FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – Five years ago, JB’s Diner, a popular community landmark at the intersection of Route 537 and Route 524 in Freehold Township, was destroyed by fire.
In 2018, the owner of the diner received a use variance from the Freehold Township Planning Board to rebuild the diner in the residential zone where it had been located.
And finally, on Nov. 4, the owner of the diner received preliminary and final major site plan approval from the board to construct a 2,100-square-foot building that will seat 38 patrons at 14 tables.
If all goes well, construction of the new JB’s Diner could begin in the spring.
Attorney Donna Jennings, of the firm Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer, of Woodbridge, and other professionals, represented John Bochis during the meeting. The applicant and owner were listed as Nancy and George Bochis.
Jennings called on several professionals to provide testimony about the plan to build a new diner and said one key point of the application provides that the impervious coverage on the site will be reduced from 75% to 61%. She said the diner would operate from 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Board Chairman Rich Gatto read from reports provided by the board’s professionals which indicate that the Monmouth County Planning Board has conditionally approved the application; that the new diner will essentially be the same size as the previous diner (80 square feet smaller); that 33 parking spaces will be provided; and that a dedication of land to the county to account for planned improvements at the location have reduced the size of the property on which JB’s Diner will be constructed from 28,965 square feet to 27,265 square feet.
The professionals’ reports indicated that public water and public sewer will serve the diner and that the vehicle trips generated by the new diner are expected to be the same as in the past.
Engineer Rakesh Darji testified on behalf of the applicant and said the diner will be 2,100 square feet in size, with improvements to include landscaping and a fence on one side of the property.
All turns will be permitted into and out of the property at an access point on Route 524 (Elton-Adelphia Road); at an access point on Route 537, patrons leaving the diner will not be permitted to turn left onto Route 537.
Darji said the prohibition on left turns was agreed to by the applicant with Monmouth County representatives.
“Access onto the site from Route 537 and Route 524 is light years better” than it was before, Darji said, and the board’s engineer, Tim White, agreed with that statement.
There will be designated access points (i.e., driveways) at the new diner; the previous diner allowed motorists to enter the property at any point from Route 524 and Route 537.
Architect David Wallace provided details about the materials to be used in the construction of the new diner and the building’s appearance, which he said would have a “residential feel” to blend in with the surrounding area.
In the 2,100-square-foot building, 1,000 square feet will comprise the dining area and 1,100 square feet will comprise the kitchen and offices, he said.
Testimony provided by the applicant’s representatives indicated there will be 14 tables in the diner (nine tables with two seats and five tables with four seats), to accommodate 38 patrons. There will not be counter seating.
Planner Christine Cofone discussed the criteria needed to obtain several bulk variances and said that in her opinion, the application before the board provided improved access to the site, improved parking conditions and improved landscaping. The applicant proposed one freestanding sign and no wall signs on the building.
Cofone said the “size and look of the building fits in with the neighborhood” and noted that homes in the area are larger than the proposed 2,100-square-foot diner.
“I see no detriment to the zone plan,” she said.
No one from the public commented on the JB’s Diner application when given the opportunity to do so and a motion was made to approve the application. The board members gave their consent in a unanimous voice vote.
“I know it has been a long road. Good luck,” Gatto told Bochis after the board members voted to permit the construction of a new JB’s Diner.