Planning Board Puts an End to Car Wash Debate
The Clifton Planning Board met on Thursday, April 27, 2023 to hear one continued and one new application. According to the city website, the Planning Board’s purpose is to “Exercise its powers in regard to the Master Plan, subdivision control, Capital improvements, site plan review and conditional use approval and application of developments.”
Morici Real Estate Management, LLC has been before this board twice already, seeking approval for a fully automated car wash at 833 Clifton Avenue. This property, at the corner of Clifton Avenue and Cloverdale Road, has been the subject of much debate due to its proximity to residential housing and the congested nature of that corner and of Cloverdale, in particular. Morici has a separate application before the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the same property. The proposal before that board is for a three-story apartment building and has been continued to the May 3rd meeting.
When Morici last stood before this Board, the issue of noise control took center stage and after much debate, the Board decided that the city’s engineer needed to do an independent study of the typical noise levels at that location. Neglia, the city’s engineering company, submitted their findings on April 24. They determined that the expected acoustical leakage from the car wash would exceed the average ambient noise decibel readings on Saturday mornings between 7:45-9 am. In order to meet the noise condition (of the conditional use zone), the report says, the applicant would either need to apply additional acoustical engineering controls or adjust the operating hours.
Brian Intindola, P.E., C.M.E from Neglia Engineering provided testimony regarding the acoustics study he conducted on the property, summarizing his methodology and findings. Glenn Peterson, Esq., the attorney representing Morici Real Estate Management, LLC, said that the applicant would agree to adjust the operating hours on the weekends to a start time of 9 am to bring the car wash into full compliance with the noise ordinance. Intindola did not take acoustic readings after 7 pm, however, which some speakers questioned since the car wash expects to operate until 10 pm.
One resident asked, “When can we sit in our yard and enjoy it without hearing the whine of the blowers?”
Several commissioners asked questions of Intindola and of the applicant, seeking reassurance regarding the impact the car wash would likely make on the neighborhood. City Manager Nick Villano told Peterson that he simply did not believe that their claims about how much noise would be generated were accurate. He expressed concerns about approving a project which would ultimately make life worse for those residents and lead to complaints.
Following all testimony and Peterson’s closing comments, Vice Chairman John Withers made a motion to approve, citing his satisfaction with the acoustical study and reminding the Board that noise levels were the only remaining hurdle for this applicant.
Ultimately, the motion to approve failed with six “no” votes and only three “yes” votes. When casting his vote against approval, Mayor Ray Grabowski said, “My concern is always the citizens.” A motion to deny the application passed, 6-3.
There was also one new application. Gary Fortuner, attorney for Briad Development, LLC addressed the board regarding the application for 345 Allwood Road - the renovation of the existing Stew Leonard’s, which is vacating. Architectural plans submitted to the city indicate no change to the footprint but the building would be reconfigured to become a multitenant space. The applicant requires a variance to allow for a larger sign with space for multiple tenants’ names. The proposed signage would exceed the allowed height for such a structure.
You can watch the meeting HERE.