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Warehouse proposal fails to pass muster before Jackson zoning board

JACKSON – An application that proposed the construction of 397,495 square feet of warehouse space and 34,800 square feet of office space in four buildings on North County Line Road failed to garner enough votes for a use variance during the Oct. 20 meeting of the Jackson Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The applicant, Countyline Holdings LLC, was seeking a use variance from the zoning board for its project in a Highway Commercial Zone where warehousing is not a permitted use.

Attorney Adam Pfeffer and engineer Brian Murphy represented the applicant at the meeting.

Murphy said the 37-acre site included an environmentally sensitive area that would not be disturbed during the construction of the buildings. Neighboring uses included a single-family home, a parcel which is farmed, an automotive shop and other commercial uses.

The property is 1 mile from Interstate 195 and Murphy said vehicles would likely take Jackson Mills Road to County Line Road to reach the site. Access was proposed through a right in and right out driveway.

Murphy described the layout of the four buildings, the parking the applicant was providing and the loading areas. He said the loading areas were basically enclosed in the buildings.

“They are not visible, it also helps with the sound because the building itself acts as a barrier to sound for the surrounding area,” Murphy said.

The applicant’s representatives asserted that the benefits of the application would outweigh the detriments because the project would create jobs in Jackson and would support local businesses because employees at the warehouse/office buildings could shop and eat locally.

Board member James Hurley expressed concern with the proposal, saying, “I am having difficulty accepting the testimony of some of the experts. First of all, (the applicant is seeking) a use variance, (the project) is not permitted in the zone.

“It is clear that zoning should be done by (a Township Council) ordinance, not by a variance. Because of that, the applicant has an obligation to prove it is entitled to a use variance … I don’t see how (the proposed project is) particularly suitable to this location,” Hurley said.

He said the applicant had to show the proposed use of warehouse space and office space would be beneficial to the general welfare of the community because the site is particularly suited.

“The testimony I have been hearing is that (the applicant) tried other types of uses and there is no market for (other uses). What does that mean to me?

“Does that mean someone can come before us with a large piece of property that is residentially zoned and say, ‘You know, there is just no market for it now, let’s make (the property) commercial.’ Is that our function here? That is not our function here,” Hurley said.

Following the conclusion of testimony, a motion was made to approve the Countyline Holdings LLC application. In order to obtain a use variance, the applicant needed five “yes” votes from the board members who were present.

On a roll call vote, board members Toniann Comello, Michelle Russell and Steve Constanzo voted “yes” to grant the use variance.

Board members Carl Book Jr., Jeanine Fritch, Lynne Bradley and Hurley voted “no.”

Because the applicant did not receive five “yes” votes, the application was deemed to have been denied.

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