CHATHAM–Three different applicants came before the Village Planning Board to ask for change of use approval on buildings at the former Blue Seal property on Hudson Avenue. The board did not approve the applications at the July 18 meeting, but asked that the owner of the property, not the tenants, submit an application for the change of use.
Aaron Gaylord was at the meeting last week to apply to use one of the buildings on the site as storage for his construction equipment. Caleb White from New Leaf Tree Service wants to rent a different space there for his equipment and trucks; Justin Madsen of Marveled Designs wants to use yet another of the buildings on the property as a display area for his concrete countertops.
The property is owned by Rail Yard LLC, a company created by local businessman Kurt Kneller. According to Mr. Kneller in a phone interview this week, the LLC is the deed holder of the property in partnership with Zvi Cohen. Mr. Cohen owns the Our Daily Bread bakeries and cafes.
The property has three buildings and two years ago the Planning Board approved an application from Mr. Cohen to change the use of the space from retail, which it was when Blue Seal ran its business there, to a bakery. Mr. Cohen did not plan to sell bread from the site. The board approved the change of use in November 2014.
Board member Steve Piazza said that when the Planning Board approved Mr. Cohen’s change of use application the board was under the impression that he owned the property. According to Mr. Kneller, Mr. Cohen was in contract to purchase the property in 2014.
Village Attorney Ken Dow pointed out that Mr. Cohen was approved because he came to the board with an application to use one parcel for one activity. With the three applications for three different uses, Mr. Dow said that owner of the property should come before the board to request a change-of-use permit.
Mr. Piazza said he was confused about having three different applications for different uses on the same parcel, which will not just be used as a showroom and for equipment storage but also for Mr. Cohen’s bakery. “It’s becoming an industrial park,” he said.
Board member Harry Pisila told the applicants, “We’d like to see the site used.” But he stressed that the owner needed to come to the board with a site plan for the space, including a plan for parking spaces. “The owner should do a comprehensive plan for the parcel,” Mr. Pisila said.
Mr. Dow said that this was all one parcel that is subject to zoning rules and that applying for a change of use cannot be done in three different applications. He said at least the board needs to see a plan for “what’s going where” on the parcel.
Mr. Gaylord was concerned about waiting another month to get approval to move into to the space. He said the board should take into consideration “all the time and money lost” by the applicants in the process. Mr. White and Mr. Gaylord said that they both were told to send letters to neighbors that would be affected by the change but they had different lists and spent different amounts sending them. No neighbors attended the meeting.
Mr. Madsen said that the building inspector should have known this would have been an issue before telling the businesses to submit applications. Mr. White agreed, telling the board, “You’re telling us we need something” but he added that the applicants had not been told what was needed or which official they should contact.
Mr. Dow pointed out that this case is not a normal situation for the board. He said he would talk to Mr. Kneller and the building inspector, and the board would continue the discussion at the next meeting in August.
Mr. Kneller said on Tuesday, July 26 that “to date, no one from the village has reached out to me.” He said he heard from his tenants about the issue and had left a phone message for Mr. Dow but they have not yet spoken. He plans to attend the next Planning Board meeting.
He said he’d hoped that someone could have given him and his tenants better information before they went the board. “It is truly slowing down the progress in the Village of Chatham,” he said of the process.
The Planning Board meets the third Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m. in the Tracy Memorial on Main Street. The next meeting will be Thursday, August 25.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email