A Starbucks for Clifton? Maybe.


photo captured from Clifton Cable TV image

On Thursday, July 27, 2023, the Clifton Planning Board met to hear two new applications that had drastically different requests for the board. According to the Clifton City website, the Planning Board aims 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.”

As is common in Clifton’s government, these meetings are extensive, often lasting several hours and extending across separate meetings to ensure issues are addressed thoroughly and appropriately to protect Clifton residents from unnecessary burdens such as excessive traffic, noisiness, poor aesthetics, and more.

Although two new hearings were held during the meeting, it was the second applicant that dominated the majority of the meeting’s three-hour run time. The initial hearing, which was settled in under ten minutes, was in regard to shifting a property line over two feet in order to ensure a driveway separating two houses, which are both owned by the applicant, would not cause any conflict or confusion when the applicant sold the other house to a new tenant. The question included whether or not the new owner, who is expected to park on the street, would have claim to the two feet of driveway which currently overlap with that second property. The variances that were required to accept the applicant's plea were quickly approved and the board proceeded.

However, the next applicant was not as speedy due to the weight of requests and issues that surrounded the planning of their project. Apart from a larger campus project involving the company, ON3, PB Nutcliff Master LLC was seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct a 2814-square-foot cafe-restaurant, with the initial tenant proposed to be a Starbucks. The property is a portion of the former Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. site which was developed by the ON3 company, a part of the company’s larger project to create a campus with buildings occupied by medical institutions such as Seton Hall’s Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, Quest Diagnostics, and other medical offices.

The Starbucks would be just off Route 3, with the customer having to turn onto Metropolitan Boulevard and make two more turns to reach the entrance on its own private road. This private road would serve to help drivers de-accelerate from the highway and would hinder the build-up of traffic. Represented by attorney Meryl Gonchar, the applicant sought to have the board approve the final site plans, including approving certain layouts, landscaping, providing sufficient proof of research, parking, and more. Due to unforeseen circumstances involving missing road approvals for certain sections of roads, they've already had approval in the past, and PB Nutcliff Master LLC sought to gain additional approval as an “excess of caution” according to Gonchar, saying that they wish for “redundant site plan approval” for all of the roads.

Another point of contention was the way the establishment would impact traffic as multiple board members, particularly Commissioner Binaso, had difficulty understanding how a potential 120 customers during peak business hours, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. according to a traffic study done by the applicant traffic expert, Matthew Suckler, with a four-minute wait time per customer, would not cause a build-up. However, Suckler argued that ⅔ of Starbucks’ future customers would already be traveling in the direction of the coffee shop whether that be on the highway or going to and from the nearby medical establishments, with the cafe intended to be visited as a stop, not a destination. In addition, expert engineer James Mauer confirmed that there will be a two-lane drive-through to combat the traffic congestion along with over 50 parking spaces-which would include ADA-accessible parking and an outdoor seating area, as well.

Along with traffic concerns, many of the board members requested to see revised plans for landscaping and outside decor that would be incorporated into the site plans. All revisions and changes to PB Nutcliff Master LLC’s plans will be presented at the next meeting on August 24th at 7 p.m. in City Hall, with the fight for Starbucks continuing.

To read this meeting’s agenda you can visit here and watch the meeting here.

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