Turkey Farm Debate Inches Toward Conclusion

Pharmacy, affordable housing, Trader Joe's all in the mix for the Larison's Corner property in Chester.

The long-running debate about the fate of Larison's Turkey Farm pushed forward ever so slightly Tuesday night following the Chester mayor and council meeting.

Frank and David Banisch were on hand to discuss the property as well as the results Banisch Associates received from the public.

"At the end of the day, it boils down to a relatively simple series of distinctions, and while it may not be the clearest of choice, the governing body has to make some choices about what direction we want to pursue at this point," Frank Banisch said.

"The themes that resonate throughout all the comments that we've received revolved around the unique character the borough has seen through the lens of this site. There is an element of country character. There is an iconic character about the property that seems to embody a series of impressions people have about the borough."

Banisch said that what the borough should be looking for is multi-tasking. Residents want the site to be able to produce agriculture, be commercial, attract visitors and deliver rateables. And that means not just a store that out-of-towners will come to and then soon leave.

"You want to get people out of their cars, you want it to be pedestrian-oriented, you want it to be a place you want to hang out in and not like a parking lot," Banisch said. "So whether the destination turns out to be a leisure orientation augmented by these things like a restaurant or lodging, or whether it wants to be more of the specialty retail, like upscale stores, that is another alternative. That's a destination that's much more local retail service oriented. Trader Joe's will attract people from however far it takes to get to the next Trader Joe's."

The council and Banisch Associates decided to hold another meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. to repeat the information for residents who were unable to attend Tuesday's meeting.

The current owner of the turkey farm, Harold Wachtel, was also at the meeting with engineer William Hamilton to discuss an idea he had for the property. Wachtel suggested putting a one or two-acre bank at the corner of Main Street and Route 206, a two-acre pharmacy right above that, a nine-acre organic farm/open space adjacent to those two buildings, a 10-acre bed and breakfast above the pharmacy and open space, and a four-acre marketplace in the corner.

Banisch said he was pleased with Wachtel's demeanor and his plan.

"The fact that you didn't tear down buildings yet, the fact that you are trying to work along with us, to me that's a spirit of cooperation that I wish I could find more often," Banisch said. "I'm very encouraged, thank you for bringing this to our attention."

Mayor Bob Davis liked much of what he saw, but said there needed to be room for affordable housing.

"We need affordable housing on this site," Mayor Robert Davis said. "Whatever the number is, we know we're going to have a future affordable housing need and that future is today. I think that retaining the building on the corner, the open space, the trees is important. I like the site plan you have in front of you, I'm missing affordable housing. If you give me the affordable housing, I think I'd be OK with the pharmacy. That's kind of my trade off."

Council member Gary Marshuetz agreed with the mayor.

"I concur with Bob, there's a lot of things I like about this plan. Same components missing for me that I brought up earlier is affordable housing. I'm pleased to see there's a lot of open space," Marshuetz said. "The pharmacy is a little bit of a concern for me. For the pharmacy to work it would have to be a non-typical design. There's a lot here that I do like."

New council member Elizabeth Gugliemini said she liked the idea of an organic farm and a bed and breakfast.

"Certainly I like the bed and breakfast," Gugliemini said. "My concern would be do we have enough capacities and does that soil and land allow us to build a 30-room bed and breakfast."

Banisch said after the presentation that he doesn't think it will "take more than another 60 days for us to go from where we are now to knowing what we're going to recommend."

Laura February 21, 2013 at 03:06 PM
...or better yet, support the new health food store a few doors down from Starbucks.
Andrew OConnor February 21, 2013 at 03:08 PM
These might be the worst proposals I have heard yet. A bank and a pharmacy? How does that at all maintain the character of the town? Anyone else find the entire character and quotes for the town completely disjunctive? "we want something that will maintain the character of the town, increase the pedestrian traffic, and draw people to the town, but not just be a parking lot where people come and leave....ssoooooooooooo..... lets put in another bank and another pharmacy". You can't just say "lets maintain the character of the town" and then say "lets put something in there sure to destroy the character of the town".
Pat February 21, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Farm to table upscale restaurant is a great idea - this I would vote for. I understand the congestion concern with a Trader Joe's, but I'd still take that over another bank/retail pharmacy in town. What is the focus on the affordable housing - it's zoned for restaurant now - why does it need to be zoned for housing tomorrow?
Cheryl Paul February 21, 2013 at 04:20 PM
For two models worth investigating look into Boone Hall Plantation, Mount Pleasant, SC and its outpost. The other is Pawleys Island near Myrtle Beach, SC. Both are near my home in Charleston, SC
Sue Underwood February 21, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Please don't put in yet another pharmacy and bank - there are plenty already in the town and vicinity! I also doubt many folks would want to walk upstairs to the second floor to access a pharmacy as suggested by the property owner. Neither of those businesses would inspire "community" compared to a local (non-Italian/pizza) dining establishment. I do like the idea of Trader Joe's rather than a large, costly Whole Foods.
Carol DePalma February 21, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Unbelievable -- you have asked the Chester people what they want and overwhelmingly everyone agrees -- NO MORE BANKS, NO MORE PHARMACIES. Where in the world did affordable housing come from? That is going to increase foot traffic in the town? Seriously. Horrible. And great Trader Joe's -- lets make it even more commercial. (Although clearly a great option versus bank/pharmacy). That intersection is a problem and its going to get worse. What happened to "keeping the feel of what the town once was". Why not a brew pub -- definitely would add to the "destination" need. I am very disappointed that the mayor had an ulterior motive and is willing to allow what the vast majority of the town doesn't want just to meet his motive. Its a shame really. This used to be a great town. I really wish the town would define what it wants and doesn't similar to how Mendham does (ie. no chain stores allowed etc). We have the opportunity to put Chester back on the map -- now it will be no different than any other town that is just a smattering of retail stores with no unique identity. On the website that collected the comments of what people wanted I didn't see one that agreed to bank/pharmacy and there was never a mention of low income housing. Brew pub - B&B - farm to table restaurant -- etc. If you are going to solicit suggestions please at least consider them.
chip wimmershoff February 21, 2013 at 04:46 PM
The very last business's this area needs are: banks, pharmacies and nail salons. The "turkey farm" building needs to be preserved. I personally would'nt attempt to cross 206. Cars come down that hill (southbound) at close to 60 MPH. That has to stop. Fix: Put a light near the top of the hill near the Black River Vet. I've been here going on 12 years and the area has gone down hill. Main Street which was once an attraction is now a wreck. Before living here it was a place we enjoyed coming to and was one reason why we moved here. The government has lost complete touch with its valued base. They make it just impossible for busniesses to thrive. The "Streets of Chester" a name joke is so out of character with the area that its an eyesore. Overall, this area has been changed and not for the better. The boro makes it so hard for businesses to work that I wouldn't open a business here. I know of a businees who's sign was 3" to big and they wanted them to take it down. Are you kidding me? How many people on the police departments and the administration live in the Boro or Township? Where I came from is a little town in Bergen County which is the size of the Boro. It was Park Ridge. Its was mandatory that anyone who was on the police force or worked for the boro was required to live in PR. Made a big difference. Still a great little town. As much as we'd to prefer not to, we're looking to move out of Chester.
TRACEY Brennan February 21, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Really, Still talking about another bank and a CVS? Upperscale shops? Hello, Coach closed down in the Streets of Chester. Why? NO Business. Bed and Breakfast, seriously? Hello, the Publick House, right down Main St. cant rent a room to save their lives. Affordable Housing? Yep its needed, but there? Organic Farm? Hello, Alstede's is right down the road. Now, Trader Joe's. Florham Park is kinda far and Shop Rite is kinda vanilla. Any new ideas?
Mark r February 21, 2013 at 05:25 PM
Stay on topic. Do you think the cops make enough money to live in either town, do your homework before trying to compare the salaries of Park ridge police to Chester Boro. The Chief in your old town makes almost 40,000 more than the Chief in the boro. Love how the police always get thrown into the mix. Take care on your journey out of Chester.
Janet Mansky Gerber February 21, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Trader Joe !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
JV February 21, 2013 at 06:12 PM
No more banks/pharmacies. We don't need little shops, we have a town full of vacant stores. I like the idea of a nice motel so there would be a place for guests of our town to stay. There would have to consider, however, someway for people to walk from the motel into the town. I wouldn't stay at the Publick House. And frankly you will have to remove some of the old buildings...historic maybe. And probably bad wiring, bad plumbing etc. Leave up a building or two but the rest tear down and make the outside of the new buildings look historic. That is easy enough. Keep the charm.
chip wimmershoff February 21, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Chester Township Police Chief Adam Schuler will retire effective June 1 after 26 years with the department and start collecting a $85,000 per year pension, according to a report in the Daily Record. Hey Mark r. Which department do you work for? Chief gets paid (BTW back on 09) $134,900! In the Chesters for a cushy job where your biggest problem is cow tipping! He retired on $85K per year AND a lump sum of $15K for unused sick days and vacation which I am paying...are you? What an absolute joke!!! Show me where the chief of Park Ridge is making $174,900 as you say they are. Your're a joke. The report said Schuler, 46, has been the township's police chief for eight years. Schuler, who earns $134,900 a year, will receive a lump sum payment of about $15,000 in unused sick and vacation days, according to township officials.
Russ Crespolini (Editor) February 21, 2013 at 06:37 PM
hey guys, Thanks for commenting! Really good stuff. Just remember to try to stay on target and be civil with one another. :-) Also, some of you were discussing property values. We have an interesting story about the latest assessment from Chester Borough live now. http://patch.com/A-2fV4
Liongirl14 February 21, 2013 at 06:44 PM
No pharmacy or bank!!!!! Put a trader joe's over in the streets of chester-whic would actually use that parking lot! A farm to table upscale restaurant and B&b would be nice and maybe work with the local farms as well. Not sure where affordable housing comes into play and if we get that then go ahead throw in the pharmacy-character has completely left this town in the last 10yrs!
Laura February 21, 2013 at 07:22 PM
The Publick House does not currently rent out guest rooms for overnight stays and has not for a very long time. They are apparently renovating the rooms and will be opening them soon but I've lived here for 40 years and have heard these rumors many times. I'll believe it when I see it - and it still would not be enough room to house tourists, especially those that come out for the craft show. Tourists now have to travel to the Trade Zone or Bridgewater to stay overnight.
LINDA ARROYO February 21, 2013 at 07:46 PM
Mark r February 21, 2013 at 07:53 PM
Excuse me but I don't work for either, nor am I not in that field of work, but thanks for assuming. First off this whole article deals with what is going to happen to a piece of property not about police living in town which you had to bring into. I am a supporter of our local police and its annoying to hear people like you make negative comments regarding what they do. You have no idea what it is they do or don't and neither do I. all i know is from what I see on this site and that is making a lot of drug / dwi arrests a far cry from your alledged cow tipping. That being said, I'm not going to argue with you over salaries since its public record and can be found out on data universe.
JV February 21, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Good idea about Trader Joes over in Streets of Chester. Actually another good spot would be the old A & P in Flanders. Huge parking lot and vacant. And PS, would CVS move over the the new location if we opened a pharmacy on Larisons? Then we would have ANOTHER vacant store at the SRite Plaza. There are probably 6 pharmacies within a 10 mile radius of Chester center. Seriously.
MDL February 21, 2013 at 10:52 PM
I agree. A very well layed out Hotel with a conferance center would put Chester back on the map. There are buisnesses in town that could use such a facility.
Stacey Hanrahan Schlesinger February 22, 2013 at 02:42 AM
What about a Cheesecake Factory or something.
Maria Thompson February 22, 2013 at 01:03 PM
Thank you for saying that ! If people want stores like that they are not in the right town !
Elizabeth February 22, 2013 at 01:07 PM
I would prefer a Whole Foods or Wegmans over a Trader Joe's because the former have much better fruits & vegetables and fish than TJs. Chester lacks a supermarket that has nice fruit and veges (Shoprite - I am looking at you) and the closest decent fish source is Burrini's in Randolph. A Whole Foods would be a much better choice than TJs.
Cassandra February 23, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Trader Joes or Whole Foods please!!!
Helen Jambor February 23, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Trader Joe's is a nice option. Who needs another bank or pharmacy in town. It would be another empty space in a year. Putting in the old A&P would be a great option, they have plenty of parking andit would keep Chesters traffic down. Why put affordable housing in the center of town. What an awful location. A small botique hotel would be perfect there. Not a huge amount of traffic, housing for business travelers and keep what is left of our towns integrity.
jersey4ever February 23, 2013 at 09:36 PM
I would like to see a nice family restaurant - there are plenty of upscale options in a 10 mile radius - but locally - it's the diner or pizza - both of which I like - but another options would be great - I mean ever been to Chili's or Longhorn in Mt. Olive on a Saturday night where people wait an hour for a table... I an not saying a chain restaurant...but something at that level - casual, affordable and family friendly!
delwood dame February 24, 2013 at 02:47 PM
NO Pharmacy No Bank No HOtel. . Please maintain character of corner.
TDans February 25, 2013 at 11:42 PM
I went online tonight for the sole prupose of looking up Larison's Turkey Farm. To say that I am completely disappointed about what I've read is an understatement. My family, as well as others, always enjoyed visiting Larison's. We would make a point of meeting there whenever we were all in the state at the same time. Sometimes, some of us would even fly in to enjoy our get togethers, which always included the restaurant. It was cozy and different than anywhere else whe could have gone. Since I moved out of state I didn't realize they closed but, nonetheless, completely disappointed that they will not be reopening. Our tradition of visiting Larison's, although no longer as often as before (I think it's been 3 or 4 years), will be sadly missed.
Ruth February 27, 2013 at 01:10 AM
Once again...the "newbies" of Chester have to have their "designer" food store. First off...how many of those commenting on the Larison's sight actually live in the BOROUGH? May I remind you that Larison's is in the borough not the township. And while the DOT and state had to waste money to redo the ugly stone entrance to Main Street because it originally said "Chester Borough" and the township got insulted, the bottom line is, the residents of the borough are the ones who are greatly effected by the development of this sight. First mistake the council made years ago was not including Larison's in the historic district. If it had been we would not need to have this discussion. Affordable housing? What happened to the fact that the Senior Housing behind the Williamson's Building was suppose to cover that? Who ever made the suggestion that Trader Joe's should be placed in the Streets of Chester had a great idea. It would increase the foot traffic to the other stores in the complex. Slight problem, Shop Rite owns the property and with the contract to either lease it or when the sold it, there was a stipulation that a food store could not be placed there.
Ruth February 27, 2013 at 01:11 AM
To Continue with my above comment... In case you haven't noticed, Main Street is literally folding up the tents. What happened to the quaint antique shops and true craft stores? They have been replaced by stores carrying giftware made mostly in China? The annual Craft Fair? How many of the participants are still truly crafters? Someplace along the way Chester has lost it's way, lost it's identity. We no longer care about what made Chester a true community. There was a time we only had to dial the last four numbers of our phone numbers, a time we knew each other and cared about our time. And yes we have to move along with the times but if our community leaders no longer care about the identity and history of Chester how can we expect anyone else to, especially those who want to turn us into a giant strip mall, or Trader Joes?
ChesterMO March 08, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Chester & Flanders are two completely different towns. The spot where A&P used to be is in Mount Olive (Flanders) and a Weis is going there. Originally was planned to be a Stop & Shop, but they are going under like A&P is. I grew up in Chester & now live in Mount Olive. I think the area needs a TJ's, Wegmans, or Whole Foods. Those stores work with local farmers, putting their produce & products on the shelves. It would bring more business to the area. If you're concerned about traffic then put in another light. When they re-did the light on 206/main street, they should have added a left turn lane/arrow for making a left onto 206 coming from Long Valley. It's still a dangerous intersection. It's heartbreaking that most of the antique shops are up for rent/sell downtown. Building owners are increasing rent & there's no foot traffic on the streets. I love that Chester is a "quaint" town, but something big needs to be brought in or it's only going to go downhill. Please no more banks or pharmacies. There's just no need for it, it's not going to bring in "new" customers. Affordable housing? What does that do for downtown? The people who require affordable housing can't afford anything in the shops.


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