BRICK – Will there or won’t there be a new car wash on the corner of Route 88 and Kenneth Place, in a busy section of Route 88, across from the new Wawa?
January 17 marked the third Board of Adjustment hearing for the application, being proposed by JAC Operating, LLC, but the Board was unable to vote since not enough members were present.
The wooded lot is located in a B2 commercial zone where a car wash is not a permitted use, thus requiring a Use Variance and a “super majority” of votes from Board members.
“In fairness to the applicant, and in fairness to the public, I think it’s important that we have a total of seven eligible voting members,” said Board Chairman David Chadwick.
After speaking to the applicant’s attorney, the Board attorney and the township planner, Chadwick said they would allow the applicant to present the rest of the testimony from their expert witnesses during the meeting.
Board members, Board professionals and the public would be allowed to ask questions, ask for clarification and make statements on the evening’s testimony, he said.
“However, we will not proceed to a vote this evening,” Chadwick said. “In fairness, I need to have seven eligible voters, but I’m down one, so we will not conduct our vote tonight.”
Instead, the case would be carried to a fourth hearing to be held on Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. when there would be a final, closing statement from the applicant and a vote from the Board, the chairman said.
After Chadwick’s statement, an attorney for JAC Operating, LLC Jason R. Tuvel, said that at the previous meeting, the most discussed issue was a request from Board members for sidewalks for not only the area of the proposed car wash (which was already part of the application), but also for the front of the adjacent strip mall.
Access to the car wash would be through the strip mall parking lot since the State Department of Transportation will not allow additional “curb cuts” on Route 88.
Tuvel said they did not believe that having a sidewalk in front of the strip mall would be necessary since it is not part of their development plan and would just be utilizing it for cross-access, but “the Board said it was necessary.”
The applicant has submitted a new sidewalk plan to the DOT and also to the Board, which he said was a “very small piece of testimony.”
The applicant’s traffic engineer Justin Taylor called the improved plan of a five-foot wide sidewalk with handicap ramps and a crosswalk across Kenneth Place “a safer design, and more pedestrian-friendly.”
More than a dozen residents of the Laurelton Heights residential development, located behind the proposed car wash, got their chance to ask questions and make statements after the expert witnesses finished their testimony.
Mary Lane asked who was responsible for conducting the traffic study that was referenced by the applicant.
The applicant traffic engineer said that they as a company did traffic counts and created trip generation characteristics and had to prove to the DOT that they weren’t “above a threshold that would rise to the level of a DOT study.”
Lane said the additional traffic in the area would create more accidents, including a recent three-car accident where one car had overturned.
Laurelton Heights resident Jim D’Tata agreed.
“Traffic is already backed up by people trying to get into the Wawa, and now there will be another business with high use,” he said.
“There has already been a mistake made with Wawa, there’s been more accidents…are we waiting for someone to get killed before a change is made?” he asked. “You’re not learning from previous mistakes.”
Other residents expressed concerns about the car wash traffic creating hazards for children on bikes, for a nearby school bus stop, and for their quality of life.
Township traffic engineer John Jahr from Brightview Engineering in Roseland NJ, said the car wash would cause “an insignificant” amount of traffic.
“It’s a drop in the bucket,” he said. “The problems facing Route 88 are challenging for many, many reasons; the problem is much bigger than this specific use,” he said. “I’ve observed it myself. I don’t disagree, but it’s up to the Board to decide,” Jahr said.