Tag Archives: use variance

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.

Ready. Set. Go!

At last night’s special hearing, our Borough Zoning Board seemed ready to waive more than a dozen laws to allow a very rich applicant to throw a busy convenience store into the mix at the already congested, chaotic, and dangerous intersection of Main Street and Hillside Avenue.

The Board wound up not voting, most likely because the members had yet to see certain important exhibits, submitted by a resident, concerning traffic accidents. The Board decided to recall the applicant’s traffic expert, to testify again at another hearing.

Check out the video here: https://chathamborough.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=19

Will our Zoning Board ultimately approve that reckless proposal?

We’ll probably find out at the next special hearing on the matter, date and time to be revealed at the next regular monthly meeting of the Zoning Board, which is set for 3/27, 7:30 pm at Borough Hall, 54 Fairmount Avenue. (Use the side entrance. Take the elevator to the upper level, Council Chambers.)

*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.

True or false?

True or false? The new owner of the Exxon station at the corner of Hillside and Main has the right to add a convenience store on his property?*

False. The new Exxon owner has no such right. His proposal to add a convenience store there violates at least 18 Chatham zoning rules.

Adding a store there would also add traffic, delays, deliveries, crashes, pollution, noise, litter, and garbage to an already busy, chaotic, and dangerous intersection.

That would be a problem for everyone who lives in, works in, or drives through the Hillside neighborhood of Chatham Borough.

Fortunately, before the new Exxon owner can carry out his plans, he must convince our Zoning Board to grant several special exceptions from the normal zoning laws. Here are links to his applications:


Our Zoning Board should have no trouble saying no to that. At least two NJ towns have recently turned down similar proposals, as you can see here:

But will our Zoning Board have the courage to say NO?

Will our Zoning Board have on record the evidence necessary to make its decision stick on appeal?

Can Chatham residents help?

Yes, but we must act now, while there’s still time to get the necessary evidence on the record before the Zoning Board decides.

After that, it will be almost impossible to stop the new convenience store, which will bring more traffic, deliveries, crashes, litter, noise, pollution, and garbage into the already dangerously chaotic intersection.

First, consider chipping in to help your neighbors and friends hire a good lawyer who can make sure the Zoning Board gets all the evidence necessary to make the right decision stick on appeal.

Unless we get enough pledges soon, we won’t be able to hire a lawyer. Without a lawyer, we’ll be gambling on our future. So if you don’t want a convenience store clogging up the corner of Hillside and Main St, please asap e-mail your pledge to: [email protected]

Please note that the Zoning Board has announced that there will be NO further public notice of hearings in connection with this Exxon application.


Questions? E-mail [email protected]

* The author has chosen not to participate in, or vote on, the application in her capacity as an alternate member of the Historic Preservation Commission.

PS The new owner sidestepped a significant part of the review process by chopping down a healthy tree before the Zoning Board could hear his application. https://chathamchoice.org/2023/10/gone/ Despite documentary proof that he wanted that tree gone, his engineer testified that cutting it down was the result of a misunderstanding.

This is your chance

Are you satisfied with the number of cars and trucks on Main Street?

Would you like to see more vehicles? More crashes?

Did you know our Zoning Board is considering waiving the rules in a way that would probably achieve just that?*

Zoom https://chathamborough.org/resident/calendar/zoning-board-2-1703723400

(Yes, the hearing is less than a week before Christmas! No, that doesn’t give residents much chance to ask questions or make comments. Can the Zoning Board postpone the hearing? You’ll have to ask them. Email the Borough Administrator, [email protected])

Don’t you just love driving through the intersection of Main Street and Hillside Avenue, past the Exxon station?

Don’t you just love the narrow, misaligned streets? The challenge of turning left – or even right – without a crash?

Do you think it’s safe for a 12-year-old to cross there alone? Is it even safe for an adult?

Would you like to see more cars and trucks crisscrossing the sidewalk to get gas at the Exxon station? No?

How about a stream of cars and trucks crossing the sidewalk to enter and exit the new convenience store (with bright lights, long hours, probably more litter, noise, and maybe some loiterers) that would replace the friendly car repair shop we’ve trusted for decades – and that currently closes at 6:00 pm?

Our Zoning Board is considering waiving the normal zoning rules to allow the new owner of the Exon station to do just that.

See for yourself, starting at pages 22 and 82: https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/chathamborough/0bd700aa-3c52-11ee-9e9a-0050569183fa-21f92362-28af-4727-9270-fd5a12163dfa-1702391290.pdf

Check out the latest, starting on page 21: https://d3n9y02raazwpg.cloudfront.net/chathamborough/0bd700aa-3c52-11ee-9e9a-0050569183fa-21f92362-28af-4727-9270-fd5a12163dfa-1702931991.pdf

Wouldn’t that kind of place detract from our Historic District?

Why would they even consider taking such a risk without first correcting the street misalignment that makes that corner so tricky?

The corner indicated in red is not part of the Exxon lot. It is property of the Borough that could be used to better align the streets, improve traffic flow, and likely reduce accidents. (Amateur markup of Borough Tax map sheet 27)

The Zoning Board shouldn’t approve the Exxon proposal absent strong proof that it would serve Chatham Borough in some clear way, and wouldn’t undermine the purposes of our zoning laws or Master Plan. https://chathamborough.org/boards/zone

The hearing on that proposal is set for this Wednesday, December 20. This is your chance to get the facts and have your say.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to make a difference.

  • The author has chosen to abstain from participating in deliberations concerning, or voting on, this proposal in her capacity as an alternate member of the Historic Preservation Commission.

An historic moment

On Tuesday night, 9/19 the Historic Preservation Commission** voted to advise the Zoning Board not to approve a proposal to convert the Main Street Exxon station into a combination gas station and convenience store. https://chathamchoice.org/2023/07/how-convenient/

The reason? The application was inconsistent with many of the Design Guidelines for Chatham’s Historic District and lacked sufficient details. https://www.chathamborough.org/government/documents/meeting-documents/historic-preservation-meetings/2022-historic-preservation-meeting-documents/2123-chatham-borough-historic-district-design-guidelines-2021-0221-compressed/file

End of story? No, it’s just the beginning.

The applicant could try to convince the Zoning Board to ignore the advice of the HPC, or could spruce up its proposal and give HPC another try.

That’s something HPC encouraged the applicant to consider, and it seems the applicant may do just that.

Today the Borough website indicates that 9/27 hearing before the Zoning Board will be put off once again, this time until at least October. https://chathamborough.org/resident/calendar/zoning-board-2-1695857400

Of course, even if the applicant can satisfy the Design Guidelines for the Historic District, it will still need to meet the other legal requirements for the variances necessary to complete the proposed project.

Stay tuned.

The Chatham Press, 4 Sep 1936

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