Howell zoners vote to deny concrete block manufacturing plant

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HOWELL – Members of the Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment have voted to deny an application that proposed to construct a concrete block manufacturing plant on Adelphia Road (Route 524).

The applicant, Euro Supply Ltd., doing business as Stone Quest LLC, was seeking a use variance and preliminary and final major site plan approval from the zoning board. The granting of a use variance would have required five “yes” votes from the board.

Stone Quest sought to construct a concrete block manufacturing plant, storage bins, a 3,000-square-foot gravel storage area, a pole barn, two 12,000-square-foot storage buildings, a circulation driveway and other ancillary improvements at the property.

The application was heard during the zoning board’s April 22 meeting at the municipal building. Stone Quest was represented by attorney Dante Alfieri, engineer Michael Geller, applicant Joseph Morchik and traffic professional Scott Kennel.

“This site was previously owned by (a company that had) a foliage business there and various other activities through the years. There is a factory building on the property that has probably existed for close to or over 50 years,” Geller said.

He said Morchik purchased the property in 2015 and moved his stone product manufacturing business to the location.

“They make various products out of stone – counter tops, cabinets – and they have a 60,000-square-foot commercial building on the property,” Geller said.

The property is in Howell’s Special Economic Development (SED) zone.

“That (SED zone) was an overlay zone created by the township in 2013. It is an overlay to the remainder of the surrounding area, which is an Agricultural Rural Estate (ARE-2) zone, and the overlay zone allowed the uses that are permitted in the SED zone, but it is required to adhere to the ARE-2 bulk requirements,” Geller said.

Geller described the driveway off Squankum-Yellowbrook Road.

“The first 50 feet is paved and has a curb, then it is gravel for the remainder. The same applies for the access drive off Adelphia Road, 50 feet are paved and then it is gravel,” he said.

The board’s chairman, Wendell Nanson, asked if the applicant would be opposed to paving the entire driveway.

Alfieri said the applicant would prefer not to pave the entire driveway.

“You are going to have tractor-trailers, dump trucks and everything else coming in. Gravel makes a lot of dust,” Nanson said.

Geller said the concrete block manufacturing business would operate Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said there would be a maximum of 20 employees at the location.

During the public hearing, residents objected to the application and cited concerns about the possibility of airborne chemicals. They asked the zoning board members not to set a precedent by permitting a use where such a use is prohibited.

“What we have here is an application that currently uses stone to make products and the applicant has said they are going to do a lot on this property, but the issue is (a township) ordinance and it has been stated on the record that this is a new application for concrete. Stone is natural, concrete is not natural; it has to be manufactured,” the board’s vice chairman, Michael Sanclimenti, said.

On July 18, 2017, members of the Township Council adopted an ordinance removing and prohibiting the manufacturing of concrete and asphalt as a permitted use in the SED zones.

Sanclimenti quoted the ordinance which states that the manufacturing of asphalt and concrete is prohibited.

“If this application previously had a concrete business then it could be approved, but this is brand new. This is two years after the (adoption of the) ordinance,” Sanclimenti said.

Sanclimenti made a motion to deny the application “based on the ordinance and based on the fact this is a new business. Even though it is the same business, it is a new part of this business, which is prohibited.”

Board member Richard Mertens seconded the motion and said there is an ordinance in place for just such a reason.

Nanson explained why he was going to vote to deny the application.

“There is not a concrete plant on this site, this is not an existing concrete plant for storage, it never was. Stone manufacturing is permitted in the SED zone. In 2017 the Planning Board took up the aspect of the SED zones … this is an SED-1 zone, this is more of a light intensity,” he said.

Nanson said he believes there are areas of Howell that have the applicant’s proposed type of manufacturing.

“I do not think the intent of the council was to remove (concrete and asphalt manufacturing) and for this board to place (that use) into a light industrial zone, I really do not. … I do not believe we should open the door to concrete manufacturing in an area where that does not exist now,” he said.

On the motion to deny the Euro Supply Ltd. application, Nanson, Sanclimenti, Mertens, Jose Orozco, Matthew Hughes III and Thomas O’Donnell voted “yes.” Board member Herbert Massa voted “no.” The motion to deny the application carried 6-1.