Members of Manchester's Planning Board expressed concern that turning a former asphalt production site — where remediation is ongoing — into a contractor storage facility could further damage land that is already a "black eye" in the township.
Representatives for applicant Davies Consultants came before the board Monday night to propose a plan where about 2 acres of the 45-acre former Nicol Asphalt Company site would be used for a 16-unit contractor storage facility. The 100 by 50 foot lease lots are proposed for the center of the property, away from the main remediation zone, but the board remained concerned that storing certain equipment would be bad for the site.
"My recommendation to the board would be, we have to look at what's going on in this site," said board attorney Edward Liston. "This is not a site that we're unfamiliar with. This is a site that has been, frankly, a black eye to Manchester Township for years."
The land, which is across Route 37 from Commonwealth Boulevard, is classified as a brownfield site. According to the state, that designation is given to "any former or current commercial or industrial site that is currently vacant or underutilized and on which there has been, or there is suspected to have been, a discharge of a contaminant."
The state Department of Environmental Protection continues to have involvement in the remediation process, according to the applicant.
The application proposes that the ground in the storage lot area would be covered with gravel, something to which Liston took exception given the condition of the site.
"You're only proposing gravel here," Liston said. "You're going to be parking heavy machinery here, is that fair to say?"
"I wouldn't say heavy machinery," said applicant engineer Joseph Hanrahan. "This is more for trade-type parking, plumbing and heating, those types of things."
"The leaking of petrochemicals might be a concern," Liston said. "How are you going to deal with that?"
"We don't have any plan in place for that," Hanrahan replied.
"So it just goes in the dirt? Into the gravel?" Liston said.
"In this case, it would go into the gravel," Hanrahan said. "It will be the contractor's obligation to make sure it doesn't discharge."
"Yeah, but you're the property owner. The property owner is ultimately the responsible party if there is pollution," Liston said.
Though applicant attorney Peter Licata said that the site has "a history of storage of vehicles and machinery on this site with just impacted soil," Liston countered that the board does not "have to bless it to continue."
"It's already a brownfields site. We don't want to make it any worse," he said.
Board member Michelle Zolezi requested that the applicant present a general history of the site, its current condition and a timeframe for anticipated cleanup activity.
"I think that would benefit everybody," she said.
Board members voted to carry the application to the Nov. 5 meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Complex courtroom. At that time, the applicant is expected to present more details regarding the types of materials that can be stored at the site and a summary of the remediation progress.
"We need to know more about what's going on," Liston said.
The site has an existing two-way driveway off of Route 37 and is about 320 feet from Route 37 and 280 feet from the property line. Jersey barriers and a chain link fence would provide screening from the highway, Hanrahan said.
The board also requested that the applicant address fire department access and possibly look into security, since self-storage centers typically have 24-hour surveillance.