Borough car repair business may move


By Aleen Crispino, Special Writer
   Hopewell Borough Planning Board heard an informal presentation by the operator of Hopewell Sunoco on Aug. 1, exploring a plan to move his car repair business from 40 E. Broad St. to a residential property at 83 E. Broad St.
   Tamara L. Lee, a Hopewell Township municipal planner and landscape architect, assisted Jim Satnowski, operator of Hopewell Sunoco, and his brother, Steve Satnowski, vice president and shop steward, in outlining their plans for the board.
   ”They’re not going to change the house,” said Ms. Lee of the property, which is on the south side of East Broad Street between Maple Avenue and Elm Street. The Satnowskis have not made an offer on the house, said Steve Satnowski. It is listed for sale online by the Wood Real Estate Group/Keller Williams Real Estate in West Windsor.
   The brothers would like to build a “barn-style,” four-bay garage in back of the house, in which their father, who assists them with the business, would reside. The living and dining rooms would be converted into a waiting room and office, said Ms. Lee.
   She acknowledged that the brothers would need setback variances and a use variance from the Planning Board to construct a garage and operate a car repair business on the site. Although the property lies in a “B-R,” or business zone, it is currently in residential use.
   ”We want to get your feedback on this,” said Ms. Lee. “Is this something the guys should pursue?”
   ”It’s in a part of the borough where we’d like more development,” said Planning Board Vice Chairman Paul Buda. “Obviously, there’ll be an impervious coverage variance.”
   ”There are a number of standards on conditional use,” said Borough Planner Carl Lindbloom. “It would be a conditional use variance.”
   ”What makes it a conditional use?” asked Planning Board member Jackie Perri.
   ”Because it’s a motor vehicle service in a B-R zone,” said Mr. Lindbloom.
   Ms. Lee was asked what would become of the Sunoco service station. “Currently the boys lease it, so we presume Sunoco will lease it to someone else,” she said. The brothers have been trying unsuccessfully to buy the property from Sunoco for 10 years, said Steve Satnowski.
   More than 16 cars were parked on the Sunoco lot at the time of the Aug. 1 meeting, said Mr. Satnowski. He needs to repair more cars to afford the rent paid to Sunoco, said Mr. Satnowski, but plans to reduce both his working hours and the number of cars on the new property, he added.
   ”I can usually fix between four and six cars a day, depending on what I have,” said Mr. Satnowski, adding that a few customers request to keep their cars on the lot over the weekend until they can pick them up.
   ”I think it’s a good idea,” said Planning Board member Brad Lyon. “I really would like to keep them in town.”
   ”The neighbors are going to be a little more problematic than we are, and they should be heard – and they will be, I guess,” said Planning Board member Joseph Zito.
   If the brothers were to go ahead and purchase the property and apply for a variance, municipal land use law requires the borough to notify neighbors within 200 feet of the property. The neighbors would then have the opportunity to comment at a Planning Board meeting, said Borough Administrator/Clerk Michele Hovan Monday.
   Although he would prefer to make use of the house as a waiting room, which would allow customers to drop their cars off at the door and not have to enter the rear of the property, Mr. Satnowski would consider an alternative plan to demolish the house and construct a garage 30-feet-wide by 50-feet long, which would allow for longer setbacks from adjoining properties, he said. There are houses to the left and rear of 83 E. Broad St., and Castoro & Co. lies to the right at 89 E. Broad St.
   ”Why don’t you have Tamara come up with three or four alternatives?” asked Mr. Lindbloom, asking Ms. Lee to “show on the plan the location of the houses to the side and to the rear.”
   IN OTHER BUSINESS, the board adopted a resolution memorializing its decision in July to approve, with conditions, a site plan and variances for the demolition of a vacant one-story building behind Failte Coffeehouse at 9 E. Broad St. and the construction of the proposed Bell and Whistle Café.
   The board also granted a historic certificate of appropriateness to the owners of a house at 9 W. Prospect St., allowing them to convert a garage on the property into an artist’s studio.
   Also, Planning Board Chairman Bob Donaldson raised the issue of the opening of the Peasant Grill at 21 E. Broad St., formerly the site of a bait and tackle shop. He expressed concern that the business owner did not apply for a change of use variance and submit a site plan for review by the Planning Board. He said the restaurant has outdoor seating, which would constitute a change of use.
   The borough ordinance says that a site plan review or waiver is needed for any new structure or use, unless the zoning officer determines it is permitted by the zone, said Borough Engineer Dennis W. O’Neal.
   In addition, the zoning officer determines whether there are other issues that need to be considered by the Planning Board, such as drainage, parking, lighting and noise, said Planning Board Attorney Christopher DeGrezia.
   Clark Reed, owner of the property on which the Peasant Grill is located, said he and his attorney had spoken with Zoning Officer Harry Agin regarding what constitutes a permitted use in the B-R zone. Mr. Reed, who is also a borough Economic Development Commission member, said the group has discussed clarifying the process of applying for a site plan review or variance and posting information online “so that everyone gets the same shake.”
   ”I think the Economic Development Commission and we have the same concerns,” said Ms. Lyon.
   Mr. Donaldson said he would discuss the issue with Mr. Agin.