A proposed Bottom Dollar on Penn Avenue in Bloomfield got the special exceptions and variances it needs to move forward in providing the corridor between Bloomfield and Garfield with its first grocery store in many years.
The project passed the Zoning Board of Adjustment's legal tests for two special exceptions and seven variances at 5200 Penn Ave. The board decided that it would have no detrimental visual, transportation or operational impacts on the residential portion of the district, which is zoned local neighborhood commercial.
"We are heartened by the decision and believe that in the long run this development will prove to be a major asset for the commercial district," said Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp.
The plan has been embraced by many in the adjacent neighborhoods, including Friendship, but some who live near the site testified at hearings against what they called ugly design that did not provide for adequate screening. They cited the potential noise and emissions from fans and potential traffic congestion on Coral Street.
Leslie A. Peters, an attorney representing the developer, Commercial Properties Inc., said work on the site will begin if there is no appeal by the end of the appeal period on Dec. 2, weather permitting.
The attorney for the opponents could not be reached.
The board determined that the property's configuration and size -- less than one acre -- make it too hard to develop without variances to setback requirements, parking requirements and location of the store's operational systems, such as walk-in coolers and bathrooms.
To locate a grocery store in a neighborhood commercial district, a developer needs the board to grant a special exception. Special exceptions are also needed for parking below what is required by the scale of the project. In this case, parking will be allowed in front of the store.
The developer held several meetings with nearby residents and agreed to plant a screen of evergreens, revise the total building footprint, redesign fencing and remove the store sign from the Coral Street facade.
The board noted that Brantley Tillman, the president of Commercial Properties Inc., the developer of the store, has received the support of the mayor and county executive's offices and numerous institutions.
"If we can work with the neighbors to ensure the site plan is adhered to, and perhaps enhanced, I think everyone will feel as though some of what they wanted to see was realized," Mr. Swartz said. "Our goal is to help the developer make this store an important shopping place that's compatible with the surrounding district."