HOWELL – New Jersey American Water has received approval to improve the property where it operates the Oak Glen water treatment plant on Squankum-Yellowbrook Road in Howell.
The company filed an application with the Howell Zoning Board of Adjustment and was granted approval during a meeting on Oct. 25.
New Jersey American Water was seeking permission to demolish an existing residential dwelling, a machine shop, a warehouse and other improvements in one area of the property and permission to install a 41,450-square-foot materials storage area with a 114-foot x 19-foot canopy.
A parking area at the site will be removed and replaced with a paver patio and a gazebo. A loading area at the site will be milled, raised and repaved to allow for direct vehicle access to one building.
Additional improvements that were proposed included fencing, lighting, landscaping, signs,
sidewalks, a garbage enclosure, electric vehicle charging stations and improvements to utilities at 149 Yellowbrook Road.
Attorney Niall O’Brien represented New Jersey American Water before the zoning board. He said the 12.7-acre site is in a Special Economic Development zone where public utilities are a permitted use.
He said a use variance was being sought to allow more than one occupant on the site, and also because the company has several buildings that comprise the operation center use, many of which are considered principal buildings.
O’Brien said the proposed storage area would contain materials the company uses at the treatment plant and at off-site locations. In addition, the applicant was seeking to amend a previous approval regarding a tenant.
Several years ago, New Jersey American Water “predicted it would occupy all of the building … but with (the coronavirus pandemic) and with people working from home, and with people being slow to return to work, and some people not returning at all and continuing to work at home, we are looking to amend a representation we made in 2019 and to allow our only remaining tenant, KSI Engineering, to stay on-site,” O’Brien said.
The tenant’s lease is due to expire in 2023.
“We represented to the zoning board that all of the tenants would leave the site when their lease expired, but we are now going to ask for your approval to allow KSI Engineering to renew their lease and to stay in a limited portion of the existing office building. They will continue to occupy the second floor,” O’Brien said.
A motion was made to grant the approvals New Jersey American Water requested and board members Matthew Hughes, Richard Mertens, James Moretti, Jose Orozco, Paul Sayah, Matthew Gonzalez and Chairman Wendell Nanson voted “yes” on the motion to permit the site improvements and the company’s request for the tenant to remain in the building.