The empty gas station at 63 Main St. may soon have permission to re-open.
After over nine hours of testimony at Planning Board meetings, the governing body requested Wednesday that the board attorney draft a resolution giving the owner of the site permission to operate it as a gas station again.
Rakkesh Kumar of HRS investments bought the former gas station back in 2004. In January of this year, Kumar's application to turn the site into a 7-Eleven was denied by the Planning Board.
However, in late December, Kumar applied to the Freehold Borough Code Enforcement Office for a permit to re-open a gas station. Code Enforcement Officer Henry “Hank” Stryker approved the application as a pre-existing nonconforming use. However, a Freehold Borough resident appealed Stryker’s decision.
According to the April 25 planning board meeting minutes, Lisa Friera appealed the permit because she felt Stryker didn’t have the authority to give approval. Friera said the zoning application should have gone before the Planning Board, which she believed had the jurisdictional authority to grant or deny the use.
At the April 25 and May 8 meetings, Friera presented evidence and called witnesses before the board in an attempt to prove that the owner of the site has left it abandoned and therefore not eligible for the approved permit.
The board voted 5-3 that Friera met her burden of proof on May 8.
On June 13, Kumar presented his case with the help of his attorney, Mark Williams of Mehr, LaFrance & Williams. The board decided in Kumar's favor that he should not need to go before the board for a use variance.
A straw poll of the planning board indicated that six members felt he did not abandon the gas station and Stryker ruled correctly, and three felt the site was abandoned.
Kevin Lewis, Bob Oakes, Garry Jackson, Adam Reich, Bill Barricelli voted in favor of Stryker's ruling. Danielle Sims, Councilman George Schnurr, Joy Goetz indicated their belief that the site had been abandoned.
The board authorized the Planning Board attorney to prepare a resolution supporting Stryker’s initial ruling.
At its next meeting, the board will officially vote on the resolution for Kumar to re-open the site as a gas station. Both sides are rested and there will be no more testimony.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 27.
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