Editor's Note: The headline for this article has been corrected. It originally referred to the township planning board. The meeting in question involved the township zoning board. We offer our apologies for any inconvenience caused by this error.
Site plans for a new automobile service facility to be constructed at 4024 Quakerbridge Rd. were approved by the Lawrence Township Zoning Board during its meeting last week (Jan. 16).
While such a business is a conditional use permitted within the Neighborhood Center 2 District under the township Land Use Ordinance, property owner Mazhar Paroya needed to obtain a variance from the zoning board because the lot – at more than 29,000 square feet – is larger than the maximum allowed lot size (22,500 square feet) for such a use.
The board granted the variance after hearing testimony about the design and layout of the new building, the landscaping that will be used to shield the business from neighboring properties, how storm water runoff will be managed, where customer vehicles will be parked, and other issues.
With just one large garage-like door on the side facing Quakerbridge Road, the new building will measure 4,526 square feet and have four service bays inside where customers can have their vehicles’ brakes replaced, oil changed and tires rotated.
The house that previously stood on the property at 4024 Quakerbridge Rd. was destroyed by a pre-dawn fire on Feb. 16, 2007. A Rider University student who was asleep in the rental home at the time narrowly escaped the blaze, which was fought by firefighters from Lawrence, Hamilton, Ewing and Hopewell.
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The Jan. 16 zoning board meeting also featured continuing testimony concerning the proposed redevelopment of the Mrs. G TV and Appliances property and adjacent vacant lots located at Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) and Bakers Basin Road.
As part of the proposal, existing buildings on the properties – the current Mrs. G showroom, a vacant business, an abandoned diner, and three unoccupied homes – would be demolished. Constructed in their place would be five stand-alone buildings that would house a Wawa convenience store with fuel pumps, a new Mrs. G. store, a McDonald’s restaurant, a TD Bank branch, and a yet-to-be-determined tenant. The plan is before the zoning board because a number of variances are needed.
A “connector road” would be built behind the new buildings both to provide access to the new shopping center and to give motorists traveling north on Route 1 the ability to turn left (westbound) or right (eastbound) onto Bakers Basin Road. Another new access road running parallel to Route 1, behind the existing Lawrence Ford Lincoln Mercury auto dealership, would link that new “connector road” with Litho Road.
The existing jughandle onto Bakers Basin Road from Route 1 North – at which left turns to go westbound were outlawed a few years ago – would be removed entirely. Bakers Basin Road, itself, would be widened into three westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes between Route 1 and the Delaware and Raritan Canal to allow – according to representatives of the builder –vehicles to safely enter/exit the new shopping center, improve overall traffic flow in the area and increase the queuing capacity of vehicles waiting at a red light.
But Alexander Litwornia, a traffic engineer hired by attorney Kevin Moore, representing the Shell gas station on the opposite side of Route 1, testified during the latter half of last week’s meeting that, in his opinion, the new Wawa and other businesses will worsen traffic in that area of Route 1 rather than improve it, as the builder’s representatives have testified.
Testimony concerning the Route 1 redevelopment application will continue for at least two more zoning board meetings – a special session scheduled for Jan. 30 and the next regular meeting to be held on Feb. 20.