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Rocky Hill Folks Oppose Self-Storage Warehouse at Monty Zoning Meeting

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted January 26, 2024 (Updated February 21, 2024)

(Renard Management postponed its meeting before the Montgomery Township Zoning Board. It was scheduled for Thursday, February 22. It is now scheduled for Thursday, March 28, at 7 pm.)

Renard Management appeared before the Montgomery Township Zoning Board of Adjustment on January 23, seeking preliminary and final site plan approval, and asking for multiple variances, to construct a massive self-storage building on a 3-acre site at 1026 County Route 518.

Renard Management’s architect’s rendering of the proposed self-storage facility for Route 518 in Montgomery, by the Rocky Hill border.

Many Rocky Hill residents in the audience asked tough questions during a public comment session, but were not allowed to express their opinions. They will be able to do so once the applicant presents the entire project to the zoning board. The meeting will continue on March 28 because the applicant ran out of time. The zoning board meetings end at 10 pm, and only the civil engineer had provided lengthy testimony on the project.

The property near the corner of routes 206 and 518 sold for $2.6 million recently to Yonkers 300 LLC, with an address in Red Bank, according to The LLC is owned by Brooklyn developer Dino Tomasetti, Jr. of Asset Realty & Construction, according to a search on Tomasetti’s company recently demolished the building (formerly Princeton Gamma Tech and then an office building), and installed a chain-link fence around the property.

The property at one time was assessed at $3.177 million for tax purposes. Things changed during a winter storm, when heavy snow caused the roof to collapse in 2012. The office building had been empty ever since.

Neighbor Joanna Leonardo, who lives just next door to the site of the proposed self-storage warehouse, shared her impression of the proposal with The Montgomery News during a five-minute break in the meeting. “It’s going to be an eyesore and it will lower our property values,” she said. “But, the Montgomery Zoning Board seems to be asking a lot of good hard questions.” Leonardo is concerned that a three-story building would block the afternoon sun from her family’s property—amongst other things.

Joanna Leonardo and Marvin Conover, her grandfather, live next door to the proposed facility.

The applicant Renard Management of Mahopac, NY and Yonkers 300 LLC of Red Bank, NJ owned by Tomassetti, have made an application to the Montgomery Zoning Board for multiple variances needed in order to construct the project. It is bordered by single-family homes in Rocky Hill Borough to the east, a Wawa convenience store to the west, the ShopRite shopping center to the north, and Route 518 to the south.

Renard’s self-storage facility would consist of two separate buildings. Variances are required for both the building height and floor area ratio. The first building is  a 123,259 sf self-storage building, three stories in height. The second building is a “drive-up self-storage building” that is 9,907 sf and one story in height. A parking lot with 16 spaces is proposed between the buildings. Two curb cuts and one driveway is proposed. The driveway forms a “U” shape in the property’s rear, a portion of which is a one-way drive that goes through the center of the three story self-storage building from north to south with access to Route 518.

Rocky Hill Borough Council President Trey Delaney, who attended the meeting, had a prepared statement, but did not have a chance to express his opinion at the meeting. Delaney told The Montgomery News: “Renard Management is asking for a license to build a non conforming building that is exceedingly contrary to the usual rules for Montgomery’s highway commercial zoning. He wanted to ask the Montgomery Zoning Board to reject the request and require Renard to develop plans for a smaller building and footprint that reflect the current zoning requirements for building use, height, square footage, and runoff.

Additionally, Delaney said he would ask the zoning board to stipulate that the six mature hardwood trees along the street be saved so the property would be maturely landscaped along the street to soften the exterior appearance of the industrial building. He also asks that a pedestrian path be included to allow walking access along one side of the site to accommodate the many walkers who use a current pathway through   the site to get to the grocery store in the adjacent Montgomery Shopping Center.

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The civil engineer for Renard said three of the mature Pin Oak trees along Route 518/Washington Street would be saved. Two would be cut down to accommodate two new driveways into the site. And the sixth oak tree is dying, and will be removed. Renard was also open to installing a pedestrian pathway through the self-storage site, perhaps along the border with Wawa. The developer would need to install steps so that pedestrians could get down a steep hill leading to the Montgomery Shopping Center.

A lawyer for Hilton Realty, owners of the shopping center, took to the podium and asked who would maintain the steps and who would be liable for keeping them clear of snow and ice during inclement weather. Renard suggested the steps are still in a “conceptual” stage and that those things would have to be worked out.

The bigger issue, though, according to Rocky Hill Mayor Bob Uhrik, is whether the old septic system remains under the current site. It is a Superfund site under remediation by the US EPA. A previous owner dumped trichlorobenzenes down the drain into the septic system and polluted the ground water in Montgomery and Rocky Hill. “Was the septic system properly removed,” Uhrik asked at the Zoning Board meeting. No one knew the answer. To be continued at the Feb. 22 Zoning Board meeting.


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