A Dunkin Donuts and STS Tire and Auto Center have been approved for the former Exxon gas station site near the intersection of Routes 70 and 539 in Whiting.
Zoning Board of Adjustment members voted in favor of granting the Midland Park-based Whiting Realty Partners LLC a use variance for the two businesses at a special meeting Wednesday night, provided that several conditions are met.
"We believe this is a good application for a site that has been abandoned for some time now," said applicant attorney Richard Stanzione.
The Dunkin Donuts is proposed to be 1,846 square feet, when the township ordinance states that restaurants must be 2,500 square feet. The donut shop is proposed to have 17 seats, compared to the ordinance's required 125. No drive-through is allowed by ordinance — one is requested by the applicant.
For a side yard setback, the STS is 34 feet from the property line, rather than the 50 required by ordinance. The applicant also wanted to install two building signs and two free standing signs to aid with visibility since the property is on a corner lot; the ordinance allows one of each sign.
A variance was also required to have two principal uses — the two separate businesses — operational one a single site.
The odd, triangular-shaped lot caused the setback problems, said site planner Allison Coffin, who testified before the board.
"This is a creative solution for the use of the land," she said.
Board member William Cook made a motion to approve the application provided that conditions such as the following are met: the STS designates two parking spaces for nighttime car drop off, does all vehicle repairs inside its facility, creates an ADA-compliant pedestrian path connecting the two buildings, and limits trash pickup and deliveries at the auto center to business hours only.
"I think the Dunkin Donuts is a great use there," said board Chairperson Linda Fazio prior to the unanimous approval by the board. It was not immediately clear when the project will be underway.
Prior to the vote, Cook questioned whether the speaker from the drive-through, which will accommodate five cars and have a second bypass lane, may be too loud. Stanzione said that the speaker is 25 feet from the property line and the applicant will "absolutely" comply with the sound levels set forth by the state and township.
Vehicle access to the complex will be provided through two points — one about 50 feet from the Route 539 intersection on Route 70, and another on Route 70 about 80 feet from the Route 539 intersection. Moving access points away from the intersection "ensures the fewest number of conflicts," said civil engineer Gary Dean.
Board member Hank Glen requested that the applicant ensure that tractor trailer truck operators do not park on Route 539 while they pick up orders from Dunkin Donuts. Dean said that is a scenario the applicant wants to avoid and will work with the township to prohibit that type of parking.
Prompted by questioning from township engineer Bob Mullin, Dean said that he will work with the county to determine if it is possible to create a left turn lane into the complex from Route 539.
"If the county asked us to take the zebra striping and turn it into a lane, we would absolutely do that," he said.
Upon recommendation of the township's Environmental Commission, the board requested that documentation proving that the three underground gas tanks used by the Exxon have been removed. Engineer Brett Skapinetz said that the tanks are gone and he will submit a letter to that point from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
STS is expected to operated with six full-time employees from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. It will not open on Sunday, Skapintez said. Dunkin Donuts stores typically operate with five employees and are open from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m., though this location may operate 24-hours to compete with the WaWa across Route 539.
Both businesses will receive daily deliveries by box truck; Dunkin Donuts before 5 a.m. and STS during business hours, according to Skapintez.