Thursday, March 1, 2012

They can’t fit 10lbs of White Castle in a 2lb bag

That is what the Columbus, Ohio-based fast-food chain is trying to do in Middletown, as some of the residents of Port Monmouth are becoming aware with White Castles 4th attempt to gain approval from the township planning board scheduled for March 7, 2012.

With each planning board meeting the laundry list of problems grows and grows. I and many other homeowners in the immediate area have attended the meetings in opposition of this type of over development in our community. The property White Castle plans to build is a 2000 SF restaurant  located on a vacant lot between Main St and Wilson Ave on Highway 36 right next to Iron Horse Motors. It’s a B3 (business zone) requiring a minimum of 3 acres for any commercial development but a conditional use exception requires only 1.5 acres for a fast food restaurant. The purposed building and parking area is squeezed into an area that’s only 0.7 of an acre, less than half the land required. The rest of the property they acquired to meet the 1.5 acre requirement is well over 100 feet away. White Castle cannot build anything related to the restaurant or operations on that part because of the peculiar size and shape of the lot they created.

A nail salon, dentist office or dry cleaner would need twice the amount of land then a fast food restaurant. It doesn’t make sense to allow this, considering the intensity of use that a fast food restaurant will generate. This is the only situation where a conditional use exception actually reduces the minimum acreage requirement for commercial development in Middletown Township.

The zone is the zone however, all we are asking is that White Castle respectfully conforms to all building requirements regarding buffers, landscaping, traffic and pedestrian safety according to the Township of Middletown, so we can all live together as neighbors. White Castle has no intention of conforming or addressing the community’s issues with their plan as I will explain.

A little about us:

My wife and I first got into this and hate to admit it, but we became NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) because we live directly behind the site on Chestnut St. We received notice of the application in late October via certified mail as we were in the process of trying to finishing a major addition to our home that we have owned since 1998. Obviously we are concerned about our quality of life with a 24 hour fast food restaurant literally in our back yard. The smell, the lights, the cars ordering from the menu board just feet away from where are children are sleeping at all hours of the night, the infestation of vermin because of food related waste in their dumpster. Faced with this most people would quickly become a NIMBY like us.

Even though these are all valid concerns they are not enough for the planning board to deny White Castle the right to build their restaurant if all the code requirements are met, which they are not.

Through the process this has become more of a community issue regarding overdevelopment than just our NIMBY concern. Again White Castle has no intention of conforming or addressing the community’s issues with their plan.

There are some major concerns;

• The entrance is located past the building that forces cars to do a 180 back to the restaurant.

• There is no shoulder or means to decelerate on that section of the highway because of the on-ramp to Rt 36 from Main St across from Port Monmouth Elementary School. Cars are expected to decrease from 50 MPH to 15 MPH on the highway to enter the restaurant while other cars are accelerating from 25 MPH to 50 MPH to enter the highway in the same lane.

• The use of a storm water basin (basically a 3 to 4 foot ditch) as the entire front yard instead of 35’ of landscaping required by the zoning code.

• On-site circulation for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances are restrained due to the wide and design of the site. If there was a fire, the truck could barely make the turn into the site and might not be able to get back out due to the storm water basin.

• Buffer requirements for landscaping separating commercial and residential properties have either been eliminated entirely or reduced by as much as 55% to accommodate the building, parking area and the trash dumpster.

• The only handicapped parking spot is located in the most dangerous area of the roadway leading to the restaurant.

• Drastically increasing traffic leading to and away from the restaurant on surrounding neighborhoods and local streets do the location on RT 36 24 hours a day.

At the first planning board meeting on 11/02/2011 when presented with a formal objection by an attorney obtained by an objector, White Castle’s attorney asked for a private meeting. It was denied by the objector but when asked what the purpose for the meeting was, his reply was to see if any “concessions” could be offered to withdraw the objection. After the second planning board meeting on 01/04/2012 White Castle’s attorney sent a letter to the township accusing the planning board of being arbitrarily swayed for requiring them to conform to minimum code requirements. The attorney also stated in the letter that all the buffer requirements do not apply to the White Castles plan because the neighboring homes are in a business zone.

Just because our homes are located in a business zone does not negate the fact that we are members of the community, taxpayers and home owners in Middletown Township. We clearly have the same right of protection and continued use as a matter of law.

White Castle, thru their attorney, couldn’t bribe their way to an approval so they figure they will try to threaten their way to one.

At the third meeting on 2/1/2012, the planning board members didn’t seem too concerned and pushed even harder for White Castle to conform. We are grateful that board members have the interest of the people of Middletown first.

No one in the community, including ourselves, have any objection to White Castle based on their menu. Many of us would actually like a White Castle locally to add to the variety of fast food options in our area. Our objections are about where White Castle wants to locate their restaurant.

There are so many locations better suited that would not have such a negative impact on the community around it. These spots would actually benefit from this type of responsible development. We all know other towns where overdevelopment of highways like Rt 18, Rt 9, Rt 17, Rt 1, Rt 22 and even sections of our own Rt35 has created a less than desirable place to live due to overcrowding of commercial development.

Please don’t let this happen in our town. You’re opinion matters! If you are against this have your voice heard at the Planning Board meeting on March 7 in town hall at 6:30. If you can’t make the meeting send a message to the Township Committee via click on the Departments tab then Township Committee and email all five members at once.

Additional information can be found at

Shannon & Nicole Ecklof

Chestnut St, Port Monmouth


Anonymous said...

Excellent letter. Excellent points.

Hopefully the planning board will realize that this proposed project and specifically this site certainly does not warrant a degree of flexibilty in relaxing the towns development regulations.

We'll see.

Anonymous said...

There are more suitable locations throughout town up and down both Routes 35 and 36 which wouldn't be detrimental to the community at large.

Anonymous said...

The writer's concerns are warranted. Anyone who is slighly familiar with that area can see it.

In addition, isn't there a drainage problem over there? I've driven by days after a significant rain event and noticed quite a puddle.

Anonymous said...

As much as I really really really want a white castle close to home, I don't think they could reasonably fit it where they are trying to put it. The white castle near the mall is on a bigger lot and even that is a pain in the arse to get into (also with the entrance farther down the highway than the building, meaning you have to go backwards to get around). Unless they made this a no seating, smaller restaurant (pick up and drivethru only), I don't see this working well.

Anonymous said...

The true democRATic approach, stifle small business, tax and spend, and divide wealth equally but don't divide the work/planning/effort equally!

Anonymous said...

The true Republican approach, build it first and worry about dealing with the consequences later.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Ecklof,

When was your residential lot changed to a business zone?

Because if it was changed before you bought your house, you did not do you due diligence and are ignorant that no one would build there at some point.

And if it was after you lived there, why would you have not fought it at that point to not allow it to be changed and you would probably have much less of a fight on your hands.

So please answer that one question...

Shannon Ecklof said...

Dear Anonymous from March 5 @ 10:09 AM,

Very good question and I am happy to answer it. Block 533 was in the B3 zone when we brought our home and has always been commercial zoned since we have been here. The B3 zone requires 3 acres for commercial development. There are ordinances for landscaping, buffering, frontage, rear and side setbacks for all commercial development in the B3 zone. We were comfortable that any development that “conformed” to these minimum standards would not have a negative impact on our home or quality of life.

We have since become aware of 16-809 that allows for a reduction in acreage for the conditional use of a fast food restaurant in the B3 zone. 16-809 was also in place when we brought our home. All the ordinances still apply plus there are additional ordinances in 16-809 that a fast food restaurant must conform with. If White Castle conformed to all the requirements we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

I hope this answers your question. If you have any additional ones please post them here or you can E-Mail us at

Anonymous said...

I work at Rite Aid and we've all been waiting three years for this to open, we can't wait... and sorry for the people in the back, but you are in a business zone...

Anonymous said...

I hope you folks at Rite Aid keep your public toilets open for the inevitable result of all those folks eating poor quality meat products. There's a reason they call them "sliders".

Anonymous said...

I swear, if these idiots manage to block White Castle from FINALLY being built clise to me, I will pelt their homes with sliders every Friday night from now on.

Anonymous said...

And I'm sure all the swings, sheds and other assorted crap those homes have sitting on the property in question has NOTHING to do with this right??? Please.

Anonymous said...

Don't understand the last several posts?? I also hear now that White Castle may appeal the decision and try and get it overturned.. Is that possible??