Cherry Hill Council passes zoning ordinance for gas stations in regional business district on first…

Cherry Hill Council passes zoning ordinance for gas stations in regional business district on first reading

The ordinance, if adopted on Aug. 8, will add gas stations as a conditional accessory use in Cherry Hill’s regional business zoning district.

Cherry Hill Township Council is one step closer to adopting a zoning ordinance to permit some gas stations in the township’s regional business zoning district, a move some residents fear will lead to additional development.

At Monday night’s meeting, council approved an ordinance on first reading to allow gas stations in the township’s regional business zoning district as a conditional accessory use, one week after the planning board approved the change on July 18.

If the ordinance is adopted, there will be numerous limitations a developer must follow if they wish to construct a gas station in regional business zoning. In the proposed ordinance, a gas station may only be constructed as a conditional use to a principal retail use with a minimum area of 10,000 square feet. Stand-alone stations will not be permitted. The lot size must be at least two acres and the station can have no more than eight fueling lanes and 16 pumps.

Other limitations include a minimum of a 30-foot buffer from any residential zone and fueling lanes must be screened from all streets, sidewalks, parks, public open spaces and outdoor dining areas with landscaping.

There are six tracts classified as regional business zoning in the township, one of which is the Garden State Park property. This location was the focus of discussion for residents on Monday night. A few residents attended the meeting to speak out against the ordinance and connecting it with the possibility of Costco moving into Garden State Park in the future. Costco has submitted an application to the township to build a new location in the shopping center. The proposed location would be next to the New Jersey Transit train station, just past the Home Depot.

Phil Guerrieri was upset over the possibility of Costco moving into the township, saying another big box store was never part of the original plan for the property.

“This plan has changed so much since the public actually had something to say about it,” he said. “This Costco and gasoline station is the latest slap in the face to the public.”

“I beg of you to vote against this,” Guerrieri said. “Make the developer follow our master plan, that’s what we have it for.”

Phil Sharman, a long-time resident of Third Avenue near Garden State Park, felt the ordinance was an example of the township giving in to developer’s demands.

“Now we’re going to change it to a Costco and a gas station,” Sharman said. “Cherry Hill is bending. You are bending to these developers.”

Some residents, such as Rena Margulis, had numerous concerns with the ordinance, specifically the possibility of a pumping station being as close a 30 feet from a residential area. She added placing a Costco in Garden State Park was not a smart decision for development.

Erin Patterson Gill, chief of staff to Mayor Chuck Cahn, said the ordinance was written to restrict exactly how a gas station could be built with the regional business zone. She noted the regional business zone tracts are fronted by major roadways such as Route 70 or Route 38. Gill added the ordinance’s square foot and acreage requirements will prevent a conditional use gas station from being constructed on many of the regional business zone’s lots.

The proposed ordinance passed with five yes votes. Councilman Brian Bauerle abstained and council vice president Sara Lipsett was absent from the meeting.

Councilwoman Carolyn Jacobs, council’s representative on the township planning board, votes yes to the proposed change on both the planning board and council and emphasized her support for the ordinance toward the end of the meeting.

“I find the gas station as a conditional accessory use in the regional business zoning district to be fully consistent with the master plan,” Jacobs said. “I find it to be a great benefit to the township.”

Jacobs added new development in recent years has been a big reason municipal taxes have been able to stay flat.

The public hearing on the zoning ordinance change will be held at the next council meeting on Aug. 8.