May 10, 2023

Granting a Variance to Allow Coffee Roasting Near School Would be Mistake

To the Editor:

A coffee roaster plans to open (a takeout) coffee shop at 300 Witherspoon Street adjacent to Community Park School and hopes to relocate its roasting operations from Moonachie, N.J., to the new Witherspoon Street location. The roasted coffee and manufactured cold brew would supply its store on Nassau Street and be sold throughout the area as well. For this to move forward the owners require and are seeking a zoning variance.

Granting a zoning variance to allow coffee roasting in such close proximity to a school with approximately 330 elementary school children would be a terrible mistake. Emissions from coffee roasting can aggravate respiratory problems and trigger asthma attacks. According to the CDC, one in 12 children in the U.S. suffers from asthma. Thus, if the variance were to be approved, one can expect 25+ young children who attend Community Park School every weekday with inhalers in their pockets to be subjected to yet another environmental stressor.

Additionally, coffee roasting is not synonymous with coffee brewing. Unlike coffee brewing, roasting utilizes a controlled burn and emits highly unpleasant smells. Luckily most people have never been subjected to these unpleasant odors as commercial coffee roasting in towns across the country is relegated to specially zoned industrial parks or areas far from residential areas, as opposed to next to a school or a park. Even those coffee roasteries which are properly located in industrial parks or far from residential areas, despite having all the EPA-required technical mitigation equipment (afterburners, proper venting, etc.), still emit highly unpleasant odors. Wisely they are located where very few people would have their quality of life negatively impacted.

Fortunately, the applicants stated at the March Zoning Board meeting that they will open the coffee shop even if they aren’t granted a variance to roast coffee commercially. In that case we can all visit the shop, enjoy the aroma, and taste of freshly brewed coffee without the odors and emissions from roasting.    

Peter Goble
Witherspoon Street