"Just think carefully before you hastily change this distance requirement."
Steve Castronova, council candidate and bar owner
BY LINDA SMITH HANCHARICK
WEST MILFORD — The township council is considering changing a local law that requires 2,500 feet between liquor licenses in an attempt to accommodate a potential business owner at 99 Marshall Hill Road.
The property is now vacant but used to be Marshall Hill Materials.
The prospective owners, Michael Yazgi, who is the sole applicant on the license transfer, and his business partner Christopher Wan, want to open a restaurant and bar at the location, which would serve lunch and dinner.
However, with the township law requiring 2,500 feet between establishments serving alcohol, this falls short.
Councilman Tim Wagner said he wants to exempt these potential business owners from the ordinance. Councilman Lou Signorino agreed, wanting to exempt them and then amend the ordinance at a later time.
Township attorney Fred Semrau said it can’t be done that way since this is a permanent matter. An exemption would be done for something temporary, for example removing a parking restriction for a short period of time so a matter could be addressed.
“This is an ordinance on the books of the township,” said Semrau. “This is a permanent matter. This will carry on beyond this year so in order to make that change, you would need to effectuate that by amending the township code and do it in such a way that it can be consistently applied.”
Similar discussion in 2014Semrau reminded the council that this same conversation occurred in 2014 when Elena Dykstra, a local business owner, bought a property on Greenwood Lake Turnpike, near the Cottage Cove neighborhood. She wanted to open a restaurant serving alcohol accessible by the lake and land. Local residents opposed it but the bigger issue was the 2,500 feet distance between liquor licenses. This location was located less than 2,500 feet from three other establishments serving alcohol.
In an attempt to be business friendly, the council wanted to allow the new business. But other business owners and residents came out in force against it.
In the end, Dykstra withdrew her application, saying she didn’t want to cause problems to residents and other business owners and the council voted unanimously not to change the distance requirement. Instead, she opened Fox Island Creamery, an ice cream shop.
‘Think carefully’Steve Castronova, an owner of the Valley View Pub nearby and a current council candidate, said the council was putting the cart before the horse. He acknowledged the township could use another restaurant but said there are issues at this location if it is going to converted into a restaurant, including the need for a new septic and that a residential neighborhood is right across the street.
“This council is jumping very quickly to change an ordinance,” said Castronova, noting that the other 30 liquor licence holders don’t even know about this. “We have an abundance of liquor licenses in town. Just think carefully before you hastily change this distance requirement.”
What do you think? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us if you think the council should make the change or keep the distance?
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