By Steve Chernoski and Charlie Sahner
Fisherman’s Mark moved to their new address at 37 S. Main St. in Lambertville two months ago, but issues surrounding their food pantry appear unresolved.
At Thursday’s Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting in Lambertville, concerns about how the nonprofit’s occupancy in the old Hibernia Fire Company Building would impact residential parking in the area continued to cloud what seemed like a done deal.
Attorneys for Fisherman’s Mark led by Richard Mongelli began by asking the Zoning Board to waive fees surrounding permitted use or d(1) variance because the group is a nonprofit, which was granted.
However, attention centered around how Fisherman’s Mark’s use of the building would differ from that of the previous tenant.
The Mongelli lawyers asserted that since Fisherman’s Mark is locating office space on the second floor, and the fire company also had offices up there, “we consider that a wash.”
But Board Secretary Crystal Lawton responded that the Fisherman’s Mark occupancy could represent a “change of use” with regard to the building’s ground level, and might warrant an “impact request for number of parking spaces.”
The parking concerns stem from Fisherman’s Mark food pantry (separate from the DVIC Food Pantry at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church) and what some say is the the potential increase in vehicle traffic around the intersections of South Main and Swan streets — an area where parking is already at a premium.
City attorney Stewart Palilonis argued that studying the number of people visiting the pantry would be more of a “merits hearing,” and that the “difficulty is that there are no plans available for the building.”
The Mongelli team replied that hiring a surveyor and calculating parking patterns would represent an unnecessary financial burden for Fisherman’s Mark. “The use of the spaces is exactly the same as the fire company’s footprint,” they said.
Voting Zoning Board Member Scott Consoli recused himself from the testimony because he owns property nearby, but remained in the room as the discourse commenced. He declined to comment for this article, but was adamant online about keeping pantry clients out of his “backyard.”
“It’s a great cause, but parking has always been an issue and that is the real dilemna [sic], parking is a knife fight on this end of town and adding additional cars to the mix is a tough one,” Consoli said in the Lambertville NJ public group. “Yes, it’s easy to side with a great cause because you want to but you may think differently if it was in your backyard.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Mongelli asked that the Zoning Board move at minimum to approve the application of Fisherman’s Mark as being complete without a parking survey. Palilonis noted that the motion would be limited to waiving submission of completed documents.
In the end, the Mongelli team and others thought it was best to delay a vote until the next scheduled Zoning Board meeting on June 30, due in part to light member attendance. Board members present moved to designate the application as “complete,” meaning Fisherman’s Mark appears to have tacit approval to continue operating for the time being.
The initial Fisherman’s Mark application for an office and food pantry was denied at the February 25 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting. Their application for office-use-only was approved on March 21.
Wow, the parking situation is a “knife fight”! Sounds like a dangerous part of town where I wouldn’t want to be, ever. Beware of the folks in that part of town!