By the slimmest of margins, the Redevelopment Agency did not recommend a zoning overlay that would allow a salon on Irving Street, within 1,000 feet of another similar business.
The Redevelopment Agency deadlocked at 3-3 on a resolution that would have recommended a zoning overlay to the Planning Board. With Commissioner James Farrell abstaining because he was not at last month’s meeting when the presentation was made, the resolution failed. Voting in favor were commissioners Tony Diege, Antonio Garay and Courtney Clarke while William Rack, Timothy Nash and Nancy Saliga voted against.
Redevelopment Counsel Frank Regan said a resolution would be memorialized at next month’s meeting, but the agency could conceivably vote on a new resolution after Farrell has reviewed the original presentation.
In a presentation prior to the vote at Wednesday night’s meeting, City Planner Lenore Slothower explained the purpose of the city’s proximity rule, which does not allow a “personal service business” within 1,000 feet of another. The ordinance was instituted several years ago to “mediate businesses so they weren’t clustered in one location,” she said. At least one other barber shop or beauty salon is located within 1,000 feet (Earl’s Cuts and Curls), and there are at least four others downtown.
The zoning office gets about one request every two weeks for a salon, Slothower said, and some might return if a waiver is granted for Lisa King’s proposed “Heavenly Hair Styles” at 1645 Irving St. The problem with setting a precedent is that when a zoning overlay is done, she said, it runs with the land, even after business leaves the location, and any type of salon would be allowed, whether upscale or not.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment would be more appropriate since it listens to testimony and applicants must prove specific reasons for a variance and whether it will enhance the neighborhood and be consistent with the city’s master plan. Because of the technical issues that the Zoning Board must consider, Slothower recommended the agency take no action on the zoning overlay. The location also is within the arts district, which the city has been trying to keep to retail art shops and artists’ studios, she added.
Rack suggested the agency maintain the proximity ordinance and stick to the redevelopment plan while Garay said an exception should be made because the applicant is looking to bring something more creative to the are than just a cut and style.
King countered that the nearby barber shop is not the same as her upscale, full-service salon, and does not serve women. “Rahway is growing, obviously you have a need because salons are doing well, there’s no competition. The ordinance doesn’t really make too much sense, I wouldn’t be taking business from other salons,” she said, adding that stylists, whether for hair or nails, are artists, so it’s “a perfect location for us to be.”
The proximity ordinance doesn’t make a distinction between a barber shop or beauty salon, identifying them only as a personal service business.