Ordinance banning drive-throughs carried to Sept. 22 council meeting

by Stacey McEvoy/Independent Press

Tuesday September 16, 2008, 6:39 PM

MADISON — The Borough Council will carry an ordinance to the Sept. 22 council meeting that would amend a land development ordinance of the borough’s code, which would prohibit drive-throughs in two business districts, the CBD-1 and CBD-2 zones.
Among other properties, the ordinance would affect the property on the corner of Main Street and Greenwood Avenue, where the former Exxon-Mobil gas station was located three years ago and now stands vacant.
Rocco Iossa, the contract purchaser of the property, said that he has been working on the site for the past two-and-a-half years to make it an asset to the town, adding that he cared deeply about happens in the town.

Mr. Iossa and Exxon-Mobil’s attorney Peter Wolfson of Porzio, Bromberg and Newman of Morristown, attended the council meeting to implore the governing body “to defer the ordinance to allow Exxon (the property owner) to understand what is being proposed,” said Mr. Wolfson.
Mr. Iossa said that he had presented his plans for the property to the town on Aug. 11 and that now “the town is changing the rules…changing rules when an applicant has invested large sums and time…it’s grossly unfair.” He said that he understood the town wanting to promote pedestrian traffic, but asserted that putting in a drive-through at the site would have “no impact to pedestrian traffic.”
Mayor Mary-Ann Holden said that the ordinance was not targeted to any property, pointing out that the drive through issue goes back three years with Provident Bank. “Bank drive throughs are prohibited,” she said.
“The coincidence and timing is mind-boggling,” said Mr. Iossa, noting that he had a full application before the Planning Board submitted on Aug. 11 and that his Sept. 2 hearing was coincidentally cancelled and re-scheduled for Sept. 16.
Mayor Holden said that nothing precludes an applicant from seeking a variance to show hardship.
Borough Attorney Joseph Mezzacca noted that an ordinance examines a whole zone; not individual properties.
“We’ve finally gotten Exxon’s attention to have a conversation,” said Councilman John Elias, adding that everyone is concerned with the block in question. He suggested that the ordinance be brought to the next council meeting so that the council could work with the principals of the property and look at the area on a global basis to include the surrounding areas. “I think we would all be better served–to see if there is any benefit to be gained.”
Councilman Robert Conley agreed with Councilman Elias’s suggestion so that people could understand the implications of the ordinance. He also asked the borough attorney if the property could become a gas station again to which Mr. Mezzacca said, “Not likely.”
Councilwoman Jeanne Tsukamoto said she was concerned with the “changing of the rules” that Mr. Iossa spoke about.
Mr. Mezzacca said, “Any time an ordinance changes, it does change the rules. It is legal. Applications can be in different stages. It’s the way it is.”
“Why now since this has been going on for three years? What’s another two weeks?” said Councilman Vincent Esposito. “A drive through might not be bad to help build up our town.”
“This has dragged on for years and years,” said Mayor Holden. “We’re just trying to get it cleaned up.”
Councilman Elias put a motion to carry the ordinance for two weeks, Councilwoman Carmela Vitale seconded it and the council voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Mayor Holden looked to Mr. Wolfson and requested that the discussions move forward very soon — “like tomorrow,” she said.


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