Route 88 Wawa, Daycare Center, Bank Denied

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – An application for commercial development at the site of the Laurelton Mobile Home Park was denied by the Board of Adjustment.

It was the third Board of Adjustment meeting for JSM @ Martin Blvd., LLC when their application for a Wawa convenience store and gas station, a daycare center and a bank was narrowly turned down.

JSM (Jack and Sheryl Morris) hired professionals – including an attorney, a land use expert, an engineer, a traffic expert and others – who completed their testimony during the meeting on the application for development of the nearly 12-acre site.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

As part of the application, occupied mobile homes would have been allowed to remain onsite but any that would be affected by the development would have been relocated to the rear of the property.

At one time, there were more than 100 homes there, but now only about 36 are occupied as residents have either moved or died.

Mobile home parks are allowed in the township under certain circumstances, which includes the pre-existing, age-restricted Laurelton Mobile Home Park.

According to board attorney Ron Cucchiaro, the project would require “a whole list” of variances, including a new minor subdivision permit for the relocated mobile home park.

The professionals testified that the variances were minor in nature and that township’s Master Plan envisions channeling commercial development into existing commercial areas, such as the area of the Laurelton Mobile Home Park which is in a B-3 zone.

Board members expressed concern about increased traffic and intersection congestion at the site, located on Route 88 and Jack Martin Blvd.

Board engineer Brian Boccanfuso questioned the professionals about turning restrictions in and out of the site, and expressed safety concerns about traffic entering and exiting onto an undivided highway.

About a dozen residents who live near the proposed development attended the meeting and several spoke during public comment.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Dennis Dryburgh, who lives about a mile from the site, said he passes it on the Route 88 side every day.

He said he did his own research showing that the Wawa gas station would service some 300,000 cars a year, based on national gas station statistics. “How do you alleviate that gridlock?” he asked.

Board attorney Cucchiaro said that the Board of Adjustment must permit for gas stations if certain conditions are satisfied.

“None of the conditions pertain to traffic,” he said. “We have to play by the rules. We can’t deny an application for traffic, it’s not one of those regulated conditions.”

Cindy Shay of Laurelton Heights brought 46 photos she had taken of existing traffic and “dangerous curves” near some of the nearby strip malls on Route 88.

Shay, who is a retired pediatric nurse of 50 years, expressed concern for the safety of the children living in the area.

“[The increased congestion] would be significantly detrimental, and very unsafe for school buses,” she said.

Cheryl Geisler lives about a half mile from the site, across Route 70 from Walmart.

“Is quality of life not considered by the board?” she asked.

The board attorney, Cucchiaro, said the board considers all the testimony that includes any negative criteria.

(Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

“That’s where quality of life gets picked up. We can’t consider traffic, and not because the board doesn’t want to,” he said.

Geisler said she didn’t understand why a Planning Board exists.

“I thought you were established to maintain the quality of life for residents?” she said.

Laura Docherty of Laurelton Heights said she had concerns about pollution from cars idling on the commercial site, the effect of the commercial development on the prices of nearby homes, and more.

“Do we need to leave Brick to have a quality of life? We can’t turn down the street to shop. We need to be concerned about our community,” she said.

After public comment, the board voted on the application. Board members Stephen Leitner and Mike Jamnik voted against the application. The remaining four members who were present voted for the application. Member Carl Anderson was absent. The application would have needed five votes to pass, said Board Chairman Harvey Langer.

In March, the Board of Adjustment voted against another application for a Wawa convenience store and gas station and a drive-through restaurant to be located on 4.97 acres on the corner of Duquesne Blvd. and Route 70.

Dozens of Lake Riviera residents cited quality of life issues, including traffic and congestion concerns for the site during public comment on that proposal.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at [email protected].com.