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By: Cheryl Hehl - Staff Writer
ROSELLE PARK — Residents living in the West Clay Avenue area are fed up with town officials having allowed a fitness business to continue to operate since November despite receiving multiple summonses for being in violation of zoning laws since November.
When LocalSource last reported on this situation in early April, residents were waiting for Regina Mendes Doman of Union, the owner Easy Fitness with Jeannie at 293 West Clay Ave., to appear in municipal court later in the month. They had a long wait. That hearing and others were all delayed until June but the proceedings were moved to judge’s chambers so residents have no idea what took place or why the business continues to operate seven days a week.
According to residents of the area, the business owner was told to comply with the zoning laws by June 17 but they said this never happened and no one can get any information about what the business owner was required to do or if she has to comply with the law at all.
Mayor Joseph Accardi recently met with one of the frustrated West Clay Avenue residents living across the street from the noisy business, agreeing “mistakes had been made” with this particular business owner. He told the resident he would be “looking into the situation personally.” So far, though, the resident has not heard what, if anything, transpired as a result of Accardi’s intervention. Calls to the mayor last week by LocalSource were not returned.
Residents said they are sick and tired of hitting a brick wall when trying to get the town to enforce the same laws every other person in town has to comply with in order to operate a business.
“I mean what do we have to do in order to get this business to comply with the zoning laws?” said another resident who lives near the fitness center.
“Seven days a week she is going stronger and stronger and having more and more noisy Zumba classes and no one is doing anything to help taxpayers over here,” said another resident who also did not want her named used.
Adding insult to injury, said the West Clay Avenue resident, is Doman has now added to her business by bringing in a chiropractor and massage therapist.
“This is crazy. Look at how much time has gone by and she continues to break the law,” he said, pointing out that now there are Zumba parties with very loud music.
“They blast the music so loud that you can’t enjoy your own home,” he said, adding that he is completely baffled as to why this business was not shut down.
Doman applied for a certificate of occupancy last year for a business that would be offering “health, nutrition counseling and services,” but even the town is aware a fitness center is in violation of local zoning laws.
According to documents obtained by LocalSource, from the start Doman never indicated she would be operating a fitness center seven days a week. Her attorney, Robert Renaud of Palumbo and Renaud in Cranford, did send a letter to the borough zoning officer on Sept. 27, 2012 requesting a “Waiver of Site Plan Review” for the change of tenancy. He noted the type of business was an appropriate change of use. However, it appears the Roselle Park zoning officer never checked into the matter further to ensure this was indeed factual.
After requesting documentation through the Open Public Records Act, one of the residents living near the business discovered borough attorney Richard Huxford eventually contacted the business owner about the violation in a letter dated Dec. 7, 2012. He followed up with additional letters Jan. 14 and Feb. 1.
The letters are evidence the borough was well aware that Doman was in violation of the waiver. Huxford pointed this out in his letter, noting that even though Doman said she would be engaging in a permitted use, a fitness center with Zumba classes was not one of the businesses allowed in that particular zone.
In December Huxford ordered Doman to “cease and desist all fitness activities,” adding if she continued with the classes and did not obtain a revised waiver or variance from the Municipal Land Use Board she would receive summons for violating zoning requirements. Doman also was told that in addition to violating zoning laws, she failed to obtain the proper permitting for the sign she erected, which also could subject her to a summons.
Doman failed to cease operation or apply for the required sign permit and was issued two summonses in February. One for the zoning violation and another for erecting a sign without a permit. Although a court hearing was scheduled in late April, the case was delayed and delayed again. Eventually there was a municipal court hearing, but residents were not privy to what took place.
Prior to Easy Fitness with Jeannie moving into the site, the land was leased by a state agency providing programs for adults with autism. To say things changed radically would be an understatement, said a resident of Russell Street, who preferred their name not be used.
“I don’t know what kind of repercussions there would be because this woman has to know someone in town hall or be related to them for this to go on. I don’t need the town coming after me and slapping me with a violation,” he said.
Parking also is a major problem since the fitness center is operating seven days a week. Although the previous tenants had only 8 to 10 vehicles entering the area, according to residents there are 20 cars an hour looking for parking spaces in the evening and on weekends because there are not enough spaces adjacent to the business.
Although contacted, the mayor, Huxford, the borough Construction official and the owner of the business did not return calls by press time.