A proposed liquor store that was planned for a strip mall near the Walmart aroused questions last year from residents concerned that the traffic, congestion, and accidents in the area could only increase. But after over a year of planning, plans for the store have not moved forward.
The developer, Jim Ipex, is converting the back of Ipex Home Supply into seven commercial storefronts within the Vornado Reality Trust mall development. When completed, Ipex’s NHB Enterprises, LCC, located at 8825 Tonnelle Ave., will have built a total of 30,309 square feet of retail space.
Residents once attended town hearings to voice their opposition to the liquor store planned for the space, but little progress has been made.
Pianese said he isn’t aware of any stores being developed in the new strip mall.
Ipex’s attorney, Michael Jimenez, did not return phone calls for an update last week.
The area around 88th and Tonnelle Avenue has been the subject of much debate due to the number of accidents and cars in the area, blamed on ongoing construction and an increase in shopping areas (see our Jan. 15 story).
A group called North Bergen Concerned Citizens has attended meetings to voice their opposition to the liquor store. At one Alcoholic Beverage Control Board meeting last year, the group was accused of being a front for an existing liquor store that would have to compete with the new store. Tonnelle Wine & Liquors is across the street from the strip mall where the new store would be.
That store does have an attorney, Anthony Bianciella, who has come to meetings to oppose the new store. According to Bianciella, the attorney for Tonnelle Wine & Liquors owner Larry Wainstein, he and his client became involved with the manner in order to ensure that the new liquor store followed standard protocol.
“The application was just woefully deficient,” Bianciella said. “Everybody has to follow the rules.”
Bianciella stated that he was informed of several Planning Board meetings regarding the store, but they were often cancelled and rescheduled.
North Bergen Planning Board Attorney Brian Chewcaskie did not return phone calls for comment last week.
Township Administrator Chris Pianese said last month that he isn’t aware of any stores currently being developed in the new strip mall. He also said the strip mall features small lots and wouldn’t cause enough of a rise in traffic to be a concern.
“These are small lots,” said Pianese. “You’re talking about a stand-alone one block lot. [It’s] nothing to the extent of any magnitude.”
The strip mall, however, hasn’t been without activity. In late 2010, a 99 cent store allegedly opened without a certificate of occupancy, until Ipex was notified by the town Building Department to shut it down.
Ipex’s attorney, Michael Jimenez, said at the time that the store had opened early due to permit issues, and that the situation was blown out of proportion. “My client is a small piece of a larger development, Vornado Realty,” he said at the time. “Zoning has already been approved for the whole site.”
Monica Marcano of Mount Arlington holds an inactive liquor license and has asked the Alcohol and Beverage Commission Board to allow herself and her father, Agustin Concepcion of West New York, to transfer the license to the owner of the new store.
“There isn’t a [certificate of occupancy] for the businesses there at that particular location,” said Locatelli. “In this particular case, that’s been the stumbling block.”
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.