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White Castle Denied: Appeal in Future?

Failure to provide a larger buffer zone between the burger place and nearby residences displeased the Middletown Planning Board.

The  application for a 24/7 drive-through fast food restaurant at Route 36 and Main Street in  has been unanimously denied by the Middletown Township . 

The vote, taken at the board's , followed several rounds of hearings and changes to the site plan for the proposed 1,952-square-foot facility. White Castle has the right to appeal, but whether or not it will remains to be seen.

The board said the application, by White Castle Management Company, did not conform enough to its standards or address issues potentially affecting neighbors’ quality of life.

The board had requested buffers of at least 50 feet between the restaurant site and nearby residences. The site plan, as presented at the March 7 meeting, included buffers ranging from 24 to 10.7 feet. Middletown zoning ordinances do not require 50-foot buffers in all parts of the site, but design standards do in certain spots, such those between parking areas and residential uses, Middletown Planner Jason Greenspan said.

White Castle Engineer Bill Stevens said that some of the plan's smaller buffers would be in a business (B-3) zone and compliant with zoning standards. “This overall (50-foot) buffer requirement does not apply,” he said. Stevens cited other changes he said were beneficial, including enlarged basins, an enlarged crosswalk moved closer to the restaurant to accommodate the handicapped, enlarged egress radius to accommodate emergency vechicles and a bigger median.

But Planning Board member Kevin Settembrino was not impressed. “There’s one change I don’t see,” Settembrino said. “It’s the increase in the buffer distance. I’m not sure if I stressed that enough. We stressed at the last meeting that it is very important.”

Settembrino questioned the engineer about the feasibility of moving parking areas to accommodate the buffering. Stevens, after some hesitation, said it was a feasible, yet less convenient plan for customers.

“If you were to provide all parking on the east (side of the lot), would you be able to provide a 50-foot buffer? Settembrino asked. “Can you not provide parking on the other side (of where it is shown in the plan now) and, perhaps, provide a tram?”

“Yes, we could,” Stevens said. “But the convenience factor is not good."

An obstacle to providing the desired buffers and a functional plan, the applicant’s representatives said, is the shape of the lot. The shape is odd because the property owner, Middletown Partners, headed by Tom Stavola, of Colts Neck, and Michael Piperno, could not acquire all the lots needed for a more rectangular, optimum configuration.

Planning Board members grilled Stavola on his attempted acquisition of two lots in particular, for which there was no official appraisal of “fair market value” and no formal contact of the residents concerned. One of those property owners is Shannon Ecklof, who led the neighbors’ fight against the White Castle plan.

"The board did the right thing," Ecklof said after the meeting. "I wish I could say that this is over but for the next few weeks we have to worry about White Castle appealing the board’s decision. It would be a shame that the taxpayers would have to bear the legal cost to defend the township."

Ecklof said the opponents' attorney is confident that White Castle lacks grounds for an appeal but added, "that probably won’t stop them given the history of their actions to date. The front door was slammed but we will have to see if they try to backdoor this in."

What do you think? Will White Castle be back with an appeal? If so, will you applaud it or fight? Tell us in the comments section below.

colleen March 08, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I would applaud their appeal,everyone i spoke to about wants it here,it would also provide more jobs.there will always be some loud mouth against it they shouldnt have moved near a highway whatd they expect?they already pay lower taxes then the rest of us!
Victor M March 08, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I agree, if it brings extra tax money and jobs to kids and helps them stay off the street I am all for it. Its nonsense that people cry about increased traffic on the local streets are you kidding me? give me a break and its going to to downgrade the costs of their homes give me a break about that also. You live in top 50 safest city's to live in per the FBI list EVERY year. And you wonder why NO BUSINESS WANT TO COME TO MIDDLETOWN cause its a hassle
shaw March 08, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I love people that are more then willing to lend an opinion but do not do any research to their claims. The simple fact that because they are White Castle should not make them able to ignore restrictions that any other company has to abide by. They simply cannot fit the restaurant into that lot and meet the standards imposed. Is there no other real estate available to the in this demographic? There absolutely is. You speak of jobs that they bring to the area well from the mouth of the spokesman of White Castle they have a staff of 6 employees on duty and they are entry level positions making minimum wage. In fact he stated most of their employees can not afford to drive to work because they cannot afford a car. What benefit do you speak of? I applaud Mr Ecklof for being as you say a loudmouth!! He stood up for to a major corporation for something that just was not right and it is just a situation that cannot work at that particular lot. The board would not have denied them if it wasn't a situation that could work. I would also love to have White Castle in the area but look into a lot where the business can succeed and it is safe for people to enter and exit.
Victor M March 08, 2012 at 09:07 PM
What Benefit? you giving these jobs to kids in the afternoon keeping them off the streets showing them what it is like to earn money to save. Its a 24 x7 Place so 6 jobs is way off base. And I think managers make around 13 - 15hr so its all minimum wage huh? And some extra tax dollars always can help the town. Middletown will REZONE for who they want. I guess cause they did not fatten someones wallet they got denied. Give me a break.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) March 08, 2012 at 09:20 PM
It was, in fact, stated last night that there would be a total of six employees, and specified that the number was a total, not per shift,
shaw March 08, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Victor, were you at any of the board meetings to show your support for White Castle? Everything I stated was facts right from their mouths. How about the safety factor? Where that location is it would have cars increasing speed and merging with cars decreasing speed to get into the restaurant. I am happy to see your concern for the kids in the area but your concern should start with them being able to arrive at work safely !! As I stated earlier I would love to have White Castle here but look into a safe area that works. You should write them and make suggestions on some locations that might work for them
pat March 09, 2012 at 12:43 AM
There is an empty restaurant on 35 (steak and Ale) and on 36 (romeo's)....white castle should move where there is room....and usage compatibility......there are enough empty storefronts in this town.....but the traffic at 36 and Wilson is crazy already ....bring on the burgers....just be smart about it.
Mattytas March 09, 2012 at 01:40 PM
A Tram? Is Settembrino a moron? What kind of elected officals do we have in this town
Sue Cacoilo March 09, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Congratulations to the residents of Port Monmouth. You guys won a good victory. There's no need for a 24/7 White Castle in Port Monmouth. Again, Congratulations in your victory.
Stephen Smith March 09, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Elaine, what you said does not make sense, you cant run a 24*7 establishment with 6 people... if you had 2 people per shift, 3 shifts a day that is 6 but of course you have weekends, and they will have more than 2... Just do the math... Stephen
Stephen Smith March 09, 2012 at 05:59 PM
The Steak and Ale idea is a good one, had not thought of that, it has been dead for a very very long time...
ASimon March 09, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I thought the same thing- a tram? Was Settembrino thinking, hey, people can park and take a tram to get a slider? As much as I appreciate the laugh, it made me wonder if he understood the term "fast food". But why be surprised- this township committee thinks paying an attorney to sit in at library meetings would have been a good way to save a whopping 700 bucks or so in book fees. With so little common sense, it's a miracle anything goes right in this township.
Victor M March 09, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Elaine, I have been to a few white castles and its more like 4-6 employees per Shift. So it is closer to 25 Employees. And on 36 is a good location. where can you get fast food? The last fast food is burger king in Union Beach and the next one is McDondals in Leonardo. Kids safety common now I didnt know that they where playing in the middle of 36.. where they now? If they scaled around the way the lot and create a better flow I would say it would not be so bad. Safety is a key yes. But your telling me to get in to shoprite off 35 is any safer? common now.
Shannon Ecklof March 10, 2012 at 05:06 AM
I hope I can answer some people’s questions about certain facts. Having attended every meeting and I have of all the transcripts, audio recordings, reports and documents about this site. It’s available at the township planner’s office for anyone who wants to learn more to form an opinion. WC testified they will have no more than 6 employees per shift. There was no testimony given as to how many hours a shift was. The on ramp lane, that the entrance to WC is located in, requires 550 feet of distance for a car traveling @ 25 MPH to enter a 50 MPH highway according to the New Jersey D.O.T. If you have an issue with it, write to D.O.T. Jobs would have been created and taxes would have been collected. We all would have a White Castle locally to enjoy. WC had worked on these plans since early 2009. They had meetings with the Middletown Planning Department, New Jersey D.O.T, planners, traffic safety experts, attorneys and engineers for the past 3 years. The simplest thing they could have done was lease land on either highway 36 or 35 that would conform to Middletown’s zoning and design ordinances. Then we all could enjoy the food. It would have created new jobs and the town could have more taxes. White Castle did not want to do this even after the planning board gave them many opportunities to amend their plan. If you have an issue with it, write to White Castle @ 555 West Goodale St. Columbus, OH 43215 or contact them via their web site www.whitecastle.com/contact
Bob Basher March 10, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I guess its a delicate balance between killing off business with dragged out red tape, regulations, fees, taxes, and time.....with NIMBY..people (not in my backyard) but you'd think if they sat with neighbors and store owners and engineer..a comprimise could have been met.....the lose of a business trickles and weaves throughout a whole lot of other businesses even if you don't see it.
Bob Basher March 10, 2012 at 02:12 PM
next time ill read everything before I open my PIEHOLE..........gulp lol
Nancy March 10, 2012 at 11:06 PM
They did approve because it's Port Monmouth, we are the step child. Look at HWY 35 many strip malls, but nice and clean. What do we have empty lots , buildings and homes looking like crap

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