be in that lane and they will be very pissed off that they can’t get into Quick Chek.”
She also referenced the incident from earlier in the week when a woman had to be taken to the hospital via medevac helicopter after being hit by another car on Route 23.
“You can’t tell me that that’s not going to happen if this Quick Chek comes in,” O’Neill said.
Watt also took issue with the possibility of increased traffic on Lafayette Avenue, bypassing Bartholdi Avenue with various schools and churches, saying “you’ll have to fight for who can get up to Bartholdi.”
However, Watt said the biggest problem he foresees is the sight line when exiting the property. Other community members agreed.
“When you look back up the highway, all you can see is two bright lights,” Norman said. “You can’t tell what lane they’re in and you can’t tell how fast the car is coming.”
Norman said he is drafting a letter suggesting that the state build a shoulder there, although he admitted that would eat into some of the property.
The only member of the public who expressed support of the project was Engle Oostdyk, whose family has owned the property since 1951.
Oostdyk, who was one of the last members of the public to speak, said that he has never had any problems entering the site after “over thousands of times” of personal experience. He also said he has never had to wait more than 15 seconds to exit, even during rush hour.
Oostdyk said he considers Route 23 to be the face of Butler and, referring to the redevelopment of the site with Quick Chek on the lot, believes many residents in Butler will benefit “if the face of Butler is enhanced.”
Although he was the only pro-Quick Chek voice at the meeting, he voluntarily struck his statements from the record after Delaney and David Dixon, another attorney whose client opposes the project, made calls to cross-examine him. Neither attorney made similar requests for any of the previous members of the public who spoke during the night.
The hearings will continue April 19 with public comments continuing in limited form. Janice Young, who was not present at Thursday’s planning board meeting, is scheduled to bring her son Ryan, who is physically disabled, to discuss how the proposed Quick Chek gas station could have negative effects on his health.
This will be followed by closing remarks from Dixon and counsel for Quick Chek.