June 2012 www.branchburgnews.com
What’s Next for Site of Former Branchburg Diner?
A campaign flyer for Republi- can District Committee candidates Arlene Strege and Tom Strand sug- gests that the property along Route 22 East where the Royal Bar, 25 Burgers and Genie’s Weenies cur- rently operate is targeted for “high density retail anchor store develop- ment.” Development of the parcel has been a hot button issue for a number of years for a number of residents of the Fox Hollow neigh- borhood, which is part of District 8 where Strege and Strand are run- ning against Eileen Gilmartin and James Schworn. The Branchburg News received several inquiries re- cently about plans for the site, so we reviewed planning documents and meeting minutes and talked to the parties involved. Here is what we found: • A four-building “Branchburg Square” shopping center has been approved. • There are no plans or appli- cations in place for “high density retail anchor store development” in the area. • The Planning Board has ap- proved a “planned overlay zone” for the area south of Route 22 East to Meister Avenue to allow small retail mixed use in the industrial zone. •
The Vollers family which owns the 100+ acres in the planned overlay zone would “look for a quality development that would benefit the town and create ratables and jobs.”
Here are the details:
Property owner Alan Frank, who owns Chimney Rock Inn in Bridge- water, received township approval last December for the Branchburg Square shopping center to include four buildings: A 3,000 sq. ft. re- tail/bank, 11,000 sq. ft. retail/phar- macy, 6,500 sq. ft. restaurant, and a retail/office/warehouse building with 12,450 sq. ft. for retail on the street level, 7,000 sq. ft. for office on the upper level, and 6,000 sq. ft. for basement warehouse space. The existing structures - the Royal, 25 Burgers, and the bungalows, at 3331 Route 22, and Genie’s Weenies, 3351 Route 22 - will be removed. The total footprint of Frank’s four buildings would be 20 percent smaller than that of the Cedar Glen shopping center near ShopRite, said Doug Ball, town- ship engineer.
Branchburg Square has been years in the making. Frank first proposed a larger shopping center in 2008, and a group of residents of Fox Hollow attended Board of Adjustment meetings repeatedly to argue against a zoning variance that would allow his project. The BoA eventually denied Frank’s variance, but he went through the appeal process, and the settlement resulted in the current plan. Property surrounding Branch- burg Square is owned by Branch- burg resident and businessman Herb Vollers, and has been the subject of much speculation by
Strege and others. About seven years ago, Rob Vollers, son of Herb Vollers (now in his 80s), in- vited Fox Hollow neighbors to a meeting at Fox Hollow Golf Club to discuss ideas for the acreage. Neighbors resoundingly rejected any talk of a large-scale retail center, and that was the end of the so-called big box idea. But years later rumors of a giant mall with big box stores still pop up. Last primary election season “Stop the Mall” signs appeared around town. This year, the Strege-Strand campaign flyer once again alludes to such a scheme.
Arlene Strege said her informa- tion on the Vollers acreage is based on input from Tom Stearns of Stearns Associates, a professional planner representing Vollers’ in- terests, at Master Plan hearings before the Township Planning Board last November and Decem- ber. During a discussion regard- ing the planned overlay zone on Nov. 29, Stearns stated that retail box sizes over 100,000 sq. ft. such as Home Depot and Wegman’s “would obviously be excluded” but that the zone should allow for 65,000 square foot anchors (the size of ShopRite) so that a “life- style center or fashion center” could be possible.
But the board rejected large re- tail and settled on a 25,000 sq. ft. building maximum in the Master Plan. Here is the final decision, approved Dec. 13:
“The PO overlay zone should permit a variety of small foot- print, low floor area ratio (FAR), uses including services, offices,
Creative Theater’s “Toyland” was an Adventure
Though there is no timetable for construction, this is the type and style of build- ing that has been approved for the Route 22 site. With a footprint of 12,450 sq. ft. this would be the largest of the four buildings at Branchburg Square. Around the same time that the Board of Adjustment approved the Branchburg Square project, the Planning Board was finishing up the Master Plan, which now prohibits buildings larger than 25,000 square feet in the zone. According to bigboxevaluator.org
, “big box” stores have at least 50,000 square feet , and can go over 200,000 sq. ft.
and limited retail uses, and cus- tomary accessory uses. Medical offices, testing centers and associ- ated laboratories; banks, finance offices, insurance, real estate of- fices; legal services, engineering, architecture, surveying, accounting and public relations offices should be permitted uses. Restaurants, ex- cluding drive through and fast-food restaurants, which feature primarily sit down service with limited “take- out” capabilites should be per- mitted. Retail and restaurant uses should be limited to a maximum of 50% combined. Careful attention should be focused on shared park- ing and limited access to Rt. 22. In order to limit the development of traffic inducing uses, drive through facilities should be prohibited and automobile service and sales facili- ties should be prohibited. Individual buildings should not exceed 25,000 square feet. Outdoor storage should be prohibited. Entertainment uses such as theaters and golf driving ranges should be prohibited.”
Rob Vollers addressed the is- sue on behalf of his family. The Vollers have owned the acreage to the south, east, and west of the Branchburg Square parcel since 1945, when it was Rob’s grand- father’s farmland. Fronting on Route 22 East are Vollers Exca- vating & Construction at 3311 Route 22 and Heritage Guild ar- chery and firearms center at 3321 Route 22.
“We have an application in for an outdoor archery range at the Heritage Guild site,” Vollers said. “There are no other plans or applications for our property be- yond that.”
So what about the future? What does Vollers envision for the open land? Vollers said, “We would look for a quality develop- ment that the town would want, that would be good for the town. It would have to create ratables and jobs.”
Volleyball is Back, Geese are Gone -- At White Oak Park, the volleyball courts have been moved near the pond, and the pond has a harm-
The curtain call for Adventures in Toyland. In front, facing the stage, is assistant director Miranda DeStefano – photo by Maria McNaught
The Branchburg Recreation Department’s Creative Theater Program presented its production of “Adven- tures in Toyland” on May 4 and 5, bringing a wide range of children’s literature characters to life in comical and surprising ways.
also involved in costumes and lighting.
The play was adapted for the stage and directed by Joe DeStefano, who was also involved in set design, set construction, sound editing and the running crew. Miranda DeStefano-Meene was assistant director and
The play helped raise money for two Branchburg young men afflicted with serious diseases. Callum Ben- deroth is a two-year-old with the rare disorder called Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome. James “Zippy” Cimino, senior at Immaculata High School, is currently in treatment for Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma. Besides monetary donations, the event served as a collection
Continued on page 14 THE BRANCHBURG NEWS REACHES EVERY HOME IN BRANCHBURG TOWNSHIP
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less grid of nylon string across it to make it less attractive to geese. The result? Less goose poop in the park!.NJ Fish & Wildlife reports there are still two pair of geese nesting near the pond, but they are not expected to hang around.
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