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Howell planners deny application for warehouses on Howell Road

HOWELL – A 3-3 vote from members of the Howell Planning Board during a meeting on Oct. 21 resulted in the denial of an application that proposed the construction of two warehouses on Howell Road in the Jerseyville section of the municipality.

A Planning Board typically has nine regular members and two alternate members.

Attorney Kenneth Pape represented the applicant, AAFFHW Property LLC, and said his client was unaware the board would only have six members seated that evening and wished it had been advised of the situation.

The application was filed by AAFFHW Property LLC as applicant, and Clayton, Peter and John A. Forman as owners. The application sought preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct two one-story warehouse buildings with office space.

Building A was proposed to total 325,737 square feet (305,737 square feet of warehouse space and 20,000 square feet of office space), with 55 loading bays, two drive-in bays, 161 vehicle parking spaces and 68 tractor-trailer parking spaces.

Building B was proposed to total 98,828-square feet (89,828 square feet of warehouse space and 9,000 square feet of office space), with 28 loading bays, two drive-in bays and 94 vehicle parking spaces.

The applicant proposed site improvements to include lighting, landscaping, storm water management facilities, an irrigation pump house, a sanitary sewer pump station and an optional fire water tank.

The plan proposed extending a public water main from Fairfield Road and the sanitary sewer force main from Adelphia Road to the proposed warehouses at 29 Howell Road.

The site proposed for the warehouses totaled 29 acres with frontage along Howell Road to the east, Okerson Road and Michael Curtin Lane to the north, and the Route 33 bypass to the south.

The property is between Business Route 33 and the Route 33 bypass and is southwest of the intersection of Howell Road and Five Points Road at Business Route 33.

The site currently has access points on Okerson Road and on Howell Road.

According to previous testimony,  the proposed buildings were not intended to be what are referred to as fulfillment centers similar to Amazon facilities.

During the public comment portion of the Oct. 21 hearing, a resident expressed concern about the application.

Albert J. Cestero of Howell Road said the buildings would be in his backyard.

“I have lived on this property for 38 years. I am a business owner in Howell for 44 years. I started my shop when I was 23 and I am now 67. The Jerseyville section of Howell has had a quaintness about it. I am not opposed to progress,” Cestero said, adding that the proposed project seemed to be “gargantuan.”

He compared the project on Howell Road to the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City, which he said has 223 loading bays, or gates, for buses. He said the two buildings that were being proposed in Howell would have a total of 83 loading docks.

Pape called Cestero’s comparison of the applicant’s plan to the Port Authority “an interesting analogy,” but said his client was not proposing a bus depot. He said the proposed development fit the zone and Howell’s master plan.

Cestero said, “tractor-trailers are actually longer than buses, they take up more space, they are both fueled by diesel. I used the analogy of the Port Authority because it is probably the biggest and busiest bus terminal in the world and you are trying to turn this area here (into that).”

He asked the board members to deny the application. Cestero said he did not believe the project fit the area in which it was proposed and called it “way too big.”

When the public hearing was closed, a motion was made to approve the AAFFHW Property application.

Planning Board Chairman Brian Tannehaus, Police Chief Andrew Kudrick, who sits on the board, and board member Robert Seaman voted “yes” on the motion to grant preliminary and final site plan approval.

Board members Paul Boisvert, Paul Dorato and Joe Cristiano voted “no” on the motion.

The board members’ 3-3 vote was deemed to be a denial of the application.

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