Diner construction plans stall with denial of waiver by county panel

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FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – Nine months after the owner of a Freehold Township diner received municipal approval to reconstruct the business that was destroyed by a fire in 2016, the restaurant remains a charred shell.

A Monmouth County freeholder said this week a county body has denied the owner a waiver from a required site plan review and approval.

JB’s Diner sits at the “V” intersection of Route 537 and Route 524 (Elton-Adelphia Road) and was destroyed by a fire on May 26, 2016.

On July 6, 2017, the Freehold Township Planning Board approved a plan submitted by owner John Bochis and applicant Cupertino Herrera to construct a new 2,200-square-foot building in the footprint of the former diner.

Since municipal approval was granted for the construction of a new diner, there has been no construction at the site, which sits at the location of planned road improvements.

On Nov. 10, 2016, the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders passed a resolution authorizing the engineering firm of Cherry, Weber & Associates to design improvements at the intersection of the two county roads, Route 537 and Route 524.

In response to a request for comment, Freeholder Thomas Arnone, the freeholder in charge of public works and engineering, said, “As stated, the freeholders authorized Cherry, Weber & Associates to design the intersection improvements. Currently, the county is reviewing the final alternatives analysis report and preliminary plans prepared by Cherry, Weber & Associates.

“Subsequent to our review, the county will authorize Cherry, Weber to proceed to interim design based on the approved preferred alternative. Cherry, Weber will also be authorized to begin the permitting process, utility coordination and right of way document preparation. It is anticipated this authorization will take place in April. Final design documents are anticipated to be completed by the end of the year.

“The adjacent JB’s Diner, which is situated between Route 537 and Route 524, was destroyed by a fire in May 2016. On Feb. 1, the owners of the diner site made an application to the Monmouth County Planning Board seeking a waiver from site plan review and approval, proposing to reconstruct the diner on its original foundation.

“On Feb. 26, the board’s Development Review Committee voted to deny the applicant’s request for a waiver from site plan review and approval. The DRC’s denial was based on guidance from the board’s attorney noting that the applicant did not present a legal basis that would allow the DRC to grant the waiver request,” Arnone said.

A message left for attorney Vincent Halleran, who represented Herrera before the Freehold Township Planning Board in July 2017, was not returned.