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Planning board OKs repair shop


by Paul J. Macrie IV, Gazette Staff Writer


HAMMONTON—On April 2, the Hammonton Planning Board held its regular meeting. On the agenda was one major application with an extensive history for the board to consider. A minor subdivision, preliminary and final major site plan application was presented to the board during the session. The applicant was Michael Weiss of Mike’s Auto Body Trucking, who was seeking a minor subdivision, preliminary and final major site plan for Block 4801, Lots Three and Four, Zone HB and R-3 at 50 Plymouth Road.
The attorney for the application was Michael McKenna of the Law Offices of Michael J. McKenna in Cherry Hill. Lance Landgraf Jr., principal planner at Marathon Engineering and Environmental Services Inc., provided most of the specifics of the proposed subdivision and site plan.
Hammonton Planning Board Solicitor Michael Malinsky explained to the board the history of this particular application.
“On April 22, 2010, February 24, 2011 and April 28, 2011, Mr. Weiss applied to the zoning board for a use-variance to expand an existing, non-conforming use, which was his auto body repair shop, minor subdivision, and preliminary and final site plan waiver and variance approval at that time. He was required by the zoning board at that time because his property is located in the R-3 zoning district, which did not permit an auto body repair shop.
“It was denied April 28, 2011 by a vote of four in favor of the application and three opposed. But because it was a use variance a supermajority was needed, which was five votes. At that time, on August 1, 2011, Mr. Weiss filed a complaint to superior court in connection to the zoning board’s denial of that application. With the adoption of the form based as that litigation was pursuing with the adoption of the form-based code the zoning changed on Mr. Weiss’ property from the R-3 zoning district to the H-B zoning district, which now made it a permitted use. Thereafter, the parties entered into a settlement agreement in dismissing the litigation and now the applicant has to appear before the planning board for preliminary and final major site plan, minor subdivision, waiver and variance approval for which he is here for tonight,” Malinsky said.
With the settlement agreement, there were many conditions imposed by the zoning board, according to Malinksy. He explained that he set forth a list of conditions. The applicant had already agreed to meet those conditions and the planning board had the authority to amend conditions or add additional ones that they deemed fit.
Attorney Michael McKenna said he was glad the representation for the application was finally before the board to attempt to beautify the site.
“Mike [Weiss] owns lot three and his neighbor Robert Weisbecker owns lot four, which is 70 Plymouth Road which we will be required to use the property with the subdivision. All of it consistent with the zoning municipality as ordained for the town,” McKenna said.
Landgraf testified to the board in regards to the surrounding areas and uses of the site, the existing site, the proposal for the site and a couple of variances proposed.
“We are subdividing about 17,000 square feet from that lot to add to this parcel to be able to add a storm water management facility to the site…There were some zoning changes that happened out here. I think it happened all at the same time, the form-based code to bring this lot more in compliance of what the lot’s usage was on the site. It has been an auto repair facility for 45 years or so. It has always been out here. From the 1960s and 1970s you had auto repair going on at this site,” Landgraf said.
Landgraf said a nearby single-family home has been demolished and it will allow the applicant to clean up the site further. It will take a lot of the activity that has occurred in the main storage area to the front of the site, he said. It is mainly tow yard trucks and cars, according to Landgraf.
The building is to the rear of the site, and it is about a 6,000-square-foot structure, according to Landgraf, with some rear-yard setbacks and existing, non-conforming issues on both sides.
“We know there are issues out front that we have to deal with parking of vehicles out there by creating more space internal of the site, moving the tow area out where it was and taking that existing structure down, the old residence and gives us space to do that outside of the internal. The gate out front will shut and this area up front will be allowed to be used 24-7 for towing as needed. It cleans up the front of the operation much better than it is now. We are also proposing three nighttime, drop off spots for people dropping their cars off at night to get worked on the next day. The drop off area is critical for the workforce,” Landgraf said.
The proposed hours of operation for Mike’s Trucking are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday with some Sunday hours possible as well. The tow shop will remain a 24-7 operation, according to Landgraf. There will be designated employee parking spaces for the 10 total spots available and three parking spaces for overnight drop off purposes.
“The key part we are doing is reorganization of the yard. You heard me talk about the area that will be used as the tow yard. The residence was located in the area that is grade in. We are going to pave that, fence that in and in the front it will be fenced with six-foot-high solid vinyl fencing so you can’t see through it. It will have a sliding gate through the front. On the sides here we will continue with the eight-foot fence down the side which is chain linked with the vinyl slats. It will be a secure tow yard for the facility,” Landgraf said.
After going through the positive and negative criteria of the plan, outlining landscaping and a proposed storm water management basin, board engineer Robert Vettese discussed his report to the board.
“Most of what we have in our report pertains to construction-related issues, as far as how the site is going to be constructed with the improvements that are being proposed for the site,” Vettese said.
Vettese raised questions about the easement amending the subdivision plan, completeness of the site and construction detail for storage area. If any trees need to be removed from the site, which was previously alluded to in the testimony, it would have to be approved by the Hammonton Environmental Commission, according to Vettese.
Landgraf explained how the storm water management basin would operate on the site, as there was no system in place previously. Vettese wanted clarification on the plan. With vehicle parts on the site, separating the water and oil was the big concern.
“That is all part of the bio retention facility. That is how that operates. The basin allows those purities to settle out. The bio retention actually has plants in that basin that help clean that water out. Every property has a plan for that overflow and what that use is. The oil will come out on that first flush. With the heavier rains, most of that water is going to be fairly clean,” Landgraf said.
Board planner Kevin Dixon discussed his report in connection to non-conformities with the ordinances with respect to the variances and waivers. Dixon said the landscaping, traffic and circulation was carefully reviewed.
“The project has some substantial history behind this, so we had some documentation as well as the application that came in last fall. So, with some of the information that came in I think we are going to need to reconcile a couple of things in that report and the applicant’s testimony,” Dixon said.
Outlined in Dixon’s report were the setbacks, buffers and waivers for relief that were already proposed. In regards to the storage, the applicant was asked to check for high pollutant loading areas. All engines and parts will be kept inside the facility, according to the applicant.
“Anything related to the process, taking the vehicle apart, vehicle parts, the kinds of things that are going to drip oil and grease, the area where you store them outside becomes what is known as a high pollutant loading area. That is a specifically identified area. You can do it, but you have to cover it appropriately and take the appropriate steps to separate that from the rainfall. If the applicant is going to make a commitment that none of that is going to be stored outside, then that issue goes away for us,” Dixon said.
In regards to potential landscaping improvements, Dixon said adding landscaping around the perimeter of the site wasn’t necessary after review and it was deemed adequate.
McKenna made his final statement before Malinsky read the details of the application, and thereafter, the board’s ultimate decision.
“I want to say how wrong we were. I think you all know that. This mistake has cost him [Weiss] $50,000. When we came to the town, the town said ‘well in addition to validate can you fix this up and can you beautify that? That process was an evolutionary process to get us to here. Mike has paid a substantial amount of money on that, it gets his business nothing, except it will make it look and run better,” McKenna said.
In the motion of approval for the application, Malinsky stated the applicant Mike Weiss and Robert Weisbecker, the neighboring property owner, were seeking approval for the completeness, minor subdivision, preliminary and major final site plan, waiver and variances for lots three and four on 50 and 70 Plymouth Road.
“It is to keep an existing 2,191.15-square-foot addition to the existing 4,774.14-square-foot building, to allow a 3,256-square-foot, two-story masonry addition, and to allow the following variances: to allow a lot width of 132 feet, where 200 feet is required, to allow a side yard setback of 5.5 feet, where 40 feet is required, to allow a rear yard setback of 10.1 feet where 50 feet is required, to allow 5.5-foot parking setback, where 15 feet is required, to allow 4.1-and-17 foot parking setback, where 40 feet is required, to allow a buffer of 0 feet, where a 50-foot buffer is required from a residential lot. And the following waivers: to allow a storm water management basin to have a three to one side slope, five to one is required and to allow a 23-foot drivel at the gate and 24-foot internal drivel, where 25 feet is required,” Malinsky said.
After deliberating whether to vote for the final major site plan approval, the board opted to do so. The motion was approved with board member Gordon Pherribo abstaining from the voting procedure.
There were two resolutions that needed to be adopted at the conclusion of the meeting. Those applications were two minor subdivisions that were approved at the two previous meetings in March.
The Hammonton Planning Board cancelled its meeting on April 16. The next tentatively scheduled meeting will be on May 7 at 7:30 p.m.