Summit Planning Board to Recommend Adding Wholesale Sales, Personal Storage, Instructional Uses to Light Industrial Zone
Tuesday, October 23, 2012 • 6:42am
SUMMIT, NJ—An Equinox Health Club soon will be occupying the site of a former Ford dealership at 68 River Road, and the Summit Planning Board believes wholesale sales and service facilities, personal storage businesses, artist studios and rehearsal spaces, indoor recreational facilities and vocational instruction facilities should be added to the zoning mix for that area.
The board voted Monday to recommend to the Summit Common Council that the other uses be added to those already permitted in the light industrial zone in the area bounded by Chatham Road, River Road and the Passaic River.
Equinox was given planning body permission to erect its facility last year after the board recommended the light industrial zone in an area that at one time housed a number of automobile dealerships that have gone out of business.
In addition to health clubs, also currently allowed in the zone are research and product development laboratories, offices related to industries already in existence in the area, printing operations, warehouses and light manufacturing and manufacturing of small packaged items, pharmaceuticals, jewelry and electronics.
Besides allowing more permitted uses in the zone, Kevin Kane, the planner for the board, said the light industrial zone subcommittee recommended that retail operations be allowed as accessory uses in the zone provided they take up no more than 15 percent of a property or 2,000 square feet, whichever is less.
The subcommittee also recommended that screening requirements in parking areas be reduced to allow for shared parking and that facilities located in the zone be allowed to erect shared signage for multiple tenants.
Also, plans by Merck & Co. Inc. to move its global headquarters to Morris Avenue—down the street from the light industrial zone—led planning board members on Monday to speculate on further possible retail and dining uses for the zone.
Board member Peter Daley said it was possible, with more Merck executives working at the facility in addition to the current research employees, that the area could become “a second downtown” for Summit.
Daley said this might be desirable to keep the executives in Summit to dine and shop rather than going to Madison and Chatham, which will be a short drive from the Morris Avenue site.
Board Vice Chairman William Anderson replied, however, that the board did not want to “endanger the central retail business district” by drawing people away from the Broad Street-Springfield Avenue corridor.
Daley noted, however, that retail businesses would locate where the rent was cheaper and it would be better if they remained in Summit rather than going to Madison or Chatham.
“We don’t want to overturn what we are doing now,” replied board member Eugene R. Lear, “I think we should wait and see what happens.”
However, board member David Naidu said, if the board was considering adding facilities and art studios into the light industrial zone mix, it might not hurt to include pizzerias, for example, to serve those facilities.
Anderson noted the area already has restaurants such as the Broadway Diner and Marco Polo in the area.
Kane suggested if a number of restaurants were to be added as uses the board might want to consider redoing the entire light industrial zone ordinance.
Board Chairman Jeffrey Wagenbach urged the planning board not to go beyond its current proposals until it had a more clear idea of what the Merck expansion would bring to the area.
On a related matter, the board had a lengthy discussion on liberalizing its proposal for a minimum two-story height for buildings in the current central business district to allow the possibility of variances for one-story structures that would have the “dimensions and character of a one-story building.”
Board members said the Bank of America building located in the central business district was this type of structure.
In other business on Monday, Summit Business Administrator Christopher Cotter gave the board a presentation on the National Citizen Survey completed at the end of 2010 that he previously had outlined for members of the common council.