Zoning Board Rejects ‘Simply Yoga’ Application For Residential Area

Simply Yoga meeting2

Zoning Board member Robert Shepherd makes a point during the April 16 hearing on an application for a yoga studio in Kingston.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment on April 16 denied an application by an owner of a Kingston yoga studio to move her business from the Kingston Mall to a residential area.

Following a four-hour hearing – the last of four on the matter since January – board members voted 5-2 to deny the application of Nagisa Manabe of Bay Head, co-owner of Simply Yoga, who wanted to turn a cottage at 24 Sycamore Place into a yoga studio.

Manabe also wanted to build a home on the L-shaped property, in which she and her husband would live.

But area residents turned out in force to all of the meetings to show their opposition to the plan, despite the many concessions Manabe said she was wiling to make.

Those concessions included limiting the number of students in each class, providing at least a half hour between the end of one class and the start of another, and re-arranging the site’s proposed parking lot.

Manabe said she needed to move her studio from the Kingston Mall on Route 27 because neighboring businesses were becoming too disruptive.

But Manabe’s potential neighbors said they did not want their neighborhood to be disrupted by a business moving in.

One by one, Kingston residents paraded to the podium to voice their opposition to the plan. There were some studio supporters there as well, but they were greatly outnumbered.

Anne Zeman, chairwoman of the Kingston Village Advisory Committee, told board members that her organization – comprised of residents from Franklin and South Brunswick – opposed the plan for a number of reasons.

One of them, she said, is that Simply Yoga leaving the mall would have a detrimental effect.

“Kingston has a broad interest in the success of business zones and in particular the Kingston Mall,” she said. “Simply Yoga helps make the Kingston Mall more viable and valuable to the community.”

“Simply Yoga has a great business plan, which makes it a very poor use” for the location, she said.

Liz Chase of Laurel Avenue said she and her neighbors “value our weekend and evening tranquility in a village setting,” and inserting a business there would destroy that.

Catherine Pavelec, also a member of the KVAC, said the business’s customers could pose a threat to children living in the area.

Referencing a traffic engineer’s testimony that the studio would generate about 32 auto trips during class transition times, Pavelec said that “32 cars may not be significant to a traffic engineer, but it is significant” to children playing in the neighborhood.

“I think we have shown the board that the residents of our neighborhood are united in our opposition” to the application, she said.

In the end. most board members were not swayed by the testimony provided by Manabe’s experts.

“I have no qualms that the applicant is more than honest, and what she says she will do, she will do,” board member Gary Rosenthal said. “I still believe there’s room for this applicant’s outfit, but not in this area.”

“This property had to be ‘uniquely qualified’ to meet this use,” board member Robert Shepherd said. “There’s not a situation where this is uniquely qualified.”

“No matter how quiet you are, it’s going to change what’s going on in Kingston,” he said.

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