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Church Wants Permanent Home at Cedar Grove Lane and Como Drive

Application to be heard at Sept. 19 Zoning Board meeting

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Architectural rendering of the proposed church, by Kendall Park-based architect Jeffrey W. Kusmick.

UPDATE: The Sept. 19 zoning board meeting was cancelled, the Tabernacle Church hearing has been rescheduled for the Oct. 17 meeting.

An Edison-based congregation wants to build a church at Cedar Grove Lane and Como Drive, but its Zoning Board of Adjustment application has raised concerns among township and county officials.

The application filed by NJ Tabernacle Church is actually for the first phase of what the church envisions as a two-phase project. Initially the church wants to build its 108-seat, 3,935-square-foot church on two lots in the R-40 zone. R-40 zones are residential, but allow churches as conditional uses.

The second phase would be for a 1,500-square-foot addition and additional parking, and would boost the number of seats to 200, according to the application.

The Rev. Dr. Patience Oti, the church’s pastor, said the second phase would only be needed if the congregation grew into it.

“It would be for like a fellowship hall,” she said.

Oti said the church has owned the Como Drive lot for about eight years. The brick house on the property was too small for the congregation, she said.

The church has contracted to buy the second lot, which fronts Cedar Grove Lane, from Vito Mistretta of Monmouth Junction, according to the application.

The church’s plan is to raze the Como Drive house and use the Cedar Grove house as a parsonage, at least until the need for the expansion was met, according to the application.

The church plans to use driveways on both Cedar Grove Lane and Como Drive, but the Somerset County Planning Board in its report said the Cedar Grove Lane driveways should be sealed off and not used.

The county also wants an analysis of how many cars would use Cedar Grove Lane – a county road – to determine what the church’s contribution would be to any improvements on that road, according to the report.

The application was also reviewed by the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission, which in its report said it “does not recommend approval at this time,” largely due to questions about the church’s water quality treatment plan.

Mark Healey, the township’s planning director, also raised some questions about the application.

In his report, Healey said teh church’s intention to use existing vegetation as buffers would not be sufficient because most of the trees in teh area lose their leaves in winter, making it “doubtful,” he wrote, that the trees would provide the level of screening required by township ordinances.

The township requires either a triple row  of evergreen trees or a double row of evergreen trees with a solid fence.

The church is proposing to leave the area as it is, maintaining that the target property abuts protected open space. Healey said that area is not protected.

Healey also called “inappropriate” the church’s plan to pave the first phase parking lot and clear the second phase’s lot but leave it unpaved.

The church should either pave them both at the same time, or forgo the idea of a second lot, he wrote.

Traffic experts hired by the church said in their report that the church would result in no significant impact on traffic along Cedar Grove Lane.

The report written by Dolan and Dean of Martinsville said there would be “minimal levels of new activity” during the church’s peak hours, which the report pegged at between  a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays.

Oti said the congregation is now meeting at Crown Plaza in Edison.

“I think it’s about time we had a permanent site,” she said.

The church needs several variances, including for parking and buffering.

The application is scheduled to be heard at the Sept. 19 zoning board meeting.

 

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