Category Archives: Main Street

Free at Last!

Kudos to every Borough resident who cared enough to share his or her thoughts with the Zoning Board – or at least show up for Chatham Borough – about a bid to waive 19 zoning laws to add a convenience store to the gas station at the chaotic intersection of Main Street and Hillside Avenue.

You are the heart and soul of this small town.

On May 30, our Borough Zoning Board granted that application, unwittingly nudging the Borough one step further toward becoming a gritty little city.

Bullet dodged?*

Good news: The Zoning Board didn’t ok adding a convenience store to the Exxon station at the busy corner of Hillside & Main. Or rather they didn’t approve it at the December meeting.

But that doesn’t mean the Zoning Board won’t approve it on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, when the hearing on the Exxon application continues! (7:00 PM at Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue)

That January 30 hearing may be your last chance to find out what’s going on and have your say before the Zoning Board votes to waive at least eighteen normal zoning rules for the sole benefit of the new owner of the Exxon station.∞

This hearing promises to be a fun one. We’re expecting to hear the new owner’s hired traffic expert testify that the intersection of Hillside and Main is ok, and can handle more cars and trucks on the road and darting in and out of the Exxon lot.

Please join your friends and neighbors at the hearing on the Exxon convenience store at 7 PM on January 30 at Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue. (Use the side entrance and take the elevator to the upper level Council Chambers.)

How late will the new store stay open? Will it close at 10 pm, as the applicant’s engineer recently assured TapintoChatham? Or will the store stay open until at least 11 pm, as the engineer admitted under oath at the hearing? (Start at approx. 2:13:05 and 2:50:10, where the engineer contradicts and cannot recall what he told the Tap.)

*The author has chosen to abstain from participating in or voting on this issue in her capacity as an alternate member of the Historic Preservation Commission.

∞ What rules does the new Exxon owner want waived? See p. 195 here:


You know the tall evergreen tree at the NW corner of the Main Street Exxon station, near Liberty Drug, in the Historic District?*

c. July 2023

That healthy Exxon evergreen tree is gone, chopped down a few days ago!

October 11, 2023

Exactly how that happened is a mystery.

Most trees near our streets are deemed Borough trees, under the protection of the Shade Tree Commission.

The Borough Code forbids chopping down even private trees without a good reason – and a permit – if the trunk exceeds 6” in diameter.

Chopping down trees in the Historic District is specifically discouraged by Historic Preservation Guidelines (pp 39-40) which provide that:

  1. “A conscious effort shall be made to preserve all worthwhile trees which exist on a site…”
  2. “Stripping trees from a lot… shall not be permitted unless it can be shown that grading or construction requirements necessitate removal of trees…”
  3. Evergreens are particularly prized for their ability “to provide winter greenery to the streetscape.”

Despite all that protection, that Exxon evergreen tree vanished on or about 10/10/23.

So what happened to the Exxon evergreen? Here’s what we know:

  1. That tree was on the Exxon property (185 Main Street, block 122/lot 2) next to the sidewalk in the Historic District for many years before the new owner bought the Exxon lot on 11/1/21.
  2. The new owner of the Exxon lot was, and still is, an arm of a big business that operates some 70 gas stations and convenience stores across New Jersey and beyond.
  3. For whatever reason, the founder and owner of that big enterprise wanted that particular evergreen tree gone.
  4. On or about 5/8/23, the founder filed an application (linked above) for a permit to chop down that tree, which he described as “8” DBH”.
  5. His use of that technical term, “8” DBH,” meaning the diameter of the trunk was 8” at “breast height” (4.5’), suggests familiarity with tree measuring techniques, tree permit rules, or both.
  6. That 5/8/23 tree removal application was not decided because the trees were not marked, according to the DPW.
  7. However, the new Exxon owner also designated that evergreen for removal in his pending application for variances necessary to replace the Exxon garage with a convenience store. (See p. 193 of the site plan in the 9/27/23 Zoning Board agenda package linked here:
  8. Zoning Board approval or disapproval of those variances will depend in large part on the likely effect of that project on the general welfare, including preserving the Historic District, which is among the key purposes listed in state zoning law, the Borough Code,, and our Master Plan
  9. The Design Guidelines for the Historic District (quoted above, near the top of this post) specifically protect evergreen trees.
  10. The proposed fate of that evergreen was among the factors that dissuaded the the Historic Preservation Commission from approving the design the new owner of the new Exxon presented to the Historic Preservation Commission at its 9/19/2023 meeting.
  11. Instead of waiting to resolve that issue at the next HPC meeting (set for 10/17/23) or at the Zoning Board hearing (then set for 10/25/23),** the new Exxon owner simply authorized next door neighbor Liberty Drug (195 Main Street, block 122/lot 1) to chop down the evergreen, according to DPW and the man behind the counter at Liberty.
  12. On or about October 10, that evergreen tree vanished, stump and all, leaving no way to determine if the diameter of the trunk did in fact exceed 6” as the new Exxon owner had claimed on 5/8/23 and, as such, required a permit.
  13. An official claimed the diameter of the trunk was less than 6” but so far has not provided any evidence.
  14. Whether or not the new owner technically enjoyed the right to fell that healthy tree without a permit, by authorizing an intermediary (Liberty) to do the job before the Zoning Board could even hear his case, in effect the new Exxon owner sidestepped meaningful review of a critical aspect of his variance application.
  15. At the October 17 meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission, and without mentioning the disappearance of the evergreen tree, a lawyer for the new Exxon owner presented a new store design intended to address many of the other concerns raised at the previous HPC meeting, but he was unable to answer several important questions, including some about that missing tree.
  16. The lawyer agreed to return to the Historic Preservation Commission on November 21, along with an expert who can answer the outstanding questions. ***
  17. More important than the loss of one tree is the principle at stake.

Will the Historic Preservation Commission and Zoning Board properly address the new owner’s flagrant flouting of the normal procedures for reviewing variance applications, or will they let it pass, in effect condoning similar behavior in the future?

*The author has elected to abstain from participating in or voting on this matter in her capacity as an alternate member of the Commission.

** The new Exxon owner postponed the Zoning Board hearing on his variance application to the November 15 meeting of the Zoning Board, but as of October 25, it appears the application won’t be heard until the December 20 Zoning Board meeting because the next HPC meeting isn’t until November 21.

*** See meeting video, starting approx. minute 58:50.

Read more: Gone!

Do Over

Will our Zoning Board waive the usual rules and allow the new owner of the Exxon gas station to swap out the garage for a Tigermart convenience store?


With the hearing on that application set for October 25, the owner isn’t taking any chances. Last week, he polished up his proposal, with a new design.

Though not yet posted on the Borough website, the new design addresses some shortcomings identified by the Historic Preservation Commission at its September public meeting.*

One such concern was the fate of the tall, lovely evergreen at the NW corner of the lot.

Summer 2023: A bright spot in the Historic District for the past two decades

After the HPC expressed its concerns, that tree vanished, down to the roots.

Oct. 11, 2023: Gone forever

Will the Historic Preservation Commission accept that? We’ll find out at the Commission’s October 17 public meeting. Here are the standards:

Whatever the HPC recommends, the ultimate fate of the proposed Tigermart convenience store is in the hands of the Zoning Board.

The Zoning Board hearing on the Exxon application is set for October 25, 7:30 pm on the upper level of Borough Hall at 54 Fairmount Avenue.

This hearing is your chance to get the facts, ask questions, and comment on the proposal BEFORE the Zoning Board decides whether or not to waive our normal zoning rules to allow the addition of a convenience store to the Main Street Exxon station. Everyone is welcome to attend.

* The author has elected not to vote or otherwise participate in this matter in her capacity as an alternate commissioner.

Postponed to Dec. 20!

Would you like to see a convenience store/gas station in Chatham’s Main Street Historic District?

Should our Zoning Board waive the normal rules to allow that?* **

Come to the public Zoning Board hearing.


December 20, 7:30 pm, at Chatham Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level.

What’s this all about?

The new owner of the Exxon station on Main Street hopes to add a convenience store that’s inconsistent with our Borough Zoning laws.. To go ahead, he must convince the Zoning Board that adding that store would be good for Chatham.***

The applicant operates a similar gas/convenience store that’s open 24/7 just over the border in Summit. 18 County Rd 649 – Google Maps
6 River Road

The main difference is that the Shell/7-Eleven on River Road has a brick facade, instead of the vinyl siding the applicant plans for the TigerMart on Chatham’s Main Street.

By keeping long hours – often all night – convenience stores average 1,400 transactions per day, and most patrons (65%) consume their purchases on the spot. “Litter can be a significant challenge,” notes the trade association that advocates for the industry. @

The Exxon proposal for Chatham would also involve chopping down at least one 20 ft Douglas Fir tree and adding a bigger sign that lights up.**

How would a place like that affect Chatham’s historic district or the value of nearby homes on or near Hillside Avenue?

Historic district:

Come to the public hearing, postponed yet again to November 15, 7:30 pm, at Chatham Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue, upper level.

That is your chance to get the facts, ask questions, make comments, and show you care about your town.

If you cannot be there in person, you can Zoom or call in. You’ll find the directions by clicking on the Zoning Board Meeting to be posted on the Borough calendar:

The Zoning Board has announced that there will be no further official notice of this proposed project.

* Details about the 0.59-acre property, block 122/lot 2:

** Exactly what is the applicant proposing to build? To see the complete application, visit the Clerk’s office at Borough Hall, 54 Main Street or click on “Agenda Packet” for the Zoning Board at this link:

Or download the basic application (no exhibits or supporting documents):

*** What does the applicant need to prove?

Want more detail? Look at these files:

Any similar situations?

@ Source: “Convenience Stores and Their Communities,” published April 2019 by National Association of Convenience Stores, accessed August 5, 2023 at