Mt. Laurel council tables revised Fellowship redevelopment plan

iFly, an indoor skydiving company, will have to wait a little bit longer before it can take flight in Mt. Laurel Township.

Council tabled an ordinance to amend the RA3 zone of the Fellowship area redevelopment plan at last week’s meeting. The amended plan included site standards so iFly, an indoor skydiving company, would be able to develop on a parcel of land along Route 73 near Beaver Avenue. Laurel Capital Group owns most of the property in the RA3 zone.

The ordinance was tabled after council and residents spoke out with concerns about the plan. Barbara Casey, an attorney representing Laurel Capital Group, and council acknowledged they agreed on many of the site standards, but there were still a few unanswered questions.

One large issue revolved around the building’s signage. iFly proposed having signs on three sides of the building. The only side a sign would not be on was the side facing nearby residential homes.

James Miller, the planner for the site, said the signs would be backlit LEDs located on the building itself. There would be no free standing signs.

“The signs are large enough that they can be seen from substantial distances,” he said.

Mayor Irwin Edelson expressed doubt about the plan, saying iFly may not be able to put a sign on the side of the building facing I-295.

Leonard Pezza, a resident from Oregon Avenue near the proposed site, said the building height of 60 feet combined with the sign will be an eyesore for area residents, even with trees planted between residences and the site.

“That’s going to be much higher than my house,” he said.

The other major complaint revolved around traffic. Many residents felt Beaver Avenue would still be used as a through street to Route 73, even with ordinances prohibiting traffic from cutting through the neighborhoods.

“Even if you tell people they can’t come a certain way, there’s usually traffic that tries to circumvent that,” Oregon Avenue resident David Jimenez said.

The traffic situation is nothing new to the township. Traffic was one of the biggest concerns for area residents when the redevelopment plan was approved for the first two zones, where a Walmart and Lifetime Fitness are under construction.

Part of the proposed plan includes access to the iFly site from Route 73. The state highway would be used as the entrance and exit for the public.

Chester Schwartz, a representative from iFly, added the facility has a maximum capacity of 24 guests per hour, so it would not add too much traffic itself.

“The number of people and the traffic is very small,” he said.

However, Councilman Jim Keenan still felt Beaver Avenue was an issue, saying other businesses could eventually move into the proposed site. He proposed completely cutting off access to Route 73 from Beaver Avenue.

“Maybe we can vacate Beaver and have emergency access only,” Keenan said.

A number of residents spoke out with questions about the use of the site. Virginia Vassey said she moved from Cherry Hill to Mt. Laurel to get away from development and was dismayed another parcel of open land is going to be built upon.

Resident Donald Dennis was concerned about iFly’s business model. He was worried the business may move out shortly after opening.

“We don’t want to have a facility come in and two years later be vacant,” he said.

After tabling the ordinance, council reiterated it is interested in developing the property and bringing iFly to Mt. Laurel, but wants development to occur properly. Edelson said council is hoping to take a look at a revised plan as soon as possible.

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