COMING SOON! A QuickChek, Another Gas Station & Drive-Thru Fast Food: Application Will be Heard @ the Planning Board Meeting Wednesday Dec 13, 6:30pm, Municipal Bldg Room A


photo source

Wed, Dec 13th Planning Board will review plans (PB 22-02) to build a QuickChek and a drive-thru restaurant on the corner of Southfield Road and Route 571. Conveniently scheduled for the busiest time of year, just like Bridge Point 8, see a pattern? If you are free and have an opinion, you should go. The agenda indicates, "...discussion on pending applications not permitted at this time." So, keep comments framed generally. They will get the message and they will become part of the public record.  Printed comments may be handed to the board members for later consideration, hopefully, as well. Here’s the agenda.  There is never a zoom public participation link. If you have concerns, you have to show up, despite the busyness of the season.  Yes, dinner time during the holiday season. I do not appreciate the limitations to public participation that is the signature of our planning board. 

The new businesses at this corner will compete with the existing businesses at that same intersection, located in Southfield Commons Shopping Center.

The new QuickChek is planned to have customer seating. One can imagine it would be for customers who purchase coffee and baked goods, which they now get at Grover’s Mill Coffee House in the Commons at that same corner. 

photo credit: Roshan Bhakta

At QuickChek you can buy milk, eggs and other groceries, most of which locals and passers by purchase at McCaffrey’s, as well as many items that can be found at CVS. The grocery business is extraordinarily challenging. The markup is so small and in the best of times it is hard to stay afloat. Our mayor was willing for WW to be the last in the state to conform to the plastic bag ban, supposedly to bring relief to McCaffrey’s. Does he think that a competing and cheaper grocery store at the same corner will be good for their business? Will another fueling station be good for our long-established stations in town that drivers might have taken their business to if not for the new QuickChek? 

What drive-thru restaurant is planned for this location? Will the hours of operation respect the residential nature of this area? Is it possible that they too would compete with our Southfield Commons restaurants? Anything is possible. Did the Council even consider that when overriding the ordinance? Did they consider that, according to BioMed Central, "...studies have linked greater availability and density of retailers traditionally labeled as unhealthy, such as fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and liquor stores, with higher violent crime rates [12,13,14,15]. These studies reported that violent crimes often occur in or within close proximity to these particular retailers [12,13,14,15].  Who do they want us to become? Source: BioMed Central Ltd. This design is a teenager magnet and after hours it will become a dangerous place to be. Parents will have to avoid this area to eschew their children pressuring them to do the drive thru and buy the garbage food. 

The small businesses located in the Southfield Commons used to be protected by the previous ordinance, as it was, but our town council met to override that ordinance. They, again, showed favoritism to developers over our residents and small business owners. We have ordinances for a reason. No doubt they were written with greater concern and consideration than the swift override that opened the doors to the destruction of yet another, once-quiet area of our town.  Just like warehouses were NOT permitted in West Windsor until our council overrode the ordinance and now we have a warehouse planned for that same intersection, as well as the infamous Bridge Point 8 (2 warehouse projects, same owner  - Atlantic Realty - they just can’t get enough of West Windsor). This is not who we are. This is because we were not paying attention.  

All this growth will lead to a greater affordable housing obligation, so where will that go? If we lose available footprint, will that mean we will be forced to build high-rises? Our current administration has a growth and development mind set and we don't need or want it. Pay attention!

Years of volunteerism does not always make for good judgment, but it does make for blind trust. What could have influenced our council to override existing ordinances, changing the fabric of our community, and our way of life? Certainly NOT public interest, health or safety. Who envisioned this corner, now rather quiet except for rush hours, with a bustling warehouse and suddenly so much more traffic as to require yet another gas station, with shopping and dining? Who? NOT the residents. Drive-thru fast food is NOT what any of us envision for our residents. That sort of, sorry, garbage, can stay on Route 1. We need to raise the bar!

A developer from Texas (ER/UDC West Windsor, LLC, 250 Miron Drive, Southlake, TX 76092 ( 817) 912-1731) bought the land and wants to build up this corner.  We changed our ordinances to suit the needs and wants of a Texas developer… Why? Our master plan has been changing incrementally and we are fast becoming more of a city and if this goes unchecked, it won’t be long before West Windsor is over-congested, unrecognizable and unsafe. It is not what residents invested in, planned for and built their dreams upon.

This past election, Dan Weiss was elected to town council and that alone is a huge victory. It means that this administration will no longer be able to hide their actions from residents. Council members being “available” is not the same thing as being transparent. Going forward, there will be transparency and resident engagement. No more bad decisions will slip by residents because of the false sense of security garnered by their public personas as devoted volunteers - which they are. Their volunteerism is a blessing to the community, but, again, that does NOT always make for good judgment by default - clearly! That does, however, make for the purpose of the human relations council. People forget that the council is a legislative body; they are lawmakers. Whether or not they MC races, hide Easter eggs or catch spotted lantern flies with scouts is irrelevant to the actual job. What has been lacking is the willingness to seek guidance from constituents BEFORE making life-altering decisions. 

If our local businesses fail, due to this very sloppy decision, that would be on the township for failing to respect and adhere to our appropriate preceding ordinances. Developer profits alone do not warrant straying from established land use law and our master plan (before any incrementally accrued loopholes that reward greed).  We the people have to babysit the mayor, council and planning board to be sure that residents’ and small business’ interests are protected from irreparable harm that always comes with kowtowing to greed, and that's our recent modus operandi. 

Read over the application documents. Know what is happening in your town so you don’t feel blind-sided when we suddenly look like Jersey City. Blind trust in our current administration has failed us before. Don't look away!

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