By Tina Pappas
for Montclair Local

The Planning Board approved an expansion to O A Peterson Construction Co. on North Willow Street and the addition of a martial arts studio on Walnut Street.

The properties are owned by John Peterson, a family-run business since 1914, making it one of the longest operating businesses in Montclair. On May 7, the board approved the addition of a second level be added on 78 Willow Street property, a change in use for his 13 Walnut Street property from a retail space to a mixed martial arts studio and a parking variance.

The application was previously approved in 1999, when Peterson then sought to add a second floor addition to the building, but didn’t construct it. The updated application involves his three properties that provide 4,346 square feet of office space, 8,080 square feet of storage space and parking for the O A Peterson Construction Company. The third lot contains two separate commercial spaces totaling 920 square feet, one of which was formerly occupied by the Montclair Bread Company.

Alan Trembulak, applicant attorney, said the 950-square-foot, second-floor addition and the martial arts space would require more parking. He assured the board that adequate parking spaces would be provided to both locations. John Peterson said his son Adam, owner of a martial arts studio, was seeking to move his business into the retail space, with parking available in the lot across from the office building.

The variance would permit total of 24 parking spaces whereas 42 spaces are required. The change of use from retail to a martial arts gym increases the parking demand by six parking spaces.

Concerned with parking, several board members pointed out that the street had a farmers’ market, several new restaurants and the addition of a microbrewery. In response, Adam Peterson said that he would inform his customers on accessible parking through signage, newsletters and brochures, and that there would be sufficient parking spaces provided. He said most of his students live nearby and would be either walking or riding their bikes.
Timothy Klesse, site architect, presented plans for the building addition, which include a stucco facade to match the side of the building and a coat of paint to its base. Trembulak said the property was not designated an historic site and added that he did not feel board members had the right to dictate the architectural design. An elevation drawing was provided to the Historic Preservation Committee, however.

John Wynn, board chairman, made a motion to approve the application, but with the condition that patrons and employees of the businesses would need to be informed that the available parking in the Peterson lot would be mandatory. Another condition would be another parking review if new owners were to take over the spaces.

Peterson agreed to the conditions, including striping and patching both of the North Willow Street lots, which would include handicapped parking and bicycle racks. Board members voted in favor of the application with the exception of Deputy Mayor Robin Schlager, due to her concerns over parking issues that she felt would arise with a martial arts studio moving into the area.