March 19, 2014

Neighbors Say 7-Eleven Should Not Stay Open Twenty-Four/Seven

Residents of the neighborhood surrounding the former West Coast Video store on East Nassau Street gathered at the Chestnut Street firehouse last week to hear about plans for a 7-Eleven convenience store proposed for the site. About 50 people listened to a presentation by a representative of the Dallas-based company and Robert Bratman, owner of the property, before posing questions and airing their concerns.

The most pressing question was whether the store will be open 24 hours a day. While Ken Barnes, 7-Eleven’s northeast development director, said that about 94 percent of the company’s 52,000 stores around the world follow that schedule, there seemed to be no possibility that the proposed Princeton store would deviate from that schedule С at least “not to start,” Mr. Barnes said, adding that unless a community has an ordinance prohibiting 24-hour operations, which Princeton does not, the company sticks to its round-the-clock profile.

That did not sit well with some residents, who said that when The Ivy bar and restaurant on Nassau Street closes at 2 a.m., patrons could head to the 7-Eleven where they might loiter and disturb the peace. “We’re very family-oriented,” one woman said. “I don’t see how staying open all night meets a need in this community. I think you’re going to need a private security force.”

Mr. Barnes responded that 7-Eleven has a security program that was implemented in 1976, and it reduced robberies at the stores “over 70 percent in that first year.” He added, “Loitering is the number one thing that kills sales in a 7-Eleven.”

Liz Chang, whose home on Murray Place backs onto the property, told Mr. Barnes she has had to call police several times over the years, especially while the property has been vacant, because of various incidents. “There are areas that are completely secluded,” she said. “I’d like to personally invite you and your team to look from my second story window, where I have seen construction workers urinating behind the building.”

Mr. Barnes said the company would be willing to install exterior cameras to aid with security.

Contrary to comments by some neighbors that the area in question is a residential neighborhood, resident Jim Levine said that the neighborhood, which is in a SB (service business) zone, is not purely residential. “It’s not what the neighborhood is about. It’s not why I moved here,” he said. “I think having a tenant in there, and a responsible tenant, is a benefit to the community.”

Asked what 7-Eleven would do for the community, Mr. Barnes said the company operates franchises and hopes to find a franchisee who is already a part of the community. “But that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “We also have market managers responsible for groups of stores. We do pay attention to our stores and don’t just leave franchisees hanging in the lurch.”

Residents asked several questions about the timing of deliveries and the disposal of garbage, which Mr. Barnes said would be in a 10-foot-by-10-foot trash enclosure with a dumpster inside.

The proposed 7-Eleven would be 4,900 square feet and include cafe seating. The rear area would be repaved and relandscaped and fencing could be installed. Questioned about lighting, Mr. Barnes said the LED lighting that the company uses would allow them to direct it away from neighboring properties.

The plan requires no variances and needs site plan approval from Princeton’s Planning Board.