Under the guise of an ordinance designed to curb late night noise, Red Bank Council has effectively banned new businesses in close proximity to residential neighborhoods from operating 24 hours a day.
The quality of life ordinance was approved on first reading Wednesday night and prohibits retail establishments located within 100-feet of a zoned residential neighborhood from operating between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day. According to council, the ordinance was arrived at after police records indicated that after hour businesses and 24-hour businesses regularly attracted more complaints and police calls than those businesses with regular hours.
"They do cause a disruption and impact quality of life by some measure," Mayor Pat Menna said.
What Menna wouldn't say is that the ordinance was introduced to halt plans from a developer looking to convert a Welsh Farms convenience store on East Front Street into a 7-Eleven. The proposed name swap and extended hours have drawn the ire of residents living close by the neighborhood convenience store who have pleaded with the Planning Board to reject the proposal based, largely, on the negative impact a 24-hour business operating so close to their homes would have.
Dina Enterprises is currently seeking site plan approval from the board to facilitate the Welsh Farms conversion. What they aren't seeking, however, is the right to operate around the clock. The attorney representing Dina, Philip San Filippo, claims that a previous site plan, approved by council more than three decades ago, doesn't restrict hours of operation.
Well, that loose end is tied up now.
Board Solicitor Daniel O'Hern said this type of ordinance is not new, nor is it exactly rare, saying that towns throughout the state have adopted such ordinances well before Red Bank even considered it.
"The courts have said that municipalities can restrict the hours of business operation," he said following the council meeting.
Businesses currently operating 24 hours a day would not be impacted, Menna said.
The ordinance will face a public hearing at council's next meeting in May.