CRANFORD, NJ — An online petition was recently created at change.org by Kristy Donahue, of Cranford, and a group of neighbors in protest of building a new 7-Eleven at 49 South Ave. West, across from Walgreens. So far the petition has gained hundreds of supporters. The petition is meant to inform the Cranford mayor and council of how residents feel about this new addition of a 7-Eleven.
“There may be some confusion, so we want the residents to know that this petition is not referring to the 7-Eleven that will be going in where Krauszer’s used to be. This is for an additional 7-Eleven that wants to go in across the street from Walgreens on South Avenue and Lincoln Avenue,” Donahue wrote.
The title of the petition is “Keep Cranford Quaint Update.” Residents expressed concerns about being surrounded by retailers as well as 24-hour light and noise pollution that would directly impact surrounding residential homes. Traffic and safety issues are another concern. Finally, an impact on surrounding residential property values is another reason for the demands that the Zoning Commission reject the proposed application and variances.
Simply speaking out against the proposition may not be enough to persuade the mayor and council to put a stop to this. Also, many people may not be able to attend meetings or be comfortable enough to speak in front of an audience. It may take a more organized protest, as one resident suggested.
The matter could still sort itself out, as the issue has not been approved by the zoning board.
“The building hasn’t been approved by the Zoning Board yet,” said Trish Cullen, assistant zoning officer of Cranford. “We need to hear more testimonies from residents, council members and professionals before making a decision.”
The variances sought are substantial, and include a use variance, since a convenience store is technically not permitted in that zone.
“The matter of the 7-Eleven is before the Zoning Board of Adjustment because there are several variances being sought to build the project, including a use variance, as a convenience store is not permitted in that zone,” Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins told LocalSource. “That being the case, the applicant has the burden of providing why their proposal is so beneficial to the community that the ordinance should be disregarded. As for the 24 hour per day operations, that is dictated by State Statute, but the Township Committee is looking at ways that we may change our local ordinance to continue to insure the safety and character of our neighborhood.”
Residents remain adamant about keeping Cranford quaint.
“It sounds like an absolutely atrocious eyesore and the residents are getting really tired of this,” a resident who wished to remain anonymous told LocalSource.
“Lincoln Avenue, where this lot is, is a historic street featuring the Jake Klein home, and it was the home of Ole Peppy, the famous 250-year-old pepperidge tree — the town tore that down last year. South Avenue was also the home of the 110-year-old trolley station, and they tore that down too the other day.”
Another resident wrote informing LocalSource that residents “strongly oppose” the addition of the 24-hour 7-Eleven. A facebook page was also created by Democratic Cranford Township Committee candidates Ann Dooley and Kent Lucas in honor of the town, and they recently posted a link to the petition on their page. They thanked the creators of the petition on their page as well.
“We want to thank the neighbors here for taking an active role and creating this petition. We think it is a positive step! Zoning and Planning Boards benefit from the perspective of those who intimately know the neighborhoods they are deliberating about. Again, thank you for bringing this project to a wider audience,” said Dooley and Lucas.
Area residents are doing all they can to spread the word.
“A group of people in the neighborhood has gotten together to notify everyone about this,” Cranford resident Phyllis Kivett-Howard told LocalSource. “Legally they only had to notify people within 200 feet and so that was only maybe about 10 residents. They also only had to give us a 10 day notice prior to the meeting. The first hearing was held on June 20. We scrambled to get a group together to express our concerns. The first and most major concern is that the 7-Eleven is going to be built in a office/residential area. This means that there won’t be any place for loading or unloading except for in the front of the store. The front of the store is a busy intersection with Bank of America. Also there is the issue of the lit sign and the resizing of the building by approximately 900 feet. The concern about the 24-hour operation is an increase in crime. We love the small-town feel of Cranford, and we want to keep it that way.”
According to the Cranford Clerk’s office, the next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 11. An open meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 12.
“We plan to fight this though,” Kivett-Howard told LocalSource. “I love Cranford, and this will definitely have a huge impact on the town. We are going to do what we can to keep it quiant.”