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Turkey Farm to Receive a Visit From Chester Officials

A closer look and a study on the build-out capacity of property is needed, council says.

After a couple hours of discussion, the Chester Borough Mayor and Council agreed Tuesday night that the next step in the Turkey Farm process would be a visit to the Larison’s site and a study on the build-out capacity of the property.

From there, the council said they would be better positioned to make an informed decision on zoning.

After the proposal presented to the council at the Sept. 18 meeting, Borough Mayor Bob Davis asked the council to come up with ideas for discussion and Planner David Banisch came before the council with a series of questions he said were designed to “elicit from the council a consensus.”

But council member Janet Hoven said the questions brought forth by Banisch were too in-depth for where the council was in the process.

“I think there are much bigger, broader concerns we need to address before we address our vision for what the site can be,” Hoven said. “We need to make sure what we decide to build can be supported by the population. This is a much bigger discussion.”

Considering what was best for Chester, was a theme council member Jennifer Cooper-Napolitano agreed with.

“Somebody came with a rezone request and he has had the property for 11 years.  I would hope that he would want to do something to enhance the borough, not just make a move because he has a tenant ready,” Cooper-Napolitano said.

“Having more retail when we have empty stores already in town might not be what we want. I think we need to do what we can to make it special.  We don’t want to be another town with a bank and a drug store on the corner.”

Banisch said the property owners might not share the same vision the council shares.

“I think he has one kind of vision and he lives in Morris Plains,” Banisch said. “I don’t think he is a community builder as much as he is a real estate developer.”

Councilman James Robshaw wanted to back the truck up even further.

“Sometimes the best way to go about these things is to look at all the constraints that we don’t control. Based on the Highlands, the DEP, the wetlands, the sewer,” Robshaw said. “I don’t think we could do nearly anything presented to us in those drawings. If all of this work was going to go back to those things we can’t control, lets address that now and see what we can do with the property. I don’t understand it. I don’t know if the builder understands it.”

Banisch said that the council seemed to be favoring a report on the buildout capacity on what the site could hold. 

“We need to bring someone in to educate us,” Robshaw said. “Because we are going to talk about this for six hours and we can all say this should be a hotel on the property but the highlands says we can only have a bed and breakfast but then it’s a bed and breakfast.”

Davis suggested putting together a steering committee to guide the process but the council said they preferred to remain a part of the process as a whole.

“I think it is important for the council to remain a part of the process,” Cooper-Napolitano said. “How many people know Chester because of Larison’s?”

The name recognition was something that resonated with Hoven as well.

“I was in Thailand and someone said to me, ‘Chester? Oh, Larison’s,’” Hoven said.

Hoven also floated the idea of a site visit to the property, which the council decided was as crucial a next step as a buildout and capacity analysis.

“That would be helpful,” Cooper-Napolitano said. “I have no idea where the imaginary lines are from the map.”

Once the council has a better idea of the site constraints and are ready to move forward, Banisch offered an alternative to the steering committee.

“Your planning board isn’t particularly busy and could serve as the subcommittee,” Banisch said.

MT October 03, 2012 at 06:09 PM
More retail square footage in the borough will only make a bad issue worse - we already have too much unused retail space in town. The only thing worse on that property than a strip mall would be an EMPTY strip mall.... When they bought the property they knew the zoning ordinance. They understood the rules under which they were acquiring the property. Now they are trying to change the rules to enhance their exit strategy. These are not entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business and invest in the community. They want to squeeze the most cash from the property. I believe that owners have the right to build on their property within the rules. There are zoning laws in place to ensure you don't build a gas station on your residential property - you knew that when you bought the property. So if you were to build or resell, you understand the rules which are in place. Same is true here.
cv October 03, 2012 at 07:27 PM
@MT you are so right. Chester does need need any more commercial space.
Ruth October 04, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Finally. Some indication that the council "gets it". The owners of the property have no interest in the Chester community. Unfortunately as many of past posts regarding this topic have shown, some residents of Chester have no interest in the COMMUNITY only in what is convenient for them. I applaud the council for wanted to investigate this situation thoroughly and encourage them to continue to think if Chester and the boroughs best interest as they go forward.
TRACEY Brennan October 04, 2012 at 06:15 PM
We have a bank on one corner, an old gas station on one, an oil change place(old gas station) on the other. All that's missing is a huge out of business pharmacy on the other. Then Chester can look like lots of other towns. No wait, a half-filled strip mall would really complete the look.
Peapack Brook Farm October 19, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Most of the residents that moved to Chester came because it was a nice old rural town. They left the hustle and bussel of big towns (like Morristown) or the city to raise their familes in a country setting Now Chester is starting to look like one of those big towns with STORES, MALLS, and Street Lights Etc. The Vision was lost when the New mall landed - we were told it was going to look like main street. What happed there? Stores are hurting because no one need to come all the way to Chester to by a pair of pants or get a prescription filled. MT's comments above nails it on the head. Chester better wake up and regain the vision that the people who moved hoped for.

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