Tonight, the Maplewood Zoning Board of Adjustment will hold a hearing for a proposal to build a 24-hour 7-Eleven convenience store at the Shell Station on Valley Street in Maplewood — across the street from Columbia High School. Because the site is zoned for a single use, the developer must receive a variance to add a second use — that of the convenience store — to the site. The developer, Ali Enterprise, Inc., is seeking that variance tonight.
Neighbors and the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education have voiced concerns about the proposal.
One resident who has been organizing opposition to the project is John Davenport. Davenport told Patch in a series of emails that many neighbors oppose the addition of the second use on the site because it would bring additional lighting around the rim of the station 24 hours a day, destroy most of the trees that screen the station from surrounding homes, and add loud air conditioning units to the top of a new building — among other negatives.
Davenport said, "These are the kinds of things they will say, 'well we can ameliorate this or that...' But the fact remains that it would be a garish addition to a crowded corner that will increase congestion. It totally does not fit." He added, "There is virtually no tax gain for the town from this; it will only take business from other existing stores. What it will bring is chaos at an already incredibly congested intersection, more trash, more teenagers hanging out constantly and having to be shooed away, even more unhealthy foods for students to eat, and potentially crime."
In a letter to the Zoning Board dated Feb. 2 and signed by Beth Daugherty, facilities chairperson of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education, Daugherty stated that the board is concerned that the 7-Eleven will create a safety concern as students are attracted to "an already congested area," and cross a busy intersection to access the store. The board is also concerned that the proposed store will provide "a venue for persons outside the school district to congregate and loiter with CHS students for undesirable purposes."
The board asks that, if the variance for a second use is granted for the site, that the developer include an additional sidewalk on the eastern side of the property and post signage to reduce pedestrian traffic through the gas station, install 24-hour security cameras that are linked to the police station, enforce no loitering rules and install a 6-foot chain link fence to close off the area behind the store.
The letter is currently on file at town hall though it is not admissible into evidence until and unless a board of education member reads it aloud at the zoning board hearing (the Board of Education has a conflicting meeting tonight at 525 Academy Street to discuss approval of the ). The letter says the board of education discussed the proposal at its Jan. 19 meeting and met with Ali Enterprises on Feb. 1.
In response to an email request from Patch, Mayor Vic DeLuca weighed in on Thursday, Feb. 10:
"I think the proposed 1,800-square foot convenience store for the Parker & Valley intersection is a bad idea. The current level of traffic is already significant, particularly with the activity at the high school in both day and night. Already there is a compromised line of sight when traveling east bound on Parker."
DeLuca continued: "I support bringing business to town but it must be done in a strategic manner and in a way that does not diminish the residential quality of life. Adding a second business to the already conditional use of a gas station is not strategic development and is only an effort to squeeze more revenue from that property for the owner. There is no beneficial use by adding a convenience store there."
The hearing for the variance was originally scheduled for Feb. 7 but the attorney for Ali Enterprise, Inc. in order to address concerns expressed by the school district.
Editor's Note: This proposal is separate from the 7 in September 2010 and the avenues. The Parker Avenue and Valley Street 7-Eleven would be the third 7-Eleven location in Maplewood.