The Cherry Hill Planning Board has approved both the demolition of the old Cherry Hill Diner on Cooper Landing Road and the plan by PJ Land Development to build a Tidal Wave Auto Spa car wash on the site.
“I know there was some question raised and some comments received from the public as to why so many car washes are coming to the township,” Solicitor James Burns said at the board’s Jan. 17 meeting. “The reality is that car washes are a permitted use in the town. We have no jurisdiction to determine what comes in on applications, and if this use was not permitted, we would have lost jurisdiction and it would have been heard by the zoning board.”
The planning board heard and approved a Tidal Wave Auto Spa car wash on Route 70 West by the same developer at its Dec. 19 meeting, as well as a Take 5 Car Wash by a different developer at its November session.
The car wash replacing the diner will have 15 queueing spaces and one additional space from its kiosk entry. That surpasses the minimum of 12 spaces required, and 24 self-service vacuum stations will be accessible after a car goes through the car wash.
Mike McGrath, head of development for PJ Land Development, anticipates peak hours for the car wash will be late afternoon and mid-mornings during the week. The facility will operate seven days a week, with typical hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Some locations will close earlier during the winter months.
Both planning board members and residents cited concerns about the car wash’s impact on traffic and the risks involved with having a number of cars in line during rush hour or after a snowstorm. It was noted that there were multiple accidents at the diner site over the years, and traffic engineer Paul Going acknowledged that he didn’t take into consideration the effect of so many vehicles waiting to be washed after inclement weather.
Going’s calculations were based on the facility having two lanes, one for car wash club members – who pay a monthly fee for discounted washes – and one for non-members, with the understanding that the membership lane will move faster. Going estimates there will be a queue of about four-and-a-half vehicles, rounded up to five, for a member lane that will accommodate eight cars.
“We have a three-car buffer, and I don’t think there’s any chance of the drive-through queuing up back to Cooper Landing Road,” noted Going, who added that if there is excessive queuing, the line would be shut down and temporarily blocked.
Resident Isaac Segal, who spoke on behalf of the Cherry Valley Civic Association, raised another concern about the car wash location.
“There’s a special situation on Cooper Landing,” he maintained. “There are no curve or turn lanes. Any traffic that backs up at the car wash, the cars behind them will have no way to get around them, and as the applicant testified, two-thirds of their members prefer to exercise membership benefits so they’re incentivized to use the car wash as often as possible.”
Planning board members Sheila Griffith and Anne Madden Tufano voted against the plan.
“I just feel that although it’s a permitted use, I’m not sure it’s the best use,” Griffith said.
But board members who did approve the car wash say they did so because the diner site is a permitted use area that would be difficult for any developer.
“As far as the queueing is concerned, the testimony presented showed that was the worst-case scenario,” said John Osorio. “I counted the cars in the queueing line, and there’s like over 15 cars there. I find it difficult to believe there’s going to be that kind of queuing in that kind of time frame.”