ShopRite project moving ahead, but attorney says roadblocks remain
Mahwah-based Inserra Supermarkets is moving ahead on developing a ShopRite at a former supermarket site in Wyckoff after winning unanimous approval from the town's planning board Monday night, but an attorney for the company said the fierce opposition from a nearby Stop & Shop over the past two-and-a-half years indicates the project faces a bumpy road ahead.
James Jaworski, an attorney representing Inserra, said the company altered its original application to the nine-member planning board to resolve issues regarding the property's architecture, design and landscaping, though he noted "the square footage didn't change from what we originally proposed."
The approved project involves building out an existing 53,000-square-foot retail property — which formerly held an A&P and an adjoining Walgreens, but has stood vacant for more than 10 years — to a 62,042-square-foot ShopRite on a 7.6-acre site in Wyckoff that Inserra has leased since 2009.
"We were happy to work with the town to fit the project to what they wanted, and we're delighted the process with them has come to a conclusion," Jaworski said. "But I suspect the process is not at an end, and that we'll be encountering litigation with Stop & Shop during the appeal period."
That appeal period ends 45 days after the planning board issues its final resolution, which it is expected to do next month.
In an e-mail, Gail Price, an attorney representing the Stop & Shop and the Boulder Run shopping center that houses it, said her clients are waiting to fully review the board's final resolution before deciding their course of action, though she noted "we are disappointed in the board's decision, in light of the significant issues raised during the hearing process," which involved extensive expert testimony and two public comment sessions in front of the planning board over a period of nearly three years.
Jaworski said during that process, Stop & Shop "very simply brought a whole litany of experts and witnesses in opposition to our project, which alone stalled the board's approval by at least six to eight months."
While Inserra President and CEO Lawrence Inserra Jr. said in a statement the company is now "moving forward with our plans for ShopRite," Jaworski said the project "is going to have to be put on hold until the appeal period has expired."
"Stop & Shop's opposition isn't about if we're putting trees in the parking lot," Jaworski said, noting Inserra's approved application for the development exceeded the town's requirements to install new shade trees and shrubs. "It's about competition … so we're not expecting this to end with the planning board's approval."