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Livingston gas station plan critics cite local law


LIVINGSTON–The Livingston Planning Board held a second public hearing April 3, 2019 to address the Xtra-Mart gas station/convenience store. Global Partners, the company that owns the Xtra Mart chain, has submitted an application for a gas station and café on the northeast corner of the intersection of US Route 9 and State Routes 9H, 23 and 82.

The proposed station would be a 4,800-square-foot structure including 16 gasoline-dispensing stations with a 4,000 square foot canopy, two diesel dispensing locations and a 1,000-square-foot canopy, two enter/exit curb cuts on Route 9 with 32 parking spaces and a diesel island truck queue.

Like the first public hearing, Planning Board Chairman Phil Schmidt opened the hearing and announced that Global Partners would not be present. He then recused himself from the proceeding. Planning Board member Robert Berlinger stepped in for Mr. Schmidt.

But unlike the March 6, 2019 public hearing where approximately 17 audience members spoke, at last Wednesday’s hearing only a handful spoke: Elizabeth Nillen, Charlie Schneider and attorney Kenneth J. Dow, who represents Betsy and Al Scott.

Mr. Dow read from his latest letter to the Planning Board, in which he states, “The Town of Livingston has expressly enacted into law the requirement that if a gas station proposal in the C-1 district does not demonstrate and establish its conformity to a substantial set of requirements set out in the Zoning Code, it must denied outright.” The question, according to Mr. Dow, is: Why did the Town Board not classify “gas station” as a permitted use in the C-1 (commercial) district? The town law on denial would apply to this project if all requirements are not met, he said.

The Global Partners engineer initially expressed interest in razing the existing Xtra-Mart gas station at the southwest corner of the intersection store and canopies, and in removing the fuel storage tanks there. Demolition was to follow the construction of the new gas station. But at the January 9, 2019 Planning Board meeting the plan changed to leaving the old building and removing only the tanks. And in a letter to the Planning Board dated January 25, 2019, the company made no mention of plans for the old site.

Livingston resident Elizabeth Nillen said her research on Global Partners found that the company has one gas station/café in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which has been operating for several months and is the company’s only venture of this size. She also said that Global Partners has plans to open other locations, all of them 4,000 square feet. That’s the same size as the one planned for Livingston, but she said the population of Plymouth is around 55,000 whereas Livingston’s population is about 3,600. “I feel this is a good project, just not for Livingston,” said Ms. Nillen.

Charlie Schneider, on the other hand, wants to see the project approved. In his opinion, “Bells Pond is not just for us. You got 30 Airb&b’s, 3 or 4 wedding venues that bring everyone up here, but you don’t want to give them anything–all you want is to take their money.” Several members of the audience clapped in support.

Unlike the earlier public hearing, the atmosphere at last week’s hearing was tense.

Reached by phone after the meeting, Livingston resident and activist Pam Kline said of the process, “It does not matter whether a person likes or dislikes the gas station project. It only matters that the project falls within the guidelines of the Livingston’s zoning laws and master plan. Clearly this project does not. Nor does the detrimental impact it will have on the surrounding water aquifer and wetlands upon which it will sit be in the best interest of Livingston.”

Ms. Kline, who was out of town and had watched the hearing on the internet, said the video that showed members of the Planning Board applauding a speaker in favor of the project was “both appalling and unethical. Those persons not able to carry out their responsibilities in an unbiased manner should either step down or be removed.”

Before closing the public hearing Mr. Berlinger assured the audience that Global Partners would be present at the next Planning Board meeting scheduled for May 1.

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