Speakers praise Stockton Market owner
Vendors of Stockton Market, residents and a representative from the Stockton Fire Company expressed support for the market’s owner, Steve Grabowski, Oct. 1 during a planning and zoning hearing.
Grabowski is seeking a parking variance and has applied for a permit to operate a pizza oven.
James Salant, an ice cream vendor in the market, said he was worried he would lose his livelihood if the market closed. He said his wife, Robin, is dealing with injuries suffered in a car accident and the limited open hours of the market allow her to work without much difficulty.
“Please don’t take my wife’s job away from her,” Salant asked the planning board.
He praised Grabowski as being a “kind, empathetic landlord.”
Steven Honchar, who rents office space from Grabowski, gave an emotional and heartfelt plea to the board to approve the application before them, saying the rented office allows him to stay local.
Vendor Tom Sciascia also praised Grabowski. “What he has done is take that building and turned it into a beautiful thing.” He also said he enjoys being a vendor in the market. “I feel like I’m part of the community,” he said.
Jeffrey Harrison, who lives in the house across from the market’s parking lot, said he has seen the community aesthetic improve since Grabowski bought the market about two and a half years ago.
He said he doesn’t see tubers or bicyclists litter the area with sneakers, clothes or tubes any longer.
Anthony Grecco of the Stockton Fire Company offered the organization’s 30 parking spaces and said he was ready to draw up a lease at anytime. He said Grabowski and the vendors have never refused to help the fire company.
“The market’s an asset and we’ll bend over backwards to help them,” Grecco said.
Michael Burns, architect for the applicant, testified that the market is a permitted use in the borough’s commercial/residential district.
One possible issue of contention is parking. Although Burns said, historically, 75 parking spaces have been used, borough planning officials are requiring 81 parking spaces.
The applicant’s attorney, Richard Mongelli, told borough planning officials that the market’s parking lot would be reconfigured to yield eight additional parking spaces, two more than required.
Although not all of the spaces are on site, Burns said there are enough parking spaces within walking distance to satisfy the requirement.
“The site is literally built out,” Burns said. “There is enough parking within acceptable walking distance to support the uses.”
In the past when improvements were made to the building, the proper permits were obtained, Grabowski said. However, an application for a pizza oven was denied.
“How can we move forward in a sustainable manner?” Norm Torkelson, acting chairman said.
Grabowski said a few days after the meeting that he does not understand why the board has to take an adversarial position. He said he is very interested in being able to work out any issues. “I’m a reasonable guy,” he said.
“We need to become code compliant,” he said. “They don’t have to make me the scapegoat.”
Should conditions permit, “we just want to be able to operate during normal retail hours,” Grabowski said, instead of the limited hours the market currently keeps.
He also said he expects to have a signed parking agreement with the Stockton Fire Company very soon.
The market is currently open from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
“We definitely need to have the zoning officer at the next meeting,” the acting chairman said.
A continuation of the hearing was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at Borough Hall. It is possible a vote on the application could come then.
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