Council votes to change zoning for two properties on Hurffville Cross Keys Road

Many residents were concerned for the safety, security of residents who would be directly affected by the zoning changes

Many residents were in attendance at last week’s council meeting to share concerns on ordinances proposing to change the zoning of two Hurffville Cross Keys Road properties.

Residents shared apprehensions about an ordinance that was up for adoption, extending the commercial zoning designation on 268 Hurffville Cross Keys Road to encompass the entire property, whereas at the time, a portion of the lot was zoned as rural. According to the ordinance, the Washington Township Zoning Board of Adjustment had determined the property had mistakenly been designated both rural and commercial industrial zoning. After hearing from the public, council unanimously voted to table the ordinance to the next meeting, scheduled to be held on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.

Resident Richard Eckert said an increase in the intensity of the use of the land would “invite trouble.”

“Twenty-five percent of the town’s water is drawn from that general area, and a lot of the wells down there … pull from the Cohansey aquifer,” Eckert said. “Any spill that occurs close to, or in, that area gets in the water supply pretty fast and requires remediation that is expensive, costly and difficult.”

According to Vice Chair of the Environmental Commission Vicki Benetti, the proposed area falls within tier one of the wellhead protection area, meaning “pollutants introduced on or under the ground within that area would reach the wellhead within two years.”

Resident Daniel Coughlin spoke on the safety of the community above all else, requesting the council to prioritize its considerations.

“The №1 reason why governments exist is for the health, welfare and safety of the residents,” Coughlin said. “There are financial considerations, legal considerations, but when you have to weigh out the priorities, the health and safety of the residents of your constituency has to always be the priority.”

Council approved a second ordinance, by a vote of 3–2, to rezone 367 Hurffville Cross Keys Road from its rural designation to institutional, at the request of Kennedy Health System. Councilwomen Angela Donato and Dana Pasqualone voted no.

According to the ordinance, after a tie vote of 2–2 at the July 12 council meeting, the attorney of Kennedy Health System requested the ordinance be reintroduced.

Kennedy Health President and CEO Joseph Devine said to “dispel rumors,” there are no plans to build a drug rehab center on the lot. In fact, the hospital has “no definitive plans” on what the land will be used for at this time.

“We are not in the drug rehab business, we are in the business of treating health-care related people,” Devine said. “When I looked at the land, it was an opportunity to develop the land on a continuous basis for health care in this region.”

Devine said the immediate need would be to use the property for office and educational purposes, with a desire to develop a health-care facility in the future, to which is undetermined.

Residents who live in close proximity to the property, which acted as a buffer zone between homes and the hospital, opposed the zoning change for reasons such as noise, traffic and the unknown plans.

“If you pass this ordinance now, we don’t know what is going to happen and it’s really going to put the residents in that area in jeopardy,” resident Burton Weiss said.

Many residents continued to worry about the possibility of a drug rehab facility, fearful of security in the area.

“My fear when I heard the rumors was the security in our home,” resident Pat Cataldi said. “When you have that type of facility, anything can happen in the future, and since we don’t know what they are going to do there, that’s where our fear comes in.”

Prior to voting against the ordinance, Pasqualone said she felt uncomfortable voting yes unless she had answers as to what Kennedy’s five-year plan for the property would be.

“I really find it hard to believe and concerning that a successful organization such as Kennedy, which did in fact attract Jefferson [Health], has no strategic five-year plan,” Pasqualone said.

The property was at the time zoned rural and owned by the Crossroads Worship Center, however according to Ed Sullivan, senior vice president and general counsel for Kennedy Health, Kennedy entered a contract with the church for the purchase of the property, subject to obtaining a change in the zoning for the lot.