Though Philip San Filippo, the attorney for Dina Enterprises, was able to give his closing remarks Monday night, the culmination of a months-long application set before the Red Bank Planning Board to convert a convenience store on Front Street into a 7-Eleven, it might not have mattered much.
With a recently instituted quality of life ordinance prohibiting new businesses from operating 24-hours a day within 100 feet of a residential neighborhood, the board, technically, had no other choice but to deny the application on the grounds that it did not fall within the restrictions of borough law.
Dina Enterprises had been looking for site plan approval to construct an expansion to house a refrigerator, include illuminated signs, and make general improvements to facilitate the E. Front Street Welsh Farms conversion into a 7-Eleven. What Dina wasn't looking for, however, was the right to operate 24 hours a day. San Filippo argued that a previous site plan, approved by borough council in the 1970's, placed no restriction on hours of operation for the site. Ultimately, it didn't matter.
With the borough's - new - anti-noise ordinance, the site plan could not be approved, at least not without the hours of operation being augmented to fall within the ordinance and its 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. hours of operation restriction.
"(San Filippo) basically tried to argue the point that the 7-Eleven needed to be a 24-hour operation and that the town couldn't prevent (Dina Enterprises) from operating 24 hours a day by ordinance or anything," Councilman and Planning Board Member Ed Zipprich said.
The Planning Board did not share the same opinion.
Though San Filippo didn't think so, the hours of operation were the crux of the who worried that the 7-Eleven would create more traffic, noise and light pollution, and increased criminal activity. The Welsh Farms on the site lists its hours of operation from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., though area residents say it often closes even earlier that its posted hours.
Questions about why Red Bank needed another 7-Eleven less than a mile from one currently operating on W. Front Street were also raised.
The Red Bank Council introduced its late in April. The council and Mayor Pat Menna said the ordinance was arrived at after police reports showed that after-hour businesses and 24-hour businesses regularly attracted more complaints and police calls than those businesses operating with regular hours. The introduction of the ordinance, which coincided with discussion over the proposed 7-Eleven's hours of operation, was merely a coincidence, they said.
It's unclear what Dina Enterprise will do with its plan. The board has indicated in the past that it would be willing to consider the application if it included truncated hours of operation, though San Filippo said previously his client was not interested in making such a change.