The Bedminster Township Land Use Board approved an application Thursday for a complete renovation of the Somerset Hills Shopping Center that will include a 1,600-square-foot addition and the opening of a Fresh Market.
The applicant came before the board with changes to its previous plans based on concerns from the board about lighting, parking, landscaping and more.
According to Robert Moschello, engineer for the applicant, the first change made was to create parking at a 90-degree angle rather than the originally proposed angled parking. Doing so, he said, allowed for the addition of more spaces so the applicant could reach the township-required number.
With regard to the Revolutionary War monument on the property, Moschello said they will be putting two small spotlights on the ground to illuminate the plaque itself, and are adding some low level landscaping to enhance the area.
The trash enclosure on the property, Moschello said, will be moved about 60 feet to the west of where it is now, and they will build a masonry enclosure so the dumpster cannot be seen inside.
Moschello said they have also defined a plan to separate the property from Pluckemin Park directly behind it.
"We have defined on the plan the limit of what will be a 6-foot-high wood fence that would start at the corner and run the entire rear length on top of the existing retaining wall to provide screening from the property into the site," he said.
And as for the Knox Avenue property near the shopping center, the applicant is planning to rebuild the existing wall, and plant trees spaced along the property.
"We just moved everything closer and onto our property," Moschello said. "We cleaned it up and brought it further into the site."
As for a concern of lighting spillover into Pluckemin Park, Moschello said the new retaining wall and solid wood fence will separate it from the shopping center, providing a barrier and preventing light spillover.
Finally, Moschello said, they have revised the size of the Fresh Market sign from 62.4 square feet to 37.4 square feet, and have eliminated the interior illumination in exchange for halo lighting.
Clair Martin, vice chair of the Land Use Board, said his main concern is about the presence of the historical building owned by the owner of the Somerset Hills Shopping Center and fronting on Route 202/206.
"I have a problem with not referencing the small building on the site," he said. "I am not sure it's the applicant's fault, and maybe we haven't been as articulate as we could be."
"These little things are meaningful, and there is a way to relate a 20th century building to a 19th century one," he added, saying that he would have like to hear some kind of historical plan for the property.
Moschello said there are no plans to make changes to the historical building, and it will remain as is.
David Weiss, an attorney speaking on behalf of the former owner of the Tuscany Bistro, said he would like to know more about the environmental impacts of the renovation. He said he would like more information about the possibility of vapor intrusions based on past exposure of PCE on the property.
"There are vapor intrusions since 2004 on this site," he said. "Vapor intrusions are a result of PCE exposure as a result of exposure from the cleaners [that used to be there]. It seeped into the well system."
Weiss questioned whether there has been any consideration of how the disturbance on the property would affect any of the chemical that had seeped into the land.
"This is a gas," he said. "As recently as last year, the fire department was called out, and it can make people pass out or get them sick."
Land Use Board attorney Tom Collins said the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regulates remediation of the property and the applicant has no jurisdiction over it.
"It is not automatically under the jurisdiction of the board to review the DEP investigation, which is an ongoing responsibility no matter whether the application is approved or not," he said.
As approved, the new renovation will include a 1,600-square-foot addition, which currently has no tenant, as well as the incoming new Fresh Market.
The construction is planned to begin in about 60 days, and is scheduled for a mid-November completion.