Charles Street Bakery Expansion Approved by Planning Board

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On December 8, the New Brunswick Planning Board approved the expansion of the Scala Bakery, which has been located at 10 Charles Street for more than two decades.

Landowner Ronald Struminger, who also owns the nearby Foodtown supermarket, intends to demolish the current 2.5 story house, as the owner's bakery needs room in which to grow.

A storage trailer has already been removed. The bakery's first-floor space will grow by 1,033 square feet with an addition to the bakery's front. 

Presenting this project were Ronald Struminger, the company's owner, Mark Bush, the project's lawyer, and Eric Tomczak , the project's engineer. 

The house to be torn down is a red or rose-colored saltbox with a basement, a ground floor, and a smaller second floor. The trailers are also in front of the bakery (if "front" is the side facing the street).

The paved areas will replace the house, while one of the existing driveways will move slightly to the northwest, towards where the house is. The parcel will gain a couple of strips of greenery, one on the side of the lot (but in front of the building) and the other in the front of the lot.

The zoning law calls for four parking spaces; the owner intends to have six available for use, and they would be accessed by the existing driveway. The owner wants to put an 8-foot by 8-foot dumpster site by the facility, along with a bicycle rack for the bicycle commuters.

The bakery has two delivery vans, which will continue to use an existing driveway along with the trucks that send ingredients to the factory.

The primary ingredient is flour, which will be dropped off at an existing roll-up door by the loading area. The delivery vans will sally forth from the bakery daily; the incoming ingredients will be sent to the bakery twice a month. 

Two of the bakery's four employees drive the delivery vans. The other two employees are bakers.

The bakery's plan was before the Planning Board because the existing building had six bulk variances outstanding, three of which were to remain after the demolitions and construction. The three variances no longer needed were the non-conforming front-yard setback, the  accessory building setback, and impervious ground coverage.

The bakery's primary goal was to add more storage space, and thus there were no new utility connections needed, and the landowners asserted that the proposed land use – the same as the current one – was in accordance with the community commercial zone that the site was in. 

The existing front setback is about 8 feet, which is 2 feet shy of the required 10 feet. The demolitions would make the setback 33.8 feet, more than enough to comply with the bulk requirements.

The five-foot rear setback, which is half of what bulk laws require, will remain with the existing building. The side setbacks are less than a foot on one side and 5.3 feet on both combined, while the regulations call for five feet on one side, 10 on both combined. 

It is unclear why the site was under an impervious ground variance to begin with, as the coverage was actually under the limit.

The law says that landowners are allowed to cover up to 90% of the site with impervious materials: pavement, asphalt, and buildings. The amount of the bakery's site currently covered is 89.93%, but it will be going down to 85.66%.)

The bakery faces at least one potential danger in the future: flooding. As engineer Eric Tomczak pointed out, the site is in the 100-year floodplain of Mile Run, a creek which is channeled through a nearby underground pipeline. 

A nearby apartment building at the intersecetion with Joyce Kilmer Avenue routinely floods during storms

The whole site is officially in a flood hazard area, but outside of the floodway, the natural channel that floodwaters would flow through. The bakery site is in the flood fringe, an area that could be deluged by still or slow-moving floodwaters.

The 10-year base flood elevation – the height of a flood that occurs once every 10 years, on average – is 64.13 feet, while thw flood hazard area elevation is 70.33 feet. The site's elevation is about 60 to 62 feet.

The addition will be wet flood-proofed. This means that floodwaters will be allowed to enter the building, but the structure will be made of flood-resistant materials below the base flood elevation, any utilities and machines will be protected, the structure will be anchored properly, and openings/breakaway walls will be provided. The idea here is to let the building flood so that the water pressure is equal on both the inside and the outside, making walls less likely to cave in under floodwater pressure. hmm

The maximum allowable floor area ratio for the bakery site is 2, meaning that there could be up to 2 square feet of floor space for every square foot of land. This is equal to covering the whole site with a 2-story building.

However, the maximum number of floors allowed is one, well under the maximum floor-area ratio of 2. The actual floor-area ratio of the bakery site is 0.645: it has 6,447 square feet of floor space and 10,000  of land. This ratio is set to decrease to 0.576.

The gap between the bakery's accessory building and the accessory's nearest next-door neighbor is less than 2 feet, which is under the 3 feet that the law requires. The demolitions would create a side-yard gap (setback) of 7.8 feet, more than enough to satisfy this requirement.

All of the planning board members present voted unanimously in favor of the plan.  There were no comments at the meeting from the public about this project.


Reporter at New Brunswick Today

Richard researched transportation, land use, history, and other topics. Investigated site plans. Attended public meetings (planning board, zoning board, parking authority board of directors, City Council) to record and help determine what was discussed. Analyzed blueprints and site plans to determine what land uses sites would be put to. Photographed sites that would be affected by proposed projects, as well as sites involved in news events. Employed Sketchup CAD to visualize new land uses, such as buildings and structures. Critiqued and wrote articles in fast-paced work environment, writing before deadlines. Made judgments as to what constituted proper material to include in articles. Created a zoning map; am working on ways to show it to the public. Consulted vintage maps to determine historic land uses.