Brick Township’s planning board on Wednesday night unanimously denied the application of a property owner seeking to build five contractor storage units and two, three-bedroom apartments on the second floor of two “L” shaped buildings on Old Silverton Road.
The plan was initially heard by the board in December. The owner of the property, Samuel Pica, said he intended to use the township’s newly established “village zone” to build a mixed-use development near the corner of Drum Point Road. It would have contained five units designed to provide space for those in the building trades to park vehicles, store equipment and complete paperwork, while also containing apartment units that would be rented to residential tenants. The five units for contractors, such as those in the plumbing, electrical and construction industries, would have faced Old Silverton Road, an otherwise sparsely-developed residential street. A smaller portion would have backed up to Drum Point Road.
From the start, the application was opposed by neighbors, who testified before the board that they believed the project would not fit well in a residential neighborhood and diminish property values. They also feared employees of the businesses would flood local streets with vehicles since the property included just nine parking spaces where 44 would normally be required. The number of parking spaces on the site was amended when the applicant included indoor areas within the contractor units, which are 47-feet long, as parking spaces. It would be the parking issue, which required a variance to be issued by the board, that would lead to the application’s demise.
“This whole thing is too much on too small a lot, and in the wrong place,” said Andrew Flora, who hired an attorney to represent him as a formal objector to the project. “It is totally reliant on Old Silverton Road for the space and the parking. Those cars will be going in and out with the headlights pointing into the living room of the house across the street.”
Pica testified previously that his tenants would be “mom and pop” businesses and employees would not be present at the site, but neighbors remained skeptical, saying they expected work crews to arrive early in the morning to begin loading equipment, then park their vehicles on the street and travel to a job site.
“There is not a contractor I know who’s going to load up supplies and then meet his crew at the work site,” said nearby resident Jeff Alino. “They’re all going to park on Old Silverton Road and go to the work site from there. I rent to contractors, I know how they do things. We’re going to have a serious problem with parking.”
Alino said he is not against the property being developed – he spoke at a previous meeting in favor of proposed development on the site – but remained steadfast on his expectations of future parking woes.
“This is a very unique lot,” explained Tim Middleton, attorney for Pica, believing it was the first property to ever be proposed in the Village Zone, the product of an ordinance adopted by the township council in 2018 to spur redevelopment along commercial corridors that would fit alongside residential neighborhoods. “I think all of the testimony … and your professionals agree that the parking will be adequate.”
“My opinion, based on the ordinance, is that we had more than sufficient parking,” said David Eareckson, an engineer hired by the property owner.
The board, which seemed to view the substantive nature of the proposal positively, ultimately chose to give weight to the concerns of neighbors and deny the application. Board members were also swayed by concerns over the future of the property – specifically, what types and sizes of businesses could move in if it were to ever be sold.
“The applicant, I’m sure, has good intentions,” said Councilman Paul Mummolo, who also serves on the planning board. “But if he does sell it down the road, we have no control over what can be done in the buildings.”
Trucks are legally allowed to park on Old Silverton Road, he said, and the township council’s only recourse would be to prohibit parking on the entire street.
“There is a lot of building and not enough parking,” Mummolo said.
The board voted unanimously to turn down the proposal.