Late nights filled with hours of contentious testimony and careful deliberation over Monroe Gas LLC's plan to construct a five-bay, 10-pump gas station at 528 Monroe Turnpike for Stop & Shop ended with a whimper on Thursday night, when the attorney for the applicant withdrew the special permit application just before a Planning & Zoning Commission vote after a "fatal error" was discovered.
Prior to deliberating on the application, Town Planning Administrator Will Agresta informed commissioners of a map error throughout the application. Though the property is consistantly referred to as a DB-2 zone, Agresta used an overhead projector to show where two small slivers in back of the parcel are actually zoned residential.
"The difficulty I see is the map lacks the appropriate description of zoning," Agresta explained.
Commissioner Brian Quinn said, "I don't feel comfortable continuing to deliberate on this, if we have this issue."
Chairman Patrick O'Hara pointed out how the description error is also on the record throughout the Inland Wetlands Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals hearings, in which both boards approved it.
"Everyone has seen it as DB-2 all the way through," O'Hara said. "No one's been able to consider if it changes anything. The records have been closed. The Public has not been able to comment on it. To me, it almost represents a fatal error."
Commissioner Jim Weinberg said the fact that the public did not have a chance to comment on an accurate zoning map during the hearing was "a major concern."
Nevertheless, O'Hara said the commission had to vote on the plan one way or another.
That's when Stephen Studer, the attorney for the applicant, stood up from his seat in the Town Council Chambers and asked for a point of order.
"I'm getting a sense this commission is very uncomfortable," he said. "At this point, I'd like to withdraw the application."
O'Hara granted Studer's request.
In the lobby afterward, Studer told Patch the town discovered the map error and brought it to his client's attention yesterday.
"It's very disappointing," he said. "I don't think it affects the rest of the project. But it was clear they were uncomfortable."
Ronald Bunovsky of Monroe, who opposed the gas station because of its close proximity to a public watershed, questioned whether O'Hara could allow Studer to make a point of order on a closed hearing.
Bernie Prushko Jr., who owns the Shell Station next door to where the Stop & Shop station would be, also wondered why Studer was allowed to speak.
"They should have had the vote," Prushko said.
Allowing the point of order and withdrawal was not an issue, according to O'Hara.
"Applicants can withdraw their application at any time before a vote," he said.
O'Hara also praised Agresta for discovering the map error. "I give Will Agresta all the credit in the world," O'Hara said. "He did his job."