Page 4 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • December 23, 2009 Mahwah Parent objectors mull appeal of Pilot approval by Frank J. McMahon Members of Parents for Safety, LLC, a group that includes several parents of children who attend the Mahwah public schools on Ridge Road, are considering two options by which they might appeal the use variance the Mahwah Zoning Board recently granted to the Pilot Corporation. The variance allows Pilot to renovate, upgrade, and expand its site on the southbound side of Route 17 just south of the West Ramapo Avenue overpass. Pilot plans to renovate the site and to eliminate 90 percent of the existing truck spaces while installing a six-station diesel fuel area for trucks and a 12-station fueling area for cars. Plans also call for the construction of a new 4,282 square foot convenience store. One of the options the parents’ group is considering involves an appeal to the township council. The council’s ordinance restricting service stations from within 500 feet of a school property was a central point in the debate at the zoning board’s Pilot hearing, which lasted over 17 months. That debate involved testimony from several experts who represented Pilot, the owner of the Valero service station located north of the Pilot site who opposed the plan, and the parents’ group. The other option is to appeal the board’s approval directly to Superior Court. Ira Weiner, the attorney representing the three parents who formed the non-profit parents’ group, has told Villadom TIMES that his clients are considering an appeal, but no decision has yet been made on if, or how, they would do so. “They’re discussing that,” Weiner said recently, referring to an appeal to the council. “No decision has been made, but that (possibility) is certainly being discussed at this time. It’s under serious discussion, but they haven’t yet made a final decision.” He said an appeal to Superior Court is also being considered. Weiner explained that, before an appeal can be filed, the zoning board must review and pass a resolution that memorializes the board’s decision. That resolution is expected in January. The objectors then have 10 days after that resolution approval is published to appeal it to the township council and 45 days to appeal to Superior Court. After the board approved the Pilot plan in late November, Weiner voiced his opinion that the board had made a mistake because he believes the Pilot design creates a safety hazard. He claimed the board applied the wrong standard in reaching its decision. The attorney explained that he believes the plan should have been considered as a prohibited use and not a conditional use. Early in the public hearing, the board determined that the Pilot application should be considered a service station, which is a permitted conditional use in the B40 highway business zone in which the Pilot site is located. The board also determined that the variance required should be a D3 conditional use variance. The township’s zoning ordinance specifies that certain conditions must be met before such a use variance can be granted, and the Pilot plan did not meet several of those conditions. The plan did not meet the condition that a service station is not permitted within 500 feet from a school, playground, church, library, or institutional property, and the plan required two variances, one for the eight foot height of a fence along Ridge Road and the other for the reduced setback of the Pilot pylon sign along Route 17. Both of those variances were requested by the board. The D3 conditional use variance was established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in a 1994 case known as Coventry Square v. Westwood Zoning Board of Adjustment. Under the standard set by that court decision, the board determined that the Pilot site is still an appropriate use, notwithstanding the fact that it is within 500 feet of a school property, and that the proposed use does not create a substantial detriment to the public good. The board members agreed that the plan should be considered for a D3 conditional use variance because the township council did not adopt a new ordinance strictly prohibiting service stations, but rather amended certain sections of the existing conditional use ordinance to require that they cannot be within 500 feet of a school property. The board also generally agreed that the use would remain suitable for the site because there is already an existing service station on the property. In addition, they did not think the Pilot site would draw any more automobile traffic than is already on Route 17, and they took note of the fact that, under the Pilot plan, the Ridge Road access and all the trucker amenities would be eliminated from the site. The Church of the Immaculate Conception will host Not by Bread Alone: A Spiritual Book Discussion Group on Sunday, Jan. 10 at 5 p.m. at Panera Bread, 1300 State Route 17 in Ramsey. This month’s selection is Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal: A Story of Homecoming.” The spiritual writer meditates on the parable of the prodigal son’s return -- a powerful drama of fatherhood, filial Nouwen novel to be discussed duty, rivalry, and anger between brothers -- and its enduring lessons for Christianity. Participants are asked to read the book before attending the meeting. Copies are available from the local library system and at local bookstores. 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