2005-09-22 / Front Page
Some residents oppose Rt. 130 retail center
BY JENNIFER AMATO
A decision on the application, proposed by Pami Realty LLC, was delayed Tuesday until at least Oct. 18 when more extensive information will be brought before the board.
Since the property is currently zoned general office (G-O), a use variance is needed to permit a retail center. The permitted uses for the property include professional offices and banks, according to Zoning Officer Michael Proietti.
According to licensed professional engineer Julius Szalay, speaking on behalf of the applicant, the property in question is rectangular and 55 feet in depth, typical for retail use. Although there are presently no specified tenants, six or seven are expected to occupy the space. As per an established ordinance, for every 1,000 feet of space, five parking spaces are needed, so the proposal by Pami of 74 spots exceeds the 50 spaces required. There will also be four handicap spaces.
There are two proposed driveways, a right in and a right out along Route 130, and a full-movement lane leading out to Adams Lane. Two fenced-in areas will house the refuse and recycling containers. There are no wetlands observed on or around the site. Sanitary, water and electricity utilities have been confirmed in the area, and stormwater management will be discussed at the time of a site plan issuance. A 20-foot-high entrance sign is proposed to stand at the northwest corner, set back 20 feet from the front of the property.
However, there are several problems that currently exist as a result of the zoning of the property, according to Szalay. A G-O zone allots 1.5 acres, but the proposed property has only 1.35 acres. The minimum lot depth is 151.44 feet, as opposed to the required 250 feet. The total impervious lot coverage is 81 percent, whereas a township ordinance permits 80 percent. In the zone, the minimum distance along the front of the property is 10 feet, whereas the proposal is 7.98 feet, due to the lack of lot depth of 151 feet. A buffer zone and rear-yard setback fall short of their law requirements. Bulk variances would be required to correct these issues.
With all of the considerations, Szalay compared the proposed retail center to a permitted use of a medical office building: he said that a two-story medical building could be 15,000 feet with 75 parking spaces. The building would meet all of the criteria except for the rear setback and buffer requirements; however, Szalay said that any building on the property would face that same problem due to the size of the property. He said that the impact of the retail center versus the permitted use would be nearly identical, so a retail center is an appropriate proposal.
John Rea, a traffic engineer testifying on behalf of the applicant, compared the traffic flow of a medical building with that of the proposed retail center. During the peak evening hours, an office would generate 35 cars versus 39 from a retail shop; the afternoon peak hour would generate 53 new trips for the medical center and the retail center would produce 136 driveway movements, only 33 of which would be new; during peak Saturday times an office center would generate 52 new trips and the shopping center would have 57. Of the 136 trips generated from the retail center on an afternoon, 76 percent are considered “pass-bys,” meaning a person will decide to stop by the center on impulse or on their way home from work; it is not new traffic, but cars that are driving past the area regardless.
Rea also compared the proposal to a day-care center, which is a permitted use in any zone other than residential. He said the retail center is beneficial due to the very intense traffic generated when parents drop off and pick up their children.
Planner Richard Lapinski testified that the construction would not have an adverse effect on the existing neighborhoods. He cited that the single-family home on Route 130 has already been impacted by the highway. He said there will be adequate landscaping and fences to act as buffers. He added that he has reviewed the township’s master plan and noted that the property abuts zones that are in nonconforming use. His opinion is that a medical building would be more substantially obtrusive to the surrounding residences.
“The public good is served by the particular suitability of this land for this use,” he said.
However, residents are not supportive of the proposed structure, which would be surrounded by existing retail, a church, single-family homes and an office building.
Resident Larry Witlen was worried about a McDonald’s tenant, being that the site could house restaurants if the use variance was granted, thereby causing excessive traffic and refuse. Although Zoning Board Chairman David Sirna said that businesses such as Wawa, McDonald’s or CVS would not be permitted in the zone, Witlen commented that there are enough medical buildings and strip malls in the area.
Resident Mindy Angstreich worried of a snowball effect this decision may have in future land development in the township.
“I would ask that nothing change, that it stays where it is. … My big fear is the domino effect. … I ask that you don’t put more commercial there. Light office or G-O is fine,” she said.
Resident Peter Maimone said that the proximity of the retail center to the Maple Meade plaza will create a traffic “nightmare.” Although Pami representatives said they were not able to file a preapplication with the state Department of Transportation without the initial approval of the Zoning Board, Maimone said that in his 20 years of experience in real estate, he has never seen a property purchased with so many questions prior to approval. He said that he believes an office-professional zone is there for a reason — to protect the adjacent neighborhoods — and that the original zoning is the best use for the property.
If the board approves a use variance, the applicant will come back before the board for a site plan review.