HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP: Zoning board denies CVS application

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By Frank Mustac, Contributor
Applause from an audience of residents from Pennington and Hopewell Township were heard after the township zoning board denied an application for a proposed CVS store and pharmacy at the intersection of Route 31 and Ingleside Avenue, the site of the current Sunoco gas station.
The vote to deny was unanimous.
Casting votes to squash the application were Zoning Board Chairman Frank Klapinski, and members William H. Cane, Eric Hatche, Joanne Lockwood, Denise Moser, Uma Purandare and John Van Raalte.
The latest plans presented by CVS Pharmacy company called for a store with a building footprint of just under 12,000 square feet in size, with a pharmacy drive-through window. Back in March, CVS had proposed to construct a larger 14,600-square-foot building
The most-recent plans also called for 50 parking spaces at the site, which is a reduction from 60 spaces previously requested by the applicant.
Two access drives, one for Route 31 and another for Ingleside Avenue, were also being proposed.
The applicant also proposed a 12-foot-high sound barrier wall designed to reduce noise reaching homes adjacent to the site.
Had the Hopewell Township zoning board approved the variances requested by CVS, the applicant would have then requested the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) to install a full traffic light at the corner of Route 31 and Ingleside Avenue, with the possibility that one or both roads could be widened at the intersection.
Before the roll-call vote, zoning board members spoke about the concerns they had about the CVS store application.
Mr. Hatche said that the board had not been given any indication of the current status of the traffic light and what the NJDOT would deem necessary for the light “in terms the size, the scope, the lane configuration and the timing.”
Chairman Klapinski said the testimony of the CVS traffic expert compared the number of vehicle trips that the proposed store and pharmacy was estimated to generate against trip numbers of an “upscale gas station and not the current (Sunoco) gas station.”
“I don’t believe he gave us many figures at all in the discussion about the current traffic of the current gas station,” Mr. Klapinski said.
He also expressed concerns about the landscape design for the site.
“A lot of landscaping went in, but it was all to mitigate the houses to the rear,” he said. “There was very little landscaping to mitigate the houses across Route 31.”
“This was a very unique application. I’ve been (on the zoning board) almost 20 years, and I’ve never had an application where we did so much of the design for the applicant. It seemed like every time something came up, (CVS said) ‘Oh, we’ll do this.’ No matter what issue was brought up by this board, (they said) ‘We’ll do it.’
“It’s very cooperative, but the application had a lot of shortfalls in its initial presentation and in its second go-around.”
The chairman also was concerned about the sound barrier wall and the number of variances that were requested by CVS because of the lot size and the shape of the property.
“Why is there such a hardship with this lot if it is so suitable to the proposed uses?” Mr. Klapinski asked rhetorically.