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Car Dealership Looks to Expand Footprint in Montgomery Township on Route 206

By Barbara A. Preston | May 17, 2024


Charles Caronia, co-owner of the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram car dealership on Route 206 in Skillman, told the Montgomery Township Zoning Board members that he is looking to expand his operations.


Caronia, as principal owner of Stellar Land Assets, LLC, appeared before the Zoning Board on April 25 asking to convert two vacant two-story office buildings into a new automobile sales and service facility. The empty buildings are currently part of the Research Park office complex, located across Route 206 from Princeton Airport.


It is unclear from the application whether the plans propose an expansion of the existing car dealership or a separate, new car dealership, according to a memo from Clarke Caton Hintz (CCH) planners of Trenton. The township contracts with CCH to provide planning services.


The zoning board expects to continue with the application for preliminary and final major site plan with variances at its Thursday, May 23 meeting.

Architect's rendering of the proposed showroom by Ralph L. Finelli of Sergeantsville, NJ.

Architect's rendering of the proposed Auto Home showroom by Ralph L. Finelli of Sergeantsville, NJ.


The Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram car dealership at 1045 Route 206, Skillman currently shares a property line with the two empty buildings, which are located within Research Park. The office complex now has 18 two-story office buildings with more than 100 office suites ranging in size from 800 square feet to 24,000 square feet. This plan, if approved, would leave Research Park with 16 office buildings. The complex is owned by Hilton Realty Co. principal Jeffrey Hilton Sands. It's headquartered at Carnegie Center, Princeton.

The Princeton Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram car dealership on Route 206 in Skillman. Two office buildings to the left of the current facility would be torn down to make way for a new, two-story showroom.


The application is for Lot 15 and Lot 16, located in the office complex. Improvements are proposed on Lot 15, which occupies about 2 acres and is located at the intersection of Route 206 and Wall Street. The showroom would replace the two masonry office buildings located on Lot 15. 


The site also is located within the Airport Hazard Area associated with Princeton Airport. Commercial uses are permitted in the Airport Hazard Area, but not within the Clear Zone. The site is not located within the Clear Zone and the proposed building height does not exceed the vertical development restrictions of the Airport Hazard Area. The plan complies.


The project includes easements to provide for vehicular circulation between the office park and the car dealership properties, utility easements, fences, gates, lighting, tree plantings, signs, and a waste enclosure. Variances, including a variance to exceed the maximum permitted floor area ratio (FAR), are required, according to planners Clarke Caton Hintz. There are 18 “bulk” variances, and five design exceptions.


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Trees vs. a Sidewalk

Montgomery Township officials require new developments in the township to include sidewalks and trees. Stellar Land Assets would likely be required to abide by this regulation if they are to construct a new auto showroom on Route 206.


Sidewalk Requirement: “Sidewalks shall be provided along all existing streets upon which all residential and nonresidential development abuts, unless specifically waived in certain locations by the reviewing municipal agency based upon good cause shown by the applicant."


Sidewalks do not currently exist along the frontage of Wall Street on Route 206. However, the township officials are trying to provide safe passage throughout the township for pedestrians. Princeton Airport now has a sidewalk along Route 206, and the new Montgomery Promenade with the Whole Foods is expected to have sidewalks.


The township code does not indicate that private roads, such as Wall Street, or state roads, such as Route 206, are exempt from the sidewalk requirement.


If the Zoning Board requires installation of sidewalks, the township planners suggested that connections be made to an existing off-site bus shelter on Route 206 directly in front of the site.


Local Engineer David J. Schmidt, representing the applicant, said, “We have a very limited area from Route 206 to the existing parking area. We will provide sidewalks to Route 206 from the property along the entire frontage of Route 206 to the bus stop and will provide a detailed plan with landscaping. I just want the board to know that if I have to put the sidewalk in, that … I might have to cut some trees down to get it to work.”


“I’ll try to zig zag it [the sidewalk], but there is a lot of vegetation. It is highly vegetated.”


It appears there are three trees along Route 206.


One Zoning Board member said she was concerned that birds might crash into the glass walls of the proposed showroom. There was a short debate as to whether this would be an issue, with no conclusion.

Architect's rendering of the proposed Auto Home showroom by Ralph L. Finelli of Sergeantsville, NJ.


Summary 

The project requires the following variances and design exceptions: 


Pre-Existing Variances (Unverified by Township Records)

16-4.12.d – Min. Front Yard Setback  

16-4.12.d – Min. Side Yard Setback 

16-4.12.d – Max. Lot Coverage  

16-4.12.d – Min. Distance Between Buildings 


New Variances  

16-4.12.d – “D(4)” Maximum FAR  

16-4.12e.4(a) – Building Entrance Articulation 

16-4.12e.5(f) – Natural Materials 

16-4.12e.6(c) – Flat Roof Cornice 

16-4.12e.6(d) – Roofline Offset  

16-4.12.e.9(b)(1) – Building Separation  

16-4.12f.2 – Outdoor Storage and Display of Vehicles  

16-4.12f.3 – Planting Area Requirement (Preexisting Nonconforming Condition)  

16-4.12f.5 – Parking Distance from Property Line (Preexisting Nonconforming Condition) 

16-4.12f.5 – Lawn Area within Buffer (Preexisting Nonconforming Condition)  

16-4.12g –Separation of Parking Areas for customers, employees, and inventory [cars].

16-4.12h.1 – Off-Street Loading  

16-4.12.i.1(c) – Sign Area, Corner Lot (Building G)

16-5.3.b – Fence Height  

16-6.4(6)(a) – Stream Corridor Buffer, Waste Enclosure 


Design Exceptions  

16-5.6d.3 – Trees  

16-5.6d.15 – Street Trees  

16-5.13d.4 – Sign Height, Attached Sign (Building G) 

16-5.13d.4 – Sign Height, Attached Sign (Building H) 

16-5.14.c.1(d) – Sidewalk Requirement




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