By REBECCA HAZEN
Business owners Swati Deval and Saurin Patel spoke to the City of Trenton Appeal Commission on Tuesday, July 12, to try to get their application denial to build a new liquor store overturned.
Deval and Patel want to build a liquor store on 80 Oakwood Ave., the former site of a doctor’s office. The property has remained empty for over 10 years.
Because their application was for a location in the Business-Residential district, it first had to go before the Planning Commission.
Daniel Case, Chair of the Planning Commission was at the meeting, and noted that the application was denied by a majority vote and the Commission had received a letter from the management of Auburn Ridge Apartments, located at 145 Oakwood Ave.
“They wrote a letter, begging. The management said they did not want that in the community,” Case said.
However, Deval noted that she had spoken to Auburn Ridge residents and gotten their signatures noting that they were in favor of the store being built.
“When we were speaking to the residents, they all had concerns. I live here; I drive by that place every day. This vacant lot has been a nuisance. About four years ago, cops were called because two homeless guys were living there, and they were removed. If you have an empty space, you will attract these things. We want to build a nice property there,” Deval said.
“There is no direct view from the property to Auburn Ridge, or from the property to Auburn Ridge,” Deval’s husband, Vinit Barot, added.
Deval and Barot both said that they felt like they were being treated unfairly.
“Out of the three applicants that have applied, we are the only ones that have been operating in the city in the past 15 years, and we’ve never been cited for selling to an underage minor. We live here in Dade County, and our kids go to Dade County schools. We spend our money here locally. I think there is an unfair treatment going on,” Barot said.
Broker Tad Bromfield, with Sentinel Commercial Properties, spoke on behalf of Phillip Brown, of Brown’s Tire and owner of the property, saying that they were for the liquor store on the property.
“What they are telling you is accurate. There are vandals there. The other two sites; the one on McKaig Road has single family residents behind it, and then the other site [the former Larry’s Restaurant] has a big church in proximity. They are similar, they really are. We are for this,” Bromfield said.
Realtor Deena Brandon, who is handling the selling of the property, also agreed with Bromfield, noting that there were homes near the other proposed liquor store location on McKaig Road.
“They also gave the reason that the other permits were granted because they were in more of a commercial area. Well, behind this store would be the Dollar General. There’s O’Reilly Auto Parts, Ingles, Pizza Hut, that’s a very commercial area,” Brandon said.
“The store front is what the issue is,” Case responded. “Larry’s store front is on Hwy. 136. The one on McKaig Road does lead to a subdivision, I do understand that. The subdivision, Middleton Estates, feeds off of McKaig, but it’s not part of McKaig Road. To say that the properties are all the same, that’s not true.”
Case also noted that when the other two liquor store applications were approved, there was no opposition to those locations at the time that the decisions were made.
Both Larry Case, chairman of the Appeal Commission, and Daniel Case, noted that they recognized the fact that there was a business that used to be on that property, a doctor’s office, but they both felt that a doctor’s office, versus a liquor store, was the difference.
“We’d all love to see improvement on properties. I’m just not sure the liquor store is the answer,” Daniel Case said.
“What we need to highlight is that Mr. Case’s decision was made last time on one letter,” Saurin Patel said. “We have 17 people in favor of our site. We are building a nice wine and spirits business. Just don’t label it as a junky store and downgrade it. Give us a chance.”
Sarge Hansalia, the designer and builder of the proposed store, was in attendance, and said that it would be a $2 million store, and because of that, it would not be run-down. Hansalia noted that if the decision is a matter of where the front of the store is, the location could be adjusted to Lafayette St. instead of Oakwood Ave.
Deval and Patel already own Trenton Tobacco in the Ingles shopping plaza. Amber Marshall works at Trenton Tobacco and spoke on their behalf.
“Both of them are great business people. The business is clean, and no one is loitering. There’s not going to be a trashy parking lot. Give them a chance, and you’ll see, it would be nice,” Marshall said.
The Appeal Commission, consisting of members Chair Larry Case, Vice Chairman Steve Hendrix, and John Bradford, went into a short executive session. After coming out of executive session, the Commission members informed Deval and Patel that they want to hear the opinions from more people who would reside near the proposed store, including both Auburn Ridge Apartments and Edgewood Townhomes.
“You present a good case,” Larry Case said. “I don’t want to make the wrong decision.”
Deval, Patel, Barot, and other community members volunteered to go door to door and to get more people’s signatures in favor of the liquor store.
The Appeal Commission has 30 days from the time of the meeting to make a decision, after which Deval and Patel will be notified in person, as well as by letter.