The site of the former Chevrolet dealership on Kinderkamack Road will likely never be home to another car dealer, according to Norman Dorf, the property's owner.
The site is currently being examined by the Westwood Zoning Board as a possible location for a new five-unit strip mall which would be anchored by a 7-Eleven. The applicant has requested a variance to allow the convenience store use at the site as part of the plan because they are not permitted in that "limited business" zone.
Dorf's family ran the dealership from 2001 to 2006, when it closed. The site was not ideal even then because most large car dealerships had moved to highways, he said. The only other business that looked at the site since then was Subaru, which decided against using it, Dorf said.
"We couldn't get it to be profitable," Dorf said.
The developer, Nicholas Aynilian, plans to demolish the existing 11,500-square-foot showroom and replace it with a new 8,051-square-foot strip mall. The application is similar to one previously heard by the board, but the request for the convenience store use to be allowed replaces a request for "general retail" to be allowed at the site in the first application. The original application was denied by the board last spring.
Planner Mia Petrou said the plan would be an improvement from the current "eyesore" of a vacant building and that the use would not be competing with businesses in Westwood's Central Business District.
Some board members still expressed concern about the convenience store use during their meeting Monday. Board Vice Chairman Ray Arroyo noted that the council did not add the convenience store use to the district after a recent re-examination of the borough's Master Plan and board member Chris Owens said the limited uses that are allowed would all close earlier at night than a convenience store.
Aynillian said 7-Eleven would prefer to be open 24 hours per day, but they would abide by whatever the borough requires.
Board Chairman William Martin said the site may be the only in Westwood that would work for a convenience store. The use is not permitted in any zone in the borough.
"I would agree that this location is possibly the only suitable location for this type of retail that is being proposed," Martin said.
A hair salon is also planned for the site. That use is permitted by borough zoning ordinance. Other tenants would either be conforming uses or would have to come to the board themselves for variances.
The hearing is scheduled to continue in January, when the applicant will present testimony from a traffic expert. Then the public will have an opportunity to comment on the plan and the board will vote.
Aynilian also has plans for a similar strip mall at the former dealership's empty parking lot across the street.