Revised Self-Storage Facility Plan At Fama Site Gets Warmer Reception From Zoning Board

Paul Mutch, engineer for the proposed self-storage facility, describes some of the project’s changes to the Zoning Board at the April 21 meeting.

A modified version of a proposed self-storage facility on Route 27 received a warmer reception by the Zoning Board of Adjustment April 21 than did its predecessor.

The 125,000-plus square foot, 3-story structure is targeted for land long occupied by the Fama Nursery.

The last time the developer, Arizona-based 1784 Capital Holdings, appeared before the Board, in December 2021, its attorney read the Board’s move and asked for an adjournment so the project could be “re-imagined.”

The Board granted the request, and the developer spent the intervening months revising the plan.

Lack of the required seven Board members to vote April 21 on the proposed use variance and preliminary and final site plan approval required a final vote to be scheduled for the Board’s May 5 meeting.

The project needs a use variance because self-storage facilities are not allowed in the Clustered Residential zone, into which the property falls.

There was no such vibe of impending denial at the April 21 hearing, and 1784 Capital Holdings was able to have its engineer and planner testify to the changes.

“We revised the plan a few times over the last few months,” Paul Mutch, the developer’s engineer, told the Board.

The new version is minus 25 recreational vehicle parking spots along one side of the property. That has been replaced by landscaping and natural buffering of the property from its adjoining homes.

There’s also a reduction of impervious surface coverage in the project, although it still contains about twice the amount of impervious coverage allowed by township ordinance.

A wrought-iron fence originally planned for the project has been replaced with a solid, board-on-board fence requested by some of the property’s neighbors.

Also changed was the number of trees the developer plans on planting. The original project called for 284 new trees, the plan submitted on April 21 calls for 340 new trees. Plans also call for the planting of 200 shrubs.

“We’re making a substantial investment in plantings and trees,” Mutch said.

The project was originally opposed by residents of the Kingsberry Acres townhouse development and the Hempstead Gardens apartment complex.

The former now supports the project, while the apartment complex still opposes it and has hired an attorney to fight it.

“We reduced the overall intensity to try to better meet some of the concerns that we heard,” Mutch said.

Speaking of the removal of the 25 RV parking spots, Mutch said, “we went from RV parking spaces on the property line to a nice, dense green band.”

“We established a pretty hefty buffer ” from adjacent homes, he said. “There’s a lot of separation between us and the residential.”

Mutch also said the the developer will install a stormwater management system on the property, where one does not currently exist.

The system will steer water runoff to the rear of the property and into and detention basin, where it will then be released toward a stream. It’s basically the same as now exists, only occurring at a slower rate so as not to overwhelm the basin and cause flooding, he said.

“I think you’ll see a substantial betterment of the runoff condition,” Mutch said.

During the meeting, Board member Robert Shepherd said that while the current plan seems better than what was first proposed, there are “still a lot of non-compliant aspects of this that trouble me.”

“It seems to me they could build something on this site that falls within the zoning,” he said.

Creigh Rahenkamp, the project’s planner, said that the rectangular nature of the property did not easily lend itself to a residential development, although he admitted that one could be built there.

“This application gives you the least active use you could have,” he said.

The objectors also presented their engineer and planner.

Engineer Christopher Briglia told the Board that part of the project’s stormwater management system falls on Hempstead Gardens property, adding that the developer did not have permission to do that.

“I don’t know of any agreement made between (Hempstead Gardens) and the developer” to provide for maintenance of the stormwater system, he said.

Briglia said there’s too much planned for the property.

“The site is just being packed,” he said.

Briglia also said there are more than 40 items on the township engineer’s checklist that still have not been satisfied by the developer.

Rebutting Briglia’s testimony, Mutch told the Board that the developer will adhere to all suggestions made by the township engineer.

As for the issue of where the stormwater is discharged, Mutch told the Board that “it’s your engineer’s responsibility to ensure” that the plan won’t adversely affect neighboring properties.

Board chairman Robert Thomas said that in his years of serving on the Board, he has “never, ever heard of any issue where you needed permission to set up a drainage pattern like that.”

The objectors’ planner, John Chadwick, told the Board that the project was “not compatible” with surrounding property uses.

“It’s different than what’s adjoining by a significant amount,” he said.

Commenting on the developer’s plan to plant 6-foot-tall trees as part of a buffer to adjoining residential properties, Chadwick said, “6-foot-high plants will grow, eventually, but for a significant amount of time, you’re going to have a 34-foot-high building in the face of these residentials.”

Rebutting Chadwick, Rahenkamp said there was no requirement to build a project similar to what is already in an area.

What a developer has to show, he said, is that a proposed development does not pose a “substantial detriment” to the area.

Even if housing were built on the lot, he said, “you’re still going to have 2-and-a-half story townhouses, and the peaks of the roofs will be as tall as our building.”

The height of the proposed building, he said, “is no taller” than what is allowed by zoning.

“This is not a building that is out of scale with what you see in suburbia,” he said.

Only two members of the public spoke during the meeting.

Chip Hoover, who represents the Kingsberry Acres board of trustees, told the Board that his group had several meetings with the developer’s professionals, and that the proposed use would be less intense than the nursery that’s there now.

Kingsberry Acres resident Erica Malloy told the Board that she lives close to the proposed fence, and that she was “very happy in hearing that they are being very considerate in making sure that that fence is going to be acceptable to residents. What we have there now is not very pretty.”

“We, too, are excited and hoping that once things are cleaned up and we have the wall, it will help our site, too,” she said.

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