Vacant Ship Bottom Gas Station Slated for Development

May 09, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Remediation of the former gas station at Eighth Street and Central Avenue in Ship Bottom is expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to testimony presented to the borough’s Land Use Board last month. The testimony was part of an application hearing for the vacant lot just east of The Gateway.

William Hitchcock, a technical consultant for Manko, Gold, Katcher and Fox, an environmental and energy law practice reviewing work being performed for the applicant, said Phillips 66, the company leading the remediation project, believes it will close out the site by year’s end.

When several gas tanks were removed from the site in 1991, it was discovered gasoline had leached into the ground water, Hitchcock said. Gasoline in water does naturally degrade over time and that is what is happening at the site, he testified. There is no active work being done at the site, which has current access points on Seventh and Eighth streets as well as Central Avenue, he said.

Hitchcock said he doesn’t foresee any issues with tainted ground water on the site because it’s localized to one area and the proposed plans don’t call for tapping into ground water. Additionally, there is a restricted use of ground water attached to the site by the state, he said.

Proposed plans for the 20,000-square-foot site include two structures connected by a covered deck at the second level to house a small restaurant, a real estate leg of Walters Home Group and its architectural design firm. Roughly 4,700 square feet is currently set aside for the office section of the building while 1,060 square feet is designed for commercial use of some kind.

The plans, developed by Shawn Savage of Matrix New World Engineering’s Eatontown office, call for the smaller section to be used as a restaurant with seating maxing out at 24, including counter seats. Under the proposal, there are three tables inside and three tables outside. While Ed Walters Jr., who is an equal partner in the enterprise, said he and his partner are currently in discussion with several interested parties. Throughout the April 17 proceedings, the restaurant was consistently referred to as a coffee/smoothie bar with some kind of food being prepared on site. Its hours of operation were set for 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The restaurant is proposed for the area closest to Eighth Street with the office building to the north side of it, on Seventh Street. Both buildings will front Central Avenue. Parking on site is not an issue with 25 planned parking spots, including handicap spaces.

What was cause of concern for several board members is the proposed number of entrances and exits to the site. The former gas station had ingress and egress off of Seventh and Eighth streets as well as Central Avenue. The proposal before the board called for the same format, but board member Robert Butkus, also a borough councilman, said he didn’t think the plans were safe. He also noted the site of the Arlington Beach Club, located southeast across Central Avenue from the former gas station, is one acre and has fewer entrances/exits.

“They have one out (exits from the property) and two in (entrance to the property),” Butkus said. “This is half of that (in size) and you have three of each (entrance and exits).”

Savage, the architect, said the access points are all needed with the current design of the site and are subject to approval from the state Department of Transportation. John McCormack, a principal at Dynamic Traffic in South Belmar, testified that in reaching out to the state DOT for a pre-application meeting to address any concerns the state agency has with proposed plans he was notified the state doesn’t feel a pre-application meeting is warranted because the proposal is minor.

“The DOT understands what is happening,” he told the board April 17, noting there are very few turning opportunities to reach the site because of the one-way streets on Eighth and Central Avenue. “There is potential for Eighth Street to be an entrance only. That is a necessity because of the impulse trip. It would allay some of your concerns. We won’t have a sight line issue.”

The site is surrounded by Eighth Street to the south, Central Avenue to the east, Seventh Street north and The Gateway to the west. The so-called Causeway Circle won’t be a circle much longer. The circle will be reconfigured as a square once the DOT completes its $350 million bridge project, slated tentatively for the summer of 2020, though the end date is predicated on weather and other outside factors.

The site of The Arlington Beach Club, currently under construction, is to be squared off to make room for the traffic flow changes on Eighth and Ninth streets as well as Central Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard, according to Dan Triana, DOT public information officer. The DOT’s proposed improvements in Ship Bottom include converting a section of Long Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare on the 18-mile Island, into a two-way road at the site of The Arlington Beach Club, he said.

Central Avenue, the one-way road southbound between Third and 11th streets in Ship Bottom before motorists come to the traffic circle, is also expected to be reconfigured, Triana said. This section of the road would be converted to allow for two-way traffic, he said. Left turns at Central Avenue will be prohibited at the intersection with Eighth and Ninth streets, he said. Other roadway improvements include widening the road along Eighth and Ninth streets by 13 feet to accommodate an additional lane of traffic, a 3-foot wider inside shoulder and a new 8-foot wider shoulder, according to Triana.

In the end, the applicant and board agreed to make the Eighth Street access to the site an entrance only point. Modifications to the curbing will be made to signify the change. The only variance the board was asked to consider, before unanimously approving the application, was for a loading zone, which the applicant successfully argued could be handled by delivery trucks parking in a regular spot.

— Gina G. Scala

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