By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL — The Planning Board has granted final approval to an applicant who will replace an abandoned car wash with a Mavis Discount Tire store at 4651 Route 9 north, Howell, between Kent Road and Locust Avenue.
The applicant received preliminary approval on June 16 and final approval on Aug. 4. The store will total 5,495 square feet and have six work bays. The 29,000-square-foot parcel (slightly more than a half-acre) has 170 feet of frontage on Route 9.
“This is a request to repurpose a property that has essentially been fully developed for some time, but abandoned,” said attorney Kenneth Pape, who represents the applicant.
Pape said several items that were not resolved in June were addressed and presented on Aug. 4. He said the architecture of the building, which was not satisfactory to the board, was revised. Minor site plan items were updated and resubmitted.
The board’s planner, Jennifer Beahm, said the revised architectural plans were a significant improvement and said she had no concerns.
The board’s engineer, Laura Neumann, said minor landscaping issues were resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
Architect Gary Kliesch, representing the applicant, said additional pilasters (giving the appearance of a column) and metal panels had been incorporated into the building.
“The numerous pilasters will break up the façade as per your ordinance,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro, who sits on the board, said although the applicant revised the features of the building, the design still did not conform to Howell’s design standards.
“I initially raised the issue of the design of this building. The issue was a flat face,” Nicastro said. “You have changed some facial items, but it is still a flat face front. There are no peaks.”
Beahm said the revised plan was not a fully conforming design.
“The ordinance does require depressions and bump-outs if the façade is longer than 200 feet. I felt this was a vast improvement over what we saw before, which, especially at the rear, was one big blank block wall. So now there is a break in the building visually,” she said. “I think what the deputy mayor is saying is that he is still looking for the physical bump-outs of the building.”
Nicastro agreed with Beahm and said, “I am looking to hold up the same standard this board has held to … all the other buildings that have come to us to meet our ordinance. … It is much better, but it’s not there. It’s still a flat (surface). … This is an opportunity to make Route 9 look nicer and I think that is the board’s responsibility.”
The applicant agreed to bump out the front façade several feet and Nicastro said that final revision would satisfy his concerns.
“We will take the center portion of the building and have it so that it is moved. It will create three separate sections in the front of the building,” Pape said. “The discussion tonight has produced a more interesting front façade. With all of these revisions and all of these representations, we respectfully ask the board for final site plan approval.”
No one from the public commented on the application, which received a vote of final approval from Chairman Paul Schneider, Vice Chairman Robert Nash, Arthur Fankhauser, George Gravatt, Thomas O’Donnell, Thomas Russo, Kenneth French, Thomas Boyle and Nicastro.