JACKSON — By a margin of one vote, the Jackson Planning Board has approved the construction of a three-story office building at 680 Bennetts Mills Road.
The application submitted by 680 Bennetts Mills Road, LLC, was heard by board members Robert Hudak, Jeffrey Riker, Michele Campbell, Township Councilman Martin Flemming, Noah Canderozzi, Lisa DeMarzo, Mordechai Burnstein, Tzvi Herman and Township Administrator Terence Wall during a meeting on Dec. 5.
The applicant was seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval to construct a three-story office building containing 75,000 square feet in a Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zone.
Attorney Adam D. Pfeffer, of the firm Levin, Shea, Pfeffer and Goldman, P.A., Jackson, represented the applicant. Testimony in support of the application was presented by engineer Graham MacFarlane and traffic engineer Scott Kennel.
In brief remarks prior to applicant’s testimony, Doug Klee, the board’s engineer, said the proposed use was compliant with the zone’s requirements. The office building will be for non-medical uses and will be served by public water and sewer.
Pfeffer said the site is 7 acres and noted the building would contain professional/business offices. He said the owner would occupy 98% of the building with uses he described as back office financial services and a staffing business. There are expected to be about 160 employees, with no customers coming to the location.
In his testimony, MacFarlane provided details about the site. He said the building would be 35 feet tall, which complies with the zoning, and that 375 parking spaces are required and proposed.
There will be a full access driveway (right turn in, right turn out, left turn in, left turn out) on Bennetts Mills Road, and a right turn in, right turn out driveway on Cooks Bridge Road.
The new office building will be across from the Robinwood Plaza on Bennetts Mills Road.
MacFarlane said the property where the office building was proposed is in the NC zone, but is adjacent to residential zones. He said a buffer would be provided along the border of the two zones.
The applicant’s engineer said the structure would include a mix of glass, masonry and metal and he called it “a modernistic design, attractive, with a combination of materials to enhance the appearance of what I think will be a beautiful building.”
The proposed design of the building was the subject of some discussion among board members.
DeMarzo said the appearance of the building is not in alliance with what is going on in the area and she called the structure “way too modern.”
Riker said, “Jackson does not have a Main Street. Bennetts Mills Road is becoming Main Street. It’s time to end the blight of converting ranch houses into offices. In my opinion, this (proposal) is an attractive office building. It’s time to step it up.”
Campbell said there is a modern dental building nearby, as well as modern health offices, and she added, “I am happy to see office space coming to Jackson with offices that will keep people working close to home.”
During his testimony regarding vehicles coming to and from the site, Kennel said the applicant initially proposed a full access driveway on Cooks Bridge Road, but that was modified to the right turn in, right turn out driveway that was before the board on Dec. 5.
Kennel said that during the peak morning hour of 8:30-9:30 a.m., 1,300 vehicles pass through the intersection of Bennetts Mills and Cooks Bridge roads. During the afternoon peak hour of 4:30-5:30 p.m., 1,500 vehicles pass through the intersection.
He said the office building project is expected to produce 114 trips (vehicles entering and leaving the site) in the morning peak hour, and 108 trips (vehicles entering and leaving the site) in the afternoon peak hour.
Kennel said there will be a dedicated left turn lane on Bennetts Mills Road for vehicles entering Robinwood Plaza and entering the new office building.
When the application was opened to public comment, resident Ed Bannon addressed the board.
“The project is too big for this corner. It belongs on County Line Road. We are choking the town on this corner (Bennetts Mills and Cooks Bridge roads). It is not going to be the Main Street people want it to be,” Bannon said.
Following a discussion among the board members, Campbell made a motion to grant 680 Bennetts Mills Road, LLC, preliminary and final site plan approval.
On a roll call vote, five board members, Campbell, Riker, Burnstein, Herman and Flemming, voted “yes.” Four board members, Wall, DeMarzo, Hudak and Canderozzi, voted “no.”
The development application required a simple majority and the board’s 5-4 vote signaled approval for the proposed office building.