Howell Zoning Board Approves Warehouse Use Variance

In a recent session, Howell Zoning Board approved a use variance and preliminary major site plan with bulk variances for a property previously utilized for watermelon distribution, paving the way for its transformation into a retail sales, storage, and distribution center. This decision comes despite concerns raised by a resident about the potential impacts on the surrounding residential area, including traffic and road conditions. The property, situated in a residential zone, will undergo substantial changes, including adjustments to setbacks, lot coverage, and structural alterations.

The approval process for the property’s repurposing was careful, involving detailed testimony from a professional planner who addressed both the positive and negative criteria associated with the proposed variances. The planner advocated for the benefits of reusing the existing structure, which include decreased impervious cover and improved aesthetics. They also highlighted the low impact on neighboring land uses and the suitability of the site for the intended use, arguing that the proposal would not undermine the master plan or zoning ordinance.

The debate over the proposed use variance, specifically the D1 variance and bulk variances, was a focal point of discussion. While opinions among board members varied, there was a consensus on the merit of repurposing the building and the low traffic intensity that the new use was expected to bring. Deliberations also touched on the necessity of providing publicly usable site furnishings like bike racks and park benches for a site that would not entertain public visitors. Ultimately, the board decided against requiring these amenities.

During the public comment period, a resident’s apprehension about the warehouse use’s compatibility with the residential zone was put forth. Their concerns emphasized the potential increase in traffic and degradation of road conditions. These issues were taken into account by the board members, who discussed conditions of approval and possible stipulations to mitigate any adverse effects from the approval.

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In addition to the use variance discussions, the meeting also delved into the plans for a hotel project by GF United. The application requested a one-year extension on previously granted approvals from 2020, as well as an amended conditional use variance and preliminary and major site plan approval with bulk variances. The expansion of the hotel’s parking area and the removal of excess pavement were key points in the proposal. The board discussed various conditions and restrictions, including temporary vehicle parking on neighboring properties during construction and the start of construction prior to receiving Department of Transportation approval. The consolidation of lots for tax purposes was also a topic of deliberation. The removal of a sign belonging to car rental company Avis from the property was confirmed to have already occurred, addressing one of the board’s concerns.

The meeting also covered the application of Royalty 19 LLC, a business specializing in the import of high-end crystal silverware and tableware. The company’s attorney provided a historical overview of the property, which had been used for various commercial endeavors, and outlined the proposed improvements. These improvements aimed to reduce tractor trailer traffic compared to previous businesses. A licensed professional engineer provided a detailed account of the property and its surroundings, highlighting the commercial buildings and confirming the lack of nearby mapped wetlands or riparian zones.

The board further discussed the Royalty 19 LLC property’s site plan, which included the removal of a concrete slab, relocation of the driveway to maintain a farm buffer, and construction of a new septic system and well. The plan also proposed aesthetic enhancements, such as a small building addition and a comprehensive stormwater management system with a bio retention basin. Lighting design and landscaping plans were reviewed, with an emphasis on preservation of indigenous wildlife and meeting the requests of the Shade Tree Commission for a woodland management plan.

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Finally, the meeting addressed a proposed expansion of warehouse space by an applicant with an existing tight space of around 14,000 square feet. The applicant’s intention to double their space due to growth projections led to board concerns about an increase in truck deliveries and the practicality of enforcing a proposed limit on the number of trucks per month.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Mayor:
Theresa Berger
Zoning Board Officials:
William Stahnten, Paul Sayah, Jose Orozco, Richard Mertens, Matthew Hughes III, Nicholas Borrillo, Glenn Cantor, Michael Ryan, Annmarie Scottson

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