Vacant gas station in Old Bridge will transform into ice cream parlor on Route 9; township officials expect to review community commercial zones

Members of the Old Bridge Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the proposed ice cream parlor, Sweet Dynasty, for the site on Route 9 north. The property, which is currently a vacant gas station and Tiger Mart, is just past the ShopRite.
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Members of the Old Bridge Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the proposed ice cream parlor, Sweet Dynasty, for the site on Route 9 north. The property, which is currently a vacant gas station and Tiger Mart, is just past the ShopRite.

OLD BRIDGE – As township officials continue to review the township code and land development ordinances, applications sometimes pop up to remind officials why it’s important to review existing ordinances.

That is what happened with an application for an ice cream parlor in a community commercial (CC) zone at 2203 Route 9 north. The application was presented at a township Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on May 7.

“This is a pretty typical community commercial zone type of development,” said Peter H. Klouser, attorney for Song Ming Lee, owner of the property. “However, the [township’s] ordinance did not include ice cream parlors [while] quick serve [establishments] and sale of dairy products [in a retail store for home preparation] are permitted.”

Veena Sawant, township planner, said for the last two years, township officials have revised ordinances in the economic development opportunity zones and changed permitted uses to the commercial neighborhood (CN) zones through amended ordinances to make them more flexible and create a more friendly-business atmosphere.

The township has also taken steps to make sure there is a balance between business-friendly and quality of life for residents with 24-hour businesses in the township.

“The CC zone is next to evaluate,” she said, noting she was a bit “embarrassed and surprised” when it was brought to her attention an ice cream parlor was not a permitted use in the CC zone.

Dan Bloch, planner at Maser Consulting in Red Bank for the applicant, said an ice cream parlor is a less intense use compared to the existing gas station site. He said the ice cream parlor will promote a visually desirable and attractive use and it is more in line with the retail in the area.

Members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the proposed ice cream parlor, Sweet Dynasty, for the site. The property, which is currently a vacant gas station and Tiger Mart, is just past the ShopRite on Route 9 north.

Klouser said the owner proposes to renovate and rehabilitate the site, which has been vacant since 2012. A few years ago a Tim Hortons establishment had been proposed for the site, but officials said it fell through.

The Tiger Mart building, which is still on site, will transform into a 1,375-square-foot ice cream parlor with the intention to make and sell ice cream as well as drinks on site for the entire year, weather permitting. The establishment will open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m. with shorter hours on Sunday, and a loading truck will make deliveries in the morning before the establishment opens, according to Lena Barone, design engineer for the site.

The site contains an existing parking lot that is in need of repair. The applicant proposes 33 parking spaces, an enclosed refuse area, new landscaping and LED lighting on the site, Barone said.

Patrons can access and exit the property from Route 9 north and there is a connection from the ShopRite parking lot. Board member Leon Scogno expressed concern with the traffic coming from the parking lot connection with ShopRite. Board attorney requested Klouser for a copy of a cross access agreement.

Randall Barranger, traffic engineer for the site, said they anticipate 98 total trips to and from the ice cream parlor. At high peak demand, he expects 24 of the 33 parking spaces used. Barranger said in his profession, interior free flow has been preferred and supported by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

There is no proposed indoor seating, and only three proposed areas of tables and benches outside the parlor, which is estimated to seat up to 20 people. Nicole Shapiro, director of Community Development and township engineer, requested the applicant provide more lighting for the outdoor seating areas for the evening hours.

Lee, who owns another ice cream parlor in New York, added she would provide cameras for surveillance of her property.

Board President James B. Sullivan said the ice cream parlor is positive for the township and he is happy to see the site repurposed after so many years.