It’s rare that a perfectly-rectangular lot could be described as “oddly shaped,” but in the case of a proposed self-storage facility off Drum Point Road, the oxymoronic description might just apply.
While the property, located in the township’s Village Zone at 345 Drum Point Road, has clear boundaries and no dispute as to its zoning, the parcel literally splits the backyards between two existing residential streets. The lot has about 70 feet of frontage on Drum Point, then extends backwards behind both Huppert Drive and Leswing Drive. As a result, residents of both streets would see their backyards border the facility. (A short aerial-view video with illustrations is embedded above this story.)
A Toms River-based developer is seeking approval from the township’s Board of Adjustment, commonly known as the zoning board, to build a self-storage facility on the tract of land that would consist of 15 individual single-story storage buildings, plus an office and two other associated structures. Each storage building would stand at 14-feet mean height with a slightly higher ridge, and encompass areas ranging from 2,400 to 3,750 square feet of space, which would be divides into 10-buy-15 foot garage units. An existing single-family home which fronts Drum Point would remain on the site.
The zoning board opened a hearing on the application Wednesday night, which drew about two-dozen residents, most of whom indicated their opposition to the proposal. The property was previously located within a business zone, and since 2018 has been located within a mixed-use zone (known as the Village Zone) that was applied to several main streets in Brick which contain both residential and commercial development. It is surrounded on three sides, however, by residential zones. Self-storage facilities are not permitted in the Village Zone, necessitating use variance relief from the board.
“The way this operates is pretty much like any small or medium-size warehouse – you let yourself in, let yourself out and close up the site,” said attorney John Jackson, representing the developer, Del-Corp Holdings.
Jeffrey Carr, a planner hired by the developer, said using the site as a self-storage facility would be less intense than some of the otherwise-permitted uses in the zone, including a large office building, brewery or retail store.
“There are a lot of types of uses we did look at to determine what would be the best alternative for this site,” Carr testified, admitting that retail and office uses were unlikely to succeed because of the comparatively small amount of frontage on Drum Point.
Carr, under questioning from both Jackson, board members and township officials, said the property would be fully fenced-in with a 6-foot vinyl barrier and lighting would be limited to pathway illumination. A roadway made of porous pavement would be built in between two blocks of self-storage buildings, and Ocean County officials have already approved a connection to its drainage system, which would only need to be utilized during a 100-year storm.
“This is an odd-shaped lot tucked into a neighborhood,” Carr conceded. “There is already a single-family house on it, and it’s still not developed.”
Jackson said Del-Corp would be willing to place a “double layer” of mixed landscaping around the site to create a buffer between the facility and its residential neighbors, but several of those residents raised concerns over the prospect of what is now an open area being developed with storage buildings.
“Is there going to be a guard, 24 hours?” asked Huppert Drive resident Amelia Bruszewski. “The lighting won’t be behind the buildings so there will be opportunities for people to do nasty things, urinate, or hide. Crime is a very big problem everywhere and more is coming in.”
Jackson replied that security cameras would be set up, but there would not be a 24-hour guard present. He was unsure of the exact style of entrance gate and fencing that would secure the property, though he pledged to discuss the matter with his client in time for the next hearing, scheduled for April 5.
Other neighbors, as well as officials, were worried about what types of activities would take place at the site and how they would be regulated. While the facility would be approved merely for storage, a major sticking point could be the presence of commercial tenants using the garages as workshops.
“The garage where I go now, 50 percent of those doors are open, there are radial saws running – the works,” said Board Chairman David Chadwick. “Would you prohibit that?”
“This is a mini self-storage unit that would have multiple uses we would have no control over,” said Township Planner Tara Paxton, in response to Chadwick’s question. “So if a carpenter wanted to come in and build something for their own personal use, that would be permitted, but what you’re describing would not.”
Jackson said his client would include language in a leasing agreement that would bar the use of the facility for anything other than storage, however it was unclear how the matter would be policed.
Bruszewski, for her part, suggested that if the development was to be approved, the property owner should agree to build a “sound-absorbing” fence made out of concrete in order to insulate the facility. Still, she questioned whether a fence could keep homeless people – or simply troublemakers – from accessing the property.
“There will be fencing,” said Jackson. “I don’t know what to say about homeless people going back there. There will be security cameras and there will be gates, like any other commercial premises.”
Jackson said the property owner would not allow access to the facility on a 24-hour basis and would prefer to operate during more traditional business hours, though the hours were not explicitly specified. He also said a person would be on hand at the office during the day, and that there would be no lights on the back of the buildings facing the residents. The entirety of the property would be fenced-in, he added.
Additional testimony will be heard at the April 5 meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex. Chadwick requested clarification and a response to several of the questions raised Wednesday night.