Joseph F. Berenato
Curb & Sidewalk Waiver OK’d
HAMMONTON—At the March 15 meeting of the Hammonton Planning Board, Mark and Kimberly Visco presented an application for a waiver of curb and sidewalk at 604 N. Egg Harbor Rd.
Prior to the application, Chairman William Olivo inquired about precedents before the board.
“When we have previous variances that we have identified, and made these variances and adopted these variances for various things, does that mean we have to adopt it on the next, when somebody else puts in an application?”
Board Solicitor Joseph P. McGroarty responded.
“Absolutely not. Every application is determined on its individual merits … I would assume there is no scenario which the facts are identical, which would give the board the ability to make that discretionary decision,” McGroarty said.
“The only way to change that is if we change our codes?” Olivo said.
McGroarty answered in the affirmative.
“Correct ... And also, the board changes over the years. Ten years from now, this board may have a different view of an exception of a certain ordinance or statute,” McGroarty said.
Councilman Edward Wuillermin commented on the matter.
“If the facts are generally the same, I think we should try to endeavor to be consistent with our decision,” Wuillermin said.
“You would hope that your thinking would be consistent, but you’re not legally obligated,”
During the meeting, Mark Visco explained the purpose for the application.
“We bought property here in the town. We were told when we applied that we didn’t need sidewalks and curbs, because we asked that question. Now, we’re almost through with the process—and getting our C.O. [certificate of occupancy] probably tomorrow—and now this came up. My wife got a call from the office saying we needed to have curbs and sidewalks in. We would be the only ones on the whole road with it,” he said.
Kimberly Visco commented further.
“We thought because we were in Zone R3 that we wouldn’t need them because we’re more rural,” she said.
Wuillermin asked for more details.
“May I ask you, who told you that that would be the case? You said that you were told that sidewalks wouldn’t be necessary?” Wuillermin said.
Kimberly Visco replied.
“In the office, the woman in there in the very beginning. I asked if there was anything else. No, we don’t need anything else,” she said.
Wuillermin asked for clarification.
“That was in our office? The town office?” Wuillermin said.
Both Mark and Kimberly Visco responded in the affirmative, and Councilman Jonathan Oliva inquired further.
“They specifically said there would be no curbs and sidewalks required?” Oliva said.
Kimberly Visco responded.
“She didn’t specifically say no; that’s not what she said. I kept asking her if there were any other forms, any other permits that I need. ‘No, you’re good; you’re good.’ Then it was somewhere in December, she goes,’ Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you that you need sidewalk and curbing put in,’” Kimberly Visco said.
During discussion of the application, Olivo inquired about procedures for new construction in the town of Hammonton.
“Shouldn’t there be some sort of checklist saying that you need to this and you need to that? You need to put in sidewalks; you need curbing?” Olivo said.
“Sidewalk and curbs are a part of the ordinance. It would be required as part of the ordinance,” Oliva said.
Town Engineer Mark Herrmann commented further.
“There is a checklist that is pretty comprehensive that’s provided for the engineer and the planner who prepare the plan to go by line by line, saying you’ve got to show your utility connections, curb, sidewalk. It should be attached with the application whenever they come in,” Herrmann said.
“We should receive that checklist as part of the file, but if only certain applications come to the planning board, other applications—where there’s already a lot that is residentially zoned and can be constructed upon—if you guys hadn’t asked for a waiver of curb and sidewalk, you guys would never have come to us,” Oliva said.
Wuillermin said that the ordinance requiring curbs and sidewalks was adopted “interest of promoting public safety.”
“We have situations in town where, unfortunately—and I can name a couple of streets—where development was allowed to occur that curb and sidewalk was not installed, for whatever the reason. Now, we have, I think, an issue of, how do we get started to make sure that we can reverse that trend?” Wuillermin said.
“Usually, when those waivers are granted for very specific reasons—I would hope, in the past—there’s always the proviso that, if the town would go through and put the sidewalks in, that an assessment would be made that the property owner would have agreed to ahead of time that they would be obliged to put their pro-rated share of the cost of the sidewalk,” Wuillermin said.
Wuillermin asked the applicants of the approximate age of the houses on either side of their property. Mark Visco said that one was from at least the 1970s, while the other was “put in 20 years ago.”
“We talked to him, and he said that he had the same problem. All he did was, he came and signed a waiver and they came out with a stack of waivers like this; he signed a waiver and that was it—so I don’t know why we had to come to the planning board when he went to wherever, signed the waiver or whatever he did, and he was fine,” he said.
McGroarty commented further.
“There’s a statute—247-27—that requires the curbs and sidewalks to be installed, and then there’s a section of that ordinance that says that you could request a waiver, and only this board can grant that waiver. Nobody else is allowed to grant that waiver,” McGroarty said.
McGroarty said that the statute has been in effect since 2016.
“I don’t know what it was before that,” McGroarty said.
McGroarty reminded the board that North Egg Harbor Road is a county road.
“Your decision to waive it would obviously be final, but if you don’t waive it and apply it, they would have to go to the county and get their approval because it’s their property. It doesn’t automatically mean that the county’s going to grant that—but if you grant the waiver, then he doesn’t have to go to the county,” McGroarty said.
Board member Michael Pullia asked the applicants if they had any conversations with Atlantic County officials, and Kimberly Visco responded in the affirmative.
“They said we needed to open up the county road, we’d have to get permits and engineering designs, and it was a lot of money. Also, if they did approve it, along with putting it in and everything, we’d have to give them $2,000; they would give us $1,000 back if they felt it met how they wanted it, and then they’d hold it for two more years. If it’s maintained, then we get another $1,000 back,” she said.
Wuillermin asked the applicants if the new house was already constructed, and the applicants said that it was, and that they were waiting for their C.O.
“We’ve got a moving company coming Friday,” Mark Visco said.
Kimberly Visco commented further.
“Our house is sold, and we have settlement coming up,” she said.
During his report, Herrmann reiterated that all new construction is required to have curb and sidewalk.
“This property is in the R3 zone, but it’s also in what’s called the Curb and Sidewalk Area 2, which is due to proximity of schools and existing future pedestrian traffic generators, transit facilities and parks. The needs for curbs and sidewalks in this area is high,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann discussed required steps with the county.
“They need to get county approval and then adhere to any county standards, as far as curb and sidewalk: materials, heights, widths, permits,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that this particular section of North Egg Harbor Road has very little curb or sidewalk.
“There’s some curb on Egg Harbor Road down towards APS, in that area, but there’s no sidewalk nearby. There’s sidewalk down by 14th Street, which is about a quarter-mile away,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann said that curb and sidewalk—or lack thereof—would not impact roadway drainage.
“Right now, there’s a gutter-line flow along the edge of paving. There are some inlets in front of their property that collect quite a bit of runoff and conveys it north under the railroad tracks, so having curb or sidewalk wouldn’t have any positive or negative impact on the drainage,” Herrmann said.
Herrmann suggested a requirement should the board grant the waiver.
“We would require a 10-foot cleared area running parallel to the road to allow for any future curb and sidewalk construction, if the town were to desire to do that,” Herrmann said.
Board member Gordon Pherribo said that applications like the one before the board seem to be “a common problem.”
“We get curb and sidewalk waivers all the time, it seems like, after the house is built. They come in here, asking for a waiver. That should be done before they even start construction … How do we correct this problem, so this is done before the house is built as opposed to after?” Pherribo said.
Oliva said that the information would need to be in the original building permit application.
“They would have to identify if they are intending to put curb and sidewalk, or if they’re not.
The ordinance requires it in all zones, so they would have to identify either by a check-box or a signature that says yes, we intend to do this. Then, if they came to the board after the process, it would obviously be on them,” Oliva said.
Wuillermin addressed the applicants.
“Are you going to settlement on Friday?” he said.
Mark Visco answered in the affirmative.
Wuillermin noted that the county may have its own requirements regarding the exact placement of the sidewalk on the property due to existing easements, which might require regrading of portions of the lot and driveway.
“How do you allow them to go forward with their settlement? They need a C.O. How do you keep the issue of the placement of the sidewalk until they get a definitive answer from the county as to its location?” Wuillermin said.
“If you don’t grant the waiver, they have a problem. You have justification that you’ve identified by moving the sidewalk in and creating grading issues; that is the kind of thing—maybe self-created here—that the statute allows you to grant the waivers. You have the ability to grant it, based upon the situation they’ve been placed in through some misunderstandings,” McGroarty said.
Pherribo asked how such future misunderstandings could be avoided, and Pullia replied.
“Maybe we could just put in our building envelope, you realize that the entire town of
Hammonton, I don’t think there’s hardly any zones where you don’t need sidewalk, so they sign off on that when they get their jacket to build their home,” Pullia said.
Pullia then commented on the situation before them.
“If they don’t have a C.O. Friday morning, they’re not going to settlement, so they’re going to lose the sale of their existing home, they’re not going to get a mortgage on the new home—I’m assuming you’re getting a mortgage?” Pullia said.
Kimberly Visco responded affirmatively, and Pullia continued.
“They’re not going to get their mortgage. Now, the rates have gone up, I’m sure, since they locked their rate in, so this has ramifications way more than we are talking about for this particular application—but everything everybody said tonight is 100 percent true: we have to get a handle on this moving forward,” Pullia said.
Mark Visco replied to Pullia.
“If it was in our package like everyone’s talking about, it would give us a second thought: do we want to spend that $20,000 that it’s going to take to put in that little bit of curb, or do we want to look somewhere else, or whatever, if that’s the case?” he said.
Mark Visco said that lack of curb and sidewalk in the area factored into their decision to build on that property.
“It was water/sewer hookup, and it was perfect for us. There was no curb and sidewalk. I don’t want curb and sidewalk. If I wanted to live in a city or in town, I would,” he said.
McGroarty reminded the applicants that, as a part of the waiver—should it be granted—they consent to the town to install curb and sidewalk, should it desire.
“They can charge you the fees and costs associated with that … If they’re going to put curb and sidewalk down the entire road and there’s an assessment for that, you would pay that assessment—and the next property owner; it runs with the property,” McGroarty said.
Kimberly Visco responded.
“If they’re going to do the whole road, we don’t really have a choice at that point,” she said.
After discussion of the application, board member Ralph Capaccio made a motion to approve, which board member Jonathan Baske seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.
Board members Michael Hozik, James Matro and Ray Scipione were absent from the meeting. Board alternate Christopher Kalani was present but was not a voting member, as nine regular members—the maximum number of voting members allowed for planning issues—were also present.
The board also had a zoning matter on the agenda: Application No. 15-22PB, submitted by Shore Management of Vincentown, N.J. The applicant seeks use variance relief in order to return the existing single-family structure—now an office—to a single family home.
However, Olivo said, the applicant had to postpone to a later date due to an emergency.
“That will be on April 19 at our next planning and zoning board meeting, and they will not have to re-advertise,” Olivo said.
In other business, the planning board adopted the following resolution:
• Tomasello Winery, Application No. 17-22ZB— Applicant was approved to replace the current sign, damaged from a motor vehicle accident, with a digital sign at 225 N. White Horse Pike (Block 4501, Lot 37).
The Hammonton Planning Board regularly meets on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. The next meeting is scheduled for April 19 at 7 p.m.