A Zoning Board applicant seeking to locate a "national retailer" on South Avenue found his goal frustrated Wednesday by lack of a certificate of occupancy for a previous retail use..
Richard Dunn gave the board detailed evidence of the prior retail use at the site, but the only certificate of occupancy on file was for a welding company when the property was in an industrial zone. Retail uses are now permitted there under the new Transit-Oriented Development Netherwood (TOD-N) zoning, so the "certification of non-conformity" that Dunn wanted was not needed. After much discussion, the board agreed to dismiss the case, but Dunn said the need now to take the case to the Planning Board for site plan approval would push a decision past his client's May 1 deadline for resolution.
An automotive store, Hyper Harry's, formerly occupied the site at 829-925 South Avenue, which Dunn said had been vacant for several years and was now "an eyesore." Dunn declined to name the retailer now interested in the site, but said the client was alternatively looking at locating in Scotch Plains or Fanwood.
"There really isn't anything we can do," Board Chairman D. Scott Belin said after the board mulled the legalities.
In 2006, a proposal to build 64 condos on the site was hailed as the first major transit-oriented development in the city, but the Zoning Board rejected the case after board members and residents disputed experts’ testimony on its viability.
At the time, the former administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was proposing four "transit villages," two around the downtown and Netherwood train stations and two around the sites of the defunct Grant and Clinton stations. The TOD-N zoning did not take effect until last year and the city only received "Transit Village" designation last week.
In another land use matter, the Planning Board is expected to hear an application tonight (April 3, 2014) to convert the former Gregory's Music Store at Grove and West Front streets to retail use on the first floor and three apartments on each of three upper floors. The vacant building, most recently used as offices for the Tri-County Red Cross, is in the new Transit-Oriented Development Downtown (TOD-D) zone. The meeting is 7 p.m. in City Hall Library.