New Car Wash Planned For Route 9 In Howell

An abandoned building now sits on the site on Route 9 south, just north of the Wal-Mart shopping center. (Photo by Mark Bator)

  HOWELL – In their most recent meeting, the Zoning Board approved the Preliminary and Final site plan that will allow for the construction of a new automated car wash on a busy corridor of the township.

  In over two hours of testimony and cross-examination by its members, the Zoning Board heard the application of Hutton St 17, LLC, and Ervin Advertising Co., Inc. to construct a 5,294-square-foot automated car wash at 4880 U.S. Highway 9, along the southbound side of the roadway. The applicant is working with a Chattanooga-based company called ModWash, which is currently looking to open several new sites in New Jersey. The Howell location, which is now abandoned, is the former home of the Garden State Sign Company.

  The improvements brought before the Board for consideration included the removal of the existing one-story building as well as the gravel parking area. The plan calls for constructing the proposed building which would also include 24 parking spaces and an entry driveway.

  Also included in the plan would be new site lighting, landscaping, building signage, a trash refuse enclosure, retaining walls and two stormwater management basins. The plan also calls for a 190-foot section of sidewalk across the front of the property along Route 9.

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  Despite only having five of the seven Board members in attendance, attorney Damien O. Del Duca, of the Del Duca Lewis Law Firm, decided to move ahead with his presentation to the Board, utilizing several experts and exhibits to put forth his client’s case.

  “This will be a state-of-the-art express car wash,” Del Duca told the Board, “which is largely automated, although there will be employees on site at all times. But it’s not the car wash that we all grew up with. It’s heavily automated, very efficient, very fast.”

  As explained by Jake Modestow, a design engineer with Stonefield Engineering, customers would choose their options for the wash from one of three kiosks, then enter a single-lane car wash which would then lead them to a heated pad to dry the vehicle. In addition, numerous oversized parking spaces will be onsite that will feature vacuums for customer use. Four of the parking spaces would be utilized for employee parking.

The artist’s rendition of the car wash was displayed during the Zoning Board meeting. (Screenshot by Mark Bator)

  The operating hours are proposed to be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Any lighting on the site will be shut off one hour after the site closes for the day. The plan calls for trash pickup to be done once a week in the early morning hours.

  The Board appeared to take little exception with most of the testimony of the applicant’s experts during the hearing. However, one point of contention with the applicant’s plans centered on the proposal of 14 signs on the property.

  “In Howell Township we try to be very minimal in the amount of signage that we place on our properties,” said Board member Paul Sayah. “We don’t want it to look like it’s Las Vegas.”

  This concern was echoed by Board engineer Christine Bell, who followed on Sayah’s comments. “The amount of signs branding the building and the site,” said Bell, “just seems to be a bit excessive.”

  Much of the wastewater generated by the car wash would be collected and re-used, as it would enter a 2,000-gallon tank then flow through baffle systems to either be re-used or discharged.

  In addition, the applicant agreed to contribute $27,900 to the township’s tree fund given that there was not enough space on the odd-shaped, undersized lot to comply with township regulations for landscaping.

  A second concern was also raised regarding the flow of vehicles into the site, including those of employees, which would actually have to go against the designed flow of traffic in order to reach their assigned parking spaces. However, given that some of the employees would be arriving before the regular business hours for the general public, the Board was willing to agree to the applicant’s site plan as outlined.

  More important to the Board was the question of the number of customers’ cars waiting in cue to go into the car wash before they begin to back up onto the Route 9 roadway. At its busiest, it is anticipated that there would be 40 cars per hour, according to the applicant’s traffic engineer, Andrew Villari.

  “I think it’s an excellent fit here,” said Board member Richard Mertens as he made a motion to approve the application. “I know they’re kind of in a tight spot with the configuration of the lot, but I think the engineer did an outstanding job. I like the whole application and I’d like to see that property doing some good on our Route 9 corridor.”