October 14, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 5 Mahwah Appellate court reverses original Pilot denial by Frank J. McMahon A panel of judges in the Appellate Division of Superior Court has reversed the Mahwah Zoning Board’s denial of Pilot’s first application in January 2007. The court has remanded the case to the board for further proceedings. The board’s denial was upheld in Superior Court. However, in their appeal, Pilot argued that the zoning board should not have applied the more stringent standards of a use variance instead of the less stringent standards for an expansion of an existing non-conforming use, and that the Superior Court judge in that case erred by permitting a report prepared by a board member who visited one of Pilot’s sites in another state. While the appellate court panel reached no conclusion on the merits of Pilot’s application, to which the panel of judges stated the board is accorded “substantial deference,” it did find that the zoning board never addressed Pilot’s application in the context of an existing nonconforming use, and that “necessary administrative finding” was critical for the court to adequately review and pass on the merits of Pilot’s appeal. The panel also found that the visit one of the board members made to a Pilot site in another state and the report that was given to the board based on that visit did not prejudice Pilot’s procedural rights before the board, although it should be avoided in future proceedings. The zoning board has, however, decided not to proceed on the reconsideration of Pilot’s first application before it, as directed by the Appellate Division, until the latest application is decided by the board. That decision, which is expected at the board’s Nov. 4 meeting, will determine if the Pilot Corporation can proceed to completely renovate its current 4.5-acre truck stop site on the south side of Route 17 into a truck and automobile fueling service station. The board has been conducting an ongoing public hearing on this application since August 2008. Last week, the board expected to hear public comments on the plan; summations by the attorneys for Pilot and for Paks Fast Service, Inc., the owners of the Valero service station located north of the Pilot site; and Parents for Safety LLC, a group of parents of school children who attend the schools located on Ridge Road, which is adjacent to the rear of the Pilot site. The board must decide whether to grant Pilot a use variance to permit the renovation of the site to a separated gasoline and diesel fuel service station for motor vehicles and trucks. The change would eliminate many trucker amenities and truck parking spaces and would close the Ridge Road access to the site, but the facility would be within 500 feet of the schools, in violation of a township ordinance. If the board opts to deny the application, the site would be left as it is for the remainder of Pilot’s long-term lease, which is believed to be 30 years. Paks Fast Service Inc., whose Valero service station would be in competition with Pilot for truck and automobile fueling if the plan is approved, opposes the plan and claims it would create more traffic on Route 17 and a dangerous condition of trucks and cars crisscrossing to enter and exit the Pilot site. The Parents for Safety group claims the plan represents an expansion of the Pilot site and would create potential health and safety hazards for the children who attend the schools on Ridge Road. They maintain that trucks carry hazardous materials, which can lead to fires, explosions, and spills that could cause massive evacuations, road damage, and property damage. The parents group also claims that Pilot plans to spend $4.5 million on the renovation and the residents do not believe Pilot would spend this much money if they did not expect to get a good return on their investment, which can only be achieved by a significant increase in traffic volume. Pilot claims an approval would allow them to clean up the site and make it safer for the school children by closing the Ridge Road access and fencing and landscaping that area so no pedestrians could enter the site to visit the convenience store, which is now easily accessible from Ridge Road. Pilot asserts that trucks are already on the site and on Route 17, and the applicant’s traffic engineer predicts a 25 to 50 percent decrease in trucks coming to the site because the Ridge Road access would be closed. Pilot also disputes Parents for Safety’s claim about the money Pilot intends to spend on the renovation. The applicant maintains that Pilot wants to build a site that can sell diesel fuel, cater to the automobile driving public, and be economically viable. Last May, the Mahwah Board of Education passed a resolution that “strongly encourages” the closing of vehicular and pedestrian access to the Pilot truck stop from Ridge Road. But the resolution recognized that additional concerns have been raised regarding the proposed expansion of the Pilot site which could be detrimental to the health and welfare of the students and staff of the Mahwah public schools, and the board expressed its trust that the board of adjustment would take those concerns under consideration when making a decision on Pilot’s application for expansion. ������������������ ��������������������������������������������� ��������������������������������������������� ��������������������������������������������� ��������������������������������� ������������������������������������������������������������ ���������������������������������������������������������������� �������������������������������������������������������������� �������������������� ����������������������������������������������������������� ������������������������������������� Infants, Toddler, Preschool and Kindergarten, Grades 1-6, Ages 6 weeks to 12 years A Truly Unique Montessori School • Unique Phonics Reading Program • Computers • Music • Foreign Language • 3 or 5 Half Days • Full Days 7am - 6pm • Fastrackids • Character Education • Parenting Seminars • Dance Academy CORE of the APPLE Summer Camp ���������������������������� �������������������������� ������������������������ ��������������������� ������������� ������������������� ������������ ��������������� • Daily Swimmming Lessons, Heated Pool designed for safety of young children • Sports/Organized Games • Arts & Crafts • Field Trips • Music/Dance • In House Events Call, visit and • Nature & Science compare the advantages gained for • Computers • Cooking your child... www.applemontessorischools.com 192 Ramapo Valley Rd. 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