As many of you’ve read my comments on our need to grow our downtown business district within New Providence, I’ve asked each of you to personally make an effort to contribute to the overall solution by “thinking and shopping locally.” Supporting our downtown businesses is critical to their survival, but also helps our economic base attract new businesses. In addition, many of our community activities are largely funded by our downtown businesses. Every time you patronize these merchants, you are reciprocating and thanking these businesses for their continued support and sponsorship of our community events.
We all realize the overall need to grow our downtown and attract new businesses to New Providence, I believe we need to also maintain a complimentary balance within that growth. While our aspiration and immediate objective should be to help reduce our vacancy rate, we need to be prudent and scrutinize applications to build new infrastructure; particularly for businesses which may not be enhancing our current business landscape.
An application was recently submitted to build a 7 Eleven convenience store on South Street between Provident Bank and Barth’s Market. I look at this application and can’t help but conclude that it’s just not a good idea as I don’t believe that the 7 Eleven plans fit within our current downtown or more specifically within the Master Plan for the Borough of New Providence. Many of you have voiced similar concerns from not only a traffic flow and congestion perspective, but also in terms of vehicular and pedestrian safety as well. As with many of you, I struggle to exit the Village Shopping Center on South Street within the existing business footprint and traffic flow. I can’t foresee the ability for anyone to convince our Planning Board that a 7 Eleven won’t compound the situation further.
The responsibility of the Planning Board is to assess this application and all of the respective requests for variance and determine whether it conforms within prevailing building code, land use and zoning ordinances as well as within the overall traffic impact a 7 Eleven would have upon our downtown and parking areas during peak business hours. I feel very confident that the Planning Board will conclude that this application by 7 Eleven is a square peg in a round role and reject it.
I encourage citizens to come out on Mar. 5 when the Planning Board hearing takes place to ask 7 Eleven your questions concerning:
- where the delivery trucks will park during business hours
- what they believe the increased traffic flow will be and how it will be addressed
- how pedestrian safety will be assured whether a building can be built in an area that is prone to regular flooding
- what specific variances 7 Eleven may need in order to conform to our regulations
- what variances they may seek to run their operation
I would further ask citizens to share their concerns within our respective media outlets as appropriate.
We all realize the 7 Eleven brand is a successful one and I have nothing personally against this franchise itself. However, this application will be chock full of non-starters. I strongly suggest that if 7 Eleven truly wants to become part of our business community, that they look at filling one of the current vacancies within the New Providence business landscape where traffic, safety and overcrowding are not currently an issue.