Members of the Washington Township Zoning Board approved all the variances requested for a plan to replace with a new gas station and 1,206-square-foot convenience store Tuesday, though they did set some conditions with which the applicant, Sky Trading, will have to comply.
The variances included two use variances to add the convenience store and expand the gas station in a residential zone. The expansion of the gas station was only approved after the applicant's experts made some impromptu changes to the plan, reducing the size of the planned canopy and lowering the number of proposed pumps from eight to six. Board member Laura Merkle said the change would help dampen the impact of the expansion.
"It's not going to be as crammed," Merkle said.
Board Chairman William Johnson said he believed the plans would improve drainage, ventilation and the flow of traffic through the site. He also said it could use the aesthetic improvements.
"This has been a gas station forever and it is an eyesore," Johnson said. "If we're going to have a gas station on that corner, I would like it to look nicer and be more functional."
Board members voted on each variance separately. Johnson was one of two board members who voted against the convenience store use variance because the township's Master Plan does not suggest expanding any retail uses outside of existing commercial areas. Despite having been a gas station for many years, the site is still zoned for residential use. Neighbors have expressed .
"I cannot get beyond the Master Plan," Johnson said.
Other board members said they believed the convenience store would have less impact on surrounding homes than the garage currently on the site. Board member Rick Sonntag noted the applicant's offer to give some of the land to the county for a future intersection improvement and board Vice Chairman Richard Miras said the demolition of the garage will allow contaminated soil at the site to be removed.
"It definitely is an improvement," Miras said.
There will also be conditions for how the business is operated, once construction is complete. Fuel deliveries will be restricted to the least busy time for traffic during the day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so as not to disrupt drivers while also not disturbing neighbors with noise from the truck at night. The station will also be limited to operating hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The board will review the complete list of stipulations with Sky Trading representatives at their next meeting June 19.