Residents fight for neighborhood
Residents, businesses oppose new bar application
"I understand there are plans for change, but plans for change and actual change are two very different things."
Pamela Sorensen, a longtime resident of Cottage Cove
WEST MILFORD — Residents from Cottage Cove, a small neighborhood in Hewitt situated on Greenwood Lake, are fighting for the safety of their neighborhood.
They came to the township council meeting last week to fight against the transfer of a liquor license for a property that has long been vacant and for sale. The new owner wants to open a restaurant that is accessible to boaters on the lake and sells alcohol. Not a good combination, according to the residents who say it will put the safety of their children at risk as well as the integrity of their neighborhood.
Local Law 63.7
No plenary retail consumption license, except renewals for the same premises and transfers of license from person to person within the same premises, shall be granted or transfer made to other premises within a distance of 2,500 feet from any other premises then covered by a plenary retail consumption license, provided that the Township Council may, in its discretion, grant a transfer, notwithstanding that the premises to which the license is so transferred is within 2,500 feet of an existing plenary retail consumption licensed premises, under the following conditions:
(1) To an existing license to the same licensee to other premises within 1,500 feet of the premises from which the transfer is made; or
(2) Of an existing license to a premises the primary use on which is for recreational purposes (such as bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, ice skating rinks, golf courses, snow skiing areas and other similar recreational purposes) for which the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages is a secondary accessory and adjunct use, provided that such new location is:
(a) Not less than 1,000 feet from any other premises then covered by a plenary retail consumption license and not utilized for any recreational purpose; and
(b) Not less than 2,500 feet from any other premises then covered by a plenary retail consumption license on which the primary use is for recreational purposes.
To transfer a “pocket license,” which is tied to the owner rather than a location, the town council would have to make an exception. The town code does not allow for two venues holding liquor licenses to be within 2,500 feet of each other. This location, at 1934 Greenwood Lake Turnpike, is within 2,500 feet of three other liquor license holders.
Township attorney Fred Semrau said for years he has gotten calls from neighbors because of this property. Even without a business there, the dock has caused great concern for the residents. The dock is adjacent to the residential area. They have complained that it has been used all hours of the day and night, causing disruptions to their lives.
Elena Dykstra owns the Greenwood Lake Marina. She lives on Kitchell Lake Drive in West Milford and recently bought the property, which, for years, was known as The Lakeview. Angelo Juliano is the owner of the license. Dykstra wants Juliano to operate a family-friendly restaurant at the site, something she said is missing from the lake.
"People ask me what's to do on the lake," said Dykstra. "Not much. I have to send them to New York. Most of my customers are families and ask where can I stop and get a burger. I'm not looking to have a place that sells liquor to go all night. I want people to have a place to go. I just want it to be a really nice place."
She said she has no intention of renting the nine slips on the dock that goes with the property. Instead, they would reconfigure them so there are six that go straight in for people who want to stop and eat.
Juliano said they would close the docks at a certain time, possibly when the kitchen closes, so boats are not coming in and out all night.
Pamela Sorensen is a fourth generation Cottage Cove resident. She lives behind the property and her concerns are many: from their loss of privacy to a bar/restaurant septic being so close to the lake to her most important concern - the safety of her family. Sorensen said she worries there is no fence between the property and her yard that sits a few stories below. Even though the bar has been closed, the dock has still be rented out and the area became “an all-out party zone.”
The traffic on Cottage Cove, a small, private road with seven properties according to the township tax department, will increase, too, with people dropping others off at the bar.
She fears boats would come into the restaurant, people would have a few drinks, and then pull back out across the neighborhood swim lanes.
"I understand there are plans for change, but plans for change and actual change are two very different things," Sorensen said.
Robert Booras has lived in the Cottage Cove area for over 50 years. He also owned a bar for many years in Brooklyn.
“You don't need a liquor license there,” he said.
The septic is over 30 years old and has problems, he said. There are years he couldn’t let his kids swim in the lake because of the septic issues.
Jim Aiello is the owner of James Anthony Deli and Restaurant on Greenwood Lake Turnpike. He and his attorney, Anthony Fiorello, said there was no need to make an exception for this license.
“I thought I was at a Planning Board meeting,” said Fiorello. “This location could be used as a restaurant today. If this is a family place, you don't have to have alcoholic beverages. It could be a deli and serve sandwiches.”
Aiello has been in business for 25 years. There are other liquor licenses around his business that have been grandfathered. Giving this location a license, he said, isn't right.
“This location was for sale a long time,” he noted. “It was bought for a fraction of the cost because they can't have a liquor license.”
The bar business is slumping, he said. because smoking isn't allowed and the drunk driving laws are harsher.
Tony Grippo owns Jesse's Country Kitchen. His business burned to the ground last year but he didn't try to move his license because the law says it can't be within 2,500 feet.
“They’re taking from someone who follows the rules,” said Grippo. “It's just not fair. Everybody has to follow the rules.”
Representatives from Cottage Cove and the applicant are going to meet and see if they can work out some issues. They will also work with the Health Department to rectify the septic issue. The application will be discussed by the council again.
What are your thoughts? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com to discuss it.
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