LAWRENCE: Used-car amendment approved by council

An amendment to the township’s Land Use Ordinance that would allow used-car dealerships as a conditional use in the Highway Commercial zone gained Township Council’s approval last week.

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
   An amendment to the township’s Land Use Ordinance that would allow used-car dealerships as a conditional use in the Highway Commercial zone gained Township Council’s approval last week, after a public hearing on the proposed change.
   Township Council voted unanimously to approve the change to the Land Use Ordinance to allow used-car dealerships to locate in the Highway Commercial zone on Brunswick Pike/Route 1, provided they meet certain standards.
   The Highway Commercial zone allows used-car sales in conjunction with new-car sales at a new-car dealership, but the amendment would allow a stand-alone used-car dealership. The ordinance, however, would not allow used-car dealerships to be located at former gasoline service stations.
   The used-car dealership would have to be located on a minimum 5-acre parcel that also has at least 500 feet of frontage on Brunswick Pike/Route 1. It would be for the sale of used cars only, and not an auction house for cars.
   The building would have to have at least 15,000 square feet of floor area, and must contain a showroom large enough for four cars. The bay doors to the service area may not be located on the front of the building or facing a residential area.
   Municipal Manager Richard Krawczun said township officials “continuously” look at the Land Use Ordinance and the Master Plan. As uses change, it is important for the Land Use Ordinance to evolve as well, he said, adding that changes should not occur in a “haphazard” manner.
   When the Township Council opened up the meeting for a public hearing on the ordinance amendment, several residents who live in the adjacent Colonial Lakelands neighborhood raised questions about the proposed change.
   There is one parcel on Brunswick Pike — adjacent to the Colonial Lakelands neighborhood — which fits the minimum requirements for a used-car dealership. There was a proposal for a new-car dealership for that parcel about a dozen years ago, but nothing was built.
   Thomas McDonald, who lives on Hopatcong Drive, said his wife purchased their home in 1968, while he was serving in the military. He expressed concern that “we will look out the window and see junk cars” if the ordinance amendment is approved.
   Mayor Jim Kownacki told Mr. McDonald that if an application is presented to the Planning Board, the neighbors would be notified and they could speak to the board about it. He assured Mr. McDonald that “what you said will not be forgotten.”
   Township Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis reinforced the message that neighbors will not look out on junk cars. The ordinance requires the used-car dealership to look like a new-car dealership, with a showroom for the cars.
   ”I doubt someone would invest that amount of money in it (to get approval) and sell junk cars,” Ms. Lewis said.
   Huron Way resident Keith Pilot agreed and said that two-year-old used cars look like new cars, not like the junk cars that one sees at the used-car dealerships on Arctic Parkway in Ewing Township.
   Mr. Krawczun said Mr. Pilot “made a good point” and that the ordinance amendment would not allow used-car dealerships, such as those in Ewing Township. The manager said he would like to believe that used-car showrooms would look like new-car showrooms, under the ordinance amendment.
   When Mr. Krawczun said Lawrence Township wants to keep all of the car dealerships in close proximity to one another on Brunswick Pike/Route 1, Betts Avenue resident Michael Sigfried asked how the township would prevent it from becoming like Route 22, with “wall-to-wall dealerships.
   Mr. Krawczun said the Land Use Ordinance amendment requires at least a 5-acre lot with 500 feet of frontage, and parcels of that size are not common on Brunswick Pike. The amount of frontage on Brunswick Pike and the size of the building also act as “governors” to prevent wall-to-wall car dealerships, he said.