It was neither quick nor convenient, but the 16 months of consideration over an application for a conditional use variance to allow the construction of a convenience store and gas station to be built on Route 23 North, between Boonton Avenue and Bartholdi Avenue, in was approved 5-2 by the Butler Planning Board Thursday night.
The board has heard testimonies from various engineers, experts and the public over the past year-and-a-half regarding the application for a 24-hour convenience store and 12-pump gas station. Nearly 20 variances are needed for the project to move forward on the site.
Thirteen neighbors who live near the proposed development site some citing what they expect to be congested traffic, noise and gas fumes from the store, including the mother of a 20-year-old multiply disabled man who lives behind the proposed site, who , healthwise, by the Quick Chek.
Prior to the vote, Planning Board Attorney Jim Barbarula told members to "look toward the law that controls the conditional use variance" and not consider emotional testimony when making their decision. Instead, he asked the members to only consider what they determine to be fact based on evidence provided by Quick Chek's attorneys and the attorneys of those in opposition, which include neighors behind the Route 23 site and Craig Brinster, the owner of the 7-Eleven accross Boonton Avenue from the site.
Barbarula also said the members should take into consideration whether the deviances from the conditions set forth by the borough are worth allowing the project and whether approval of the application would provide an overall benefit to the borough.
The site is in a Highway Commercial 2 Zone, and, according to Board Member Jim Brown, who gave a statement immediately after making the motion to approve the application, while variances are needed to allow the application to move forward on that site, many other applications would need the same variances.
"No matter what the use, the proposal will require a number of variances," Brown said.
Brown's motion also was based on the condition between the store's property and residences on adjacent residential streets be no more than 20 feet high.
Brown said he did not feel some of the testimonies he had heard during the application process should have been relevant to consideration of the application.
"The 'what if' game has no end and I believe should not be played during these proceedings," he said.
He also said that he felt the applicant, Quick Chek, had addressed many of the initial concerns and that the project would be supported by the borough's master plan.
But Bill Sulski, a member who voted against the application, disagreed.
"The applicant has not proven to me that this application works for this property," he said. "I think there are better uses."
Planning Board Chairman Jim Nargiso, who also voted in favor of the application, said he did not feel the project would have a detrimental affect on the borough. Several residents, whose properties are near the site, objected to that statement after the meeting.
"I'm very, very disappointed for the community," resident Jerry Allison said. "What's next?"
Maryanne Holdsworth, who lives on Bartholdi Avenue, said she is concerned about breathing in fumes from the Quick Chek gas station.
"I don't understand why they feel that it's not going to damage the neighbors," she said.
Butler resident Ken Montanye also said he was disappointed in the board's decision.
"Butler is a follower and not a leader," he said. "No matter what goes on in town, Butler isn't in the forefront to lead, just follow."
What do you think of the Butler Planning Board's decision to approve the Quick Chek application? Let us know in the comments.