The Kinnelon Zoning Board of Adjustment got some clarity Tuesday on the possible intended uses for a development HMR Properties, LLC, is hoping to build on Boonton Avenue where Marco's Market used to be.
The property, located at 84 Boonton Avenue and adjacent to Kinnelon Country Wine & Liquor, has been vacant for nearly two years after a fire destroyed the produce and grocery store that stood there. Now, HMR Properties, in affiliation with Badanco Holding Co., is seeking to construct a two-story, 10,000-square foot mixed office and retail building on the 9.5-acre site.
The board heard three hours worth of testimony on Tuesday relating to changes made to the application since the applicant's, Michael Rubin, first approached the land use body in October. The changes that seemed to be of highest concern to board members related to parking on the property and sight distance when pulling out of the property's parking lot and on to Boonton Avenue.
Mark Palus, HMR Properties' engineer, presented the changes and explained that the application includes 32 parking spaces on site. He spoke about a parking lot study done on the Famularo's Deli strip mall, located just a few hundred feet away, and the Route 23 strip mall that is home to Dunkin Donuts, Sleepy's and Subway. While he said it is difficult to compare the property involved in the application on Boonton Avenue with a retail strip mall on Route 23, he noted that during peak hours, 42 parking spaces were occupied. In the Famularo's parking lot, 25 spaces were in use during the highest usage peak.
"We broke it down to three time periods: morning, noon and night," Palus said.
Borough statute designates that one parking space is needed for every 270 square feet of retail space. But Borough Engineer Tom Boorady said that for the development under consideration in the application, he did not feel 32 spaces was adequate. He said the engineer should have taken into account the average number of parking spaces filled, not in the peak times, in the parking lot study and that the Route 23 property study also did not take into account cars flowing through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru window that would have otherwise parked in the lot if that option was not available.
Board members were also concerned about the parking availability with relation to the 2,000-square foot restaurant included in the project's plans. They compared the application's restaurant inclusion to Sangiorgio's, an Italian restaurant located next door, and said that a second restaurant could create an influx of cars.
"Even that parking lot is difficult and it's only one restaurant," Board Member Robert Stack said.
The restaurant the applicant is proposing would be limited to 30 seats, with some types of restaurants prohibited in the area. For instance, an ice cream shop would likely not be permitted on the site. The applicant has also expressed that the site would not be appropriate for a diner or steakhouse.
Palus said the restaurant would be unlike Sangiorgio's and be more of a takeout type of option. Gary Hillen, HMR's director of acquisitions and land development, listed some of the potential restaurants and businesses the developers are hoping to attract. For restaurants, he said they are interested in bringing some type of Asian cuisine to the building, if not a gourmet coffee shop, deli or brick oven pizza restaurant. The other retail businesses the developer is interested in bringing to the plaza would be a bicycle shop or upscale pet store.
"This type of small shopping center will fit in Kinnelon very well," Hillen said.
After hearing the concerns of board members as they related to parking, Hillen said he would be willing to elminate the 4,000 square feet of second-story office space included in the application if it put the board more at ease. By eliminating the office space, more parking spaces could be available for store patrons and restaurant diners. Hillen said the office space was included in the original proposal because the developers feel it would be a good investment for the future, but noted the difficulty in leasing office space under the current economic climate.
A three-bedroom house is also located on the property, something the developers would like to keep intact despite board members questioning whether its removal would also open up more space for parking. Palus said New Jersey Highlands Act restrictions would not allow the developers to place parking wherever they would like.
"If we're going to do something on this property, we're going to have to bend and move it to what the Highlands will let us do," Palus said.
Boorady was concerned that the house, along with two telephone poles, the 50-foot proposed pylon sign on the property and typography of the land, would create visibility issues for drivers leaving the property.
"I think we're all familiar with the site. We just want to make sure it's safe to get out of there," Boorady said.
Palus acknowledged that there are limitations with the sight distance, but said that enough visibility is maintained for safe exit. Board Chairman John Carpenter said he was also concerned with the safety of volunteer firefighters who may need to get to the back of the property to fight a fire, where, as included in the most recent design, there is not room for a fire truck to turn around. But Palus said the fire truck would have enough room to back up from behind the building and that space for fire trucks to turn around behind a property is not common for this type of development.
Fayson Lakes resident Judy Schmidt had some concerns about the design of the building and, specifically, design of the pylon sign. She did not think the backlit illimunation would be attractive and fit in with the Fayson Lakes atmosphere.
"It's not Route 23. It's Boonton Avenue. It's Fayson Lakes," she said.
Hillen said he would be willing to reconsider using a wooden sign that shines light on the businesses names instead.
The board will continue to hear testimony on the application at the Jan. 8 meeting.