Madison Planning Board Approves Optometrist Office in Former Blockbuster Location
Wednesday, June 6, 2012 • 8:03am
MADISON, NJ – The vote was unanimous to approve an application for Optometrist Paul Naftali to convert the former Blockbuster location at 311 Main Street to a medical office. The resolution will have certain restrictions, including limiting the space to specific medical use only.
“I favor the application,” Planning Board Chairman Steve Tombalakian said. “In prior years it was a very packed center. If you can’t find a spot, you leave.”
Board member Peter Fleming agreed with him, saying he liked the idea of reserved spaces for patients. “It will have a calming effect on the traffic pattern. Cars won’t be stacked, which is a plus.” In addition, he said, cars would be parked for a longer period of time than for a typical retail establishment.
Board member Tom Johnson said he recalled when Blockbuster moved in and how that generated far more traffic than had been anticipated. “I’m hard pressed to think of something less intensive than this application. I’m pleased.”
Mayor Robert Conley also weighed in, noting that he has seen the property evolve and that busy retail outlets such as Blockbuster could be “a major headache” when there are too many stores in one location that generate in and out traffic.
The applicant, referred to as 1999 Madison Associates, LLC, requested several variances for parking and as an exception to retail space. The site has 50 parking spaces and 56 have been requested. The two buildings to be occupied are perpendicular to Main Street.
Charles Oliveo, a licensed engineer from Rutherford, said no site improvements were proposed. He said Starbucks is reducing its seating from 37 to 26 seats and requires 10 parking stalls. He noted that the optometrist office would not have as high a turnover as retail. The parking spaces would be marked reserved and “people do pay attention to signs.”
The applicant, Paul Naftali, who has been in business at 48 Main Street for 17 years, also testified. He said he and an associate employ 12 full and part-time employees. Their hours are usually 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and about 20 patients are seen on an average day. The expansion would include four examination rooms and a laboratory.
Planner George Ritter of Philadelphia, who is the planner for Chester Township in Morris County and other area towns, said the medical facility would provide a stable use and assigned parking spaces, would reduce any potential conflict. He said signs at the site would be facing inwards and there would be no signs at the rear. Goose neck lighting would be used for illumination.
The attorney for the applicant summed up the hearing by noting that Naftali has had a long time practice in Madison; the office would be a controlled, significantly lower use to the site; the building is already there and the variances are technical. “If we had wanted to open a retail store, we wouldn’t even be here,” he said.
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