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Zoning Board Nixes Plan To Park School Buses In JFK Plaza

The Zoning Board on November 4 rejected an application that would allow these buses to continue to park in the rear parking lot of JFK Plaza on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

A plan to park 15 school buses in a rear parking lot at JFK Plaza on John F. Kennedy Boulevard was rejected by the Zoning Board of adjustment at its November 4 meeting.

The plan submitted by Saharose Inc. required a use variance, which needed affirmative votes of five of the seven Board members. Three members – Adam Rich, Robert Shepherd and chairman Robert Thomas – voted “no.”

The Use Variance was required because bus parking is not permitted in the General Business zone, in which the shopping center sits. Regardless, the buses have been parked there for months.

Complicating the application was the inability by the applicant’s witnesses or property owner David Rubin to identify the owner of another bus company, Sunset Transportation, that parks its buses in that lot.

Rubin and Peter Lanfrit, Saharose’s attorney, said the other bus company did not have permission to park there.

The plan was to allow Saharose to park up to 15 buses – holding between 16 and 24 passengers – in specially marked parking spaces in the shopping center’s rear parking lot.

The buses would leave the property by driving around the rear of the shopping center so as not to interfere with whatever traffic is in the main parking lot.

Signs would also have been erected, indicating that the parking was only for Saharose buses.

There would have been a prohibition on any repair work or fueling being done on the buses while parked in the lot.

Thomas first brought up Sunset Transportation while the Board was hearing testimony from Saharose’s traffic engineer Elizabeth Dolan.

“Who is Sunset Bus Company?” Thomas asked. “We’re hearing an application for Saharose, and it’s for 15 buses. There’s another company using that lot.”

“There have been times when some other buses have parked there, not with the consent of my clients,” Lanfrit said. “My client has buses parked there based on a lease he has with the owner. If they are there, they are there not with the permission of anyone I know of.”

“So what’s your suggestion?” Thomas asked. “At least Saharose, if its approved, there’s going to be some order.”

“If the zoning officer is aware of someone who is violating the ordinance, they should issue a violation,” Lanfrit said. “We’re not asking permission for Sunset. If they’re violating the township ordinance, the township can issue them violation notices and/or summonses.”

Thomas asked the same question about the other bus company of Rubin, one of the center’s owners.

“I have no idea,” Rubin said. “Saharose is the only one who has any right to park there. We have had many times people parking vehicles there, construction companies, and I constantly have to call the police and have them contact the owners.”

“I don’t go out there every day and look to see who is Sunset and who is Saharose,” he said.

Rubin also told the Board that the buses parking there have led to a decrease in the amount of illegal dumping that used to occur on open land he owns between the rear parking lot and Easton Avenue.

“There is a large piece of land that goes all the way out to Easton Avenue and people take advantage and dump blacktop and housing materials,” he said. “We have not had that problem since these buses have been parked there.”

“I don’t buy the excuse that you didn’t know that Sunset is parking there, and they’re not related to the people you’re renting to,” Thomas told Rubin. “You don’t give me a lot of confidence that you’ll be able to help this applicant” meet the requirements of any approval.

“I’m not sure who they are,” Rubin repeated. “I don’t know if they’re someone Saharose is working with.”

“You can’t just tow someone,” Rubin said. “Enforcing trespassing in these type of parking lots is almost impossible anymore. We have people who leave cars there … the process you have to get through to get people towed is a nightmare.”

When it came time to vote, Shepherd was the only dissenter to state his reasons.

“Generally speaking, it’s a good idea, but it feels like there’s going to be a situation where nobody’s going to claim responsibility when things go south,” he said. “It’s just not something that feels like its sufficiently buttoned up. I just don’t think it’s going to go well.”

“I think the net use of this particular situation with this particular owner and this particular applicant and the renegade buses that seem to be coming on, and the lack of enforcement, they lead me to say no to this application,” he said.

“I can’t state it any better than he did, for the same reasons,” Thomas said.

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