What Happened on Theresa Drive?

On October 19, 2017 many residents from Kayla’s Way and Theresa Drive attended the Harrison Township Joint Land Use Meeting to find out how a surgical center was approved and breaking ground in their neighborhood without them ever knowing anything about it.  Many residents spoke out against the project which they only learned about when they saw construction vehicles and a port o’ potty on the land at the corner of the Route 322 By-pass and Mullica Hill Road.  One by one residents stood to question how the surgi-center could be approved without any individual notice to the residents and to question how the approval could include access to the medical center from a residential street in their neighborhood, Theresa Drive.  One by one these residents were yelled at and demeaned by the JLUB Chair, Joseph Pacera and Vice Chair, Nancy Kowalik, in the presence of the current mayor.  These residents wanted answers and assurances that the JLUB would limit access on Theresa Drive for the safety of the residents, especially the children.  The JLUB Chair promised residents that the JLUB would ask the “developer” Dr. Bidic, the owner of the surgi-center to limit Theresa Drive to only one direction in or out and then offered to ask Dr. Bidic to abandon the Theresa Drive entrance/exit altogether.  The JLUB insisted that the decision remains with Dr. Bidic and that the JLUB cannot force the surgi-center to comply.

The question remains, what exactly happened on Theresa Drive? How did the JLUB approve a plan which allows for access through a neighborhood for a surgical center that borders two main roads in the township? Why wasn’t access required from Mullica Hill Road and the by-pass only? The answer is that the Township used the redevelopment laws to circumvent the regular planning and zoning process.  Ordinarily when an applicant seeks approval of plans for a new structure, the plans must comply with existing zoning and planning laws or variances must be granted.  Any time a variance is required under the normal course of action, the notice requirements include a certified mailing to each owner of every property within the 200 feet of the subject property.  Had the applicant proceeded without redevelopment, homeowners on parts of Kayla’s Way, Theresa Drive, Mullica Hill Road, and Clems Run would all have received certified mail advising of a public hearing on the application.

While this was a legal use of the redevelopment laws, it was not fair to the residents on and surrounding Theresa Drive. The question of whether the surgical center will use their residential street is still unresolved and the solution is being placed squarely on the shoulders of  Dr. Bidic, instead of the JLUB where it belongs.

The parcel of land where the surgical center will be built is known as Block 34.03 Lot 43, Block 34.

Here is what we know:

October 3, 2013- the surgical center’s original application (Application #2013-21) was scheduled before the JLUB.  http://harrisontwp.us/Planning%20Board%20Minutes%20and%20Agendas/2013/agendas/9.19.13.pdf

October 17, 2013- the surgical center’s original application (Application #2013-21) was re-scheduled before the JLUB http://harrisontwp.us/Planning%20Board%20Minutes%20and%20Agendas/2013/agendas/10.3.13.pdf

November 7, 2013- the surgical center’s original application (Application #2013-21) was re-scheduled before the JLUB http://harrisontwp.us/Planning%20Board%20Minutes%20and%20Agendas/2013/agendas/10.17.13.pdf

So the applicant was prepared to go through the full application process until he decided to withdraw his application when the Township JLUB decided to a redevelopment study of the parcel. Redevelopment gives the township the ability to avoid all of the regular development process. 

November 21, 2013- JLUB Chairman Pacera said Dr. Bidic’s use variance application, scheduled for December 5th , was withdrawn. He said Committee would be requesting the Board to do a preliminary investigation for a possible redevelopment designation of the site and nearby area. The December 19th meeting is cancelled. The next meeting after that will be January 16, 2014. http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2013_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2013/11.21.13.pdf

By engaging the redevelopment process, the Township and applicant avoided having to obtain variances and involving the residents. 

December 5, 2013- the JLUB on its own motion moved to conduct a redevelopment study of Block 34.03 Lot 43, Block 34, lots 43 and 44. http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2013_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2013/12.5.13.pdf

January 24, 2014 – JLUB announced that Resolution 58-2014 authorizing the redevelopment study was accepted and that public hearing was set for February 20, 2014 http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2014_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2014/1-23-14%2520regular%2520meeting.pdf

February 20, 2014, public notice appearing in the South Jersey Times and posted on the municipal building bulletin board, the redevelopment findings on the subject lot were discussed.  There was no public comment.  http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2014_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2014/2-20-14%2520regular%2520meeting.pdf

March 20, 2014 Resolution 9-2014 – JLUB resolution Recommending that Block 34, Lot 44, Block 34.03, Lot 43, Block 57, Lot 1, And The Former Walters Road Between Mullica Hill Road (Route 322) and Theresa Drive (Relocated) be designated as an Area In Need Of Redevelopment

http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2014_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2014/3-20-14%2520regular%2520meeting.pdf

August 21, 2014 – the redevelopment study findings were discussed at the JLUB and accepted.  http://www.harrisontwp.us/Planning%20Board%20Minutes%20and%20Agendas/2014/minutes/REGULAR%20MINUTES-8%2021%2014.pdf

September 4, 2014- the redevelopment study and plan was recommended to be adoptedhttp://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2014_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2014/REGULAR%2520MINUTES-9%25204%252014.pdf

September 18, 2014  JLUB adopted the redevelopment study and plan  in Resolution 31-2014 http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2014_Minutes_Agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2014/Sept%252018%2520JLUB%2520Minutes.pdf

October 31, 2014 Property is sold to Mullica Hill Surgical Arts Bldg LLC (Bidic) http://tax1.co.monmouth.nj.us/cgi-bin/m4.cgi?district=0808&l02=080800034__0300043_________M

Redevelopment Study   http://harrisontwp.us/Redevelopment%20Reports/Rt322%20Bypass%20Redevelopment%20Study%202-4-14.pdf  

The Redevelopment study resulted in a redevelopment plan which was approved by the Township Committee.  http://harrisontwp.us/Business/Redevelopment/Block%2034%2003%20Lot%2043%20Redev%20Plan%208-20140001.pdf

Redevelopment Plan Approval  http://harrisontwp.us/download/township_ordinances/2014_ordinances/26-2014%2520Adopting%2520a%2520Redevelopment%2520Plan%2520(Block%252052,%2520Lot%252034.03%2520and%2520the%2520former%2520Walters%2520Road%2520ROW).pdf

The Plan concluded & recommended:

  • that Block 34, Lot 44; Block 34.03, Lot 43; Block 57, Lot 1; and former Walters Road between Mullica Hill Road (RT. 322) and Theresa Drive (relocated) were all detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the community due to their obsolete layout and faulty arrangement.  The change in lot condition (ie lot configuration and accessibility) due to the construction of the Route 322 Bypass has greatly affected the ability to utilize these parcels in question.
  • The former Walters Road between Mullica Hill Road (Rt. 322) and Theresa Drive (relocated) was also rendered unusable by the development of the Route 322 Bypass. The aforementioned section of Walters Road was removed when the Bypass was constructed. This area is not part of a Block or Lot and currently sits vacant. This strip of land is currently narrow and stuck between a residential subdivision and Block 34.03, Lot 43. This former roadway should be included in the redevelopment area with this block. Assembling these areas could allow for full movement in and out of Block 34.03, Lot 43, improving development opportunities for the two areas together.
  • Recommended that the Block 34, Lot 44; Block 34.03, Lot 43; Block 57, Lot 1; and former Walters Road between Mullica Hill Road (RT. 322) and Theresa Drive (relocated) be a “Condemnation Redevelopment Area” which subjected it to eminent domain if the owner did not go along with the redevelopment plan
  • Recommended an amendment to the existing Zoning Map of Harrison Township to include this parcel
  • That the JLUB be appointed as the redeveloper
  • Allowed JLUB to avoid the variance process which requires individual notice to all properties owners within the 200 foot list http://harrisontwp.us/download/Minutes_Agendas/2015_minutes_&_agendas/joint_land_use_board_minutes_2015/02-19-15.pdf

Changed the Zoning from R1 Residence Agricultural District which would not have permitted the use as medical office/surgi center without a variance.

R1-Zoning is  §225-11

R-1 Residence – Agricultural District.

Uses by right. In any R-1 District, land, buildings, or premises shall be used by right for only one of the following:

(1) Single-family detached houses.

(2) Agricultural uses, in accordance with the provisions of § 225-133.

(3) Usual farm buildings and dwellings in accordance with § 225-133.

(4) Public recreation or private recreation.

(5) Municipal services including but not limited to fire, police and public schools.

 (6) Educational, religious or philanthropic use.

(7) Animal hospital, riding stable.

 (8) Home industry or professional office in accordance with §§ 225-139.

One final thought – the Revedeloper appointed by the Township Committee is the JLUB, not the owner, Dr. Bidic.  It is the JLUB that can and should abandon the Theresa Drive entrance and exit and require the surgical center to proceed with acquiring access on Route 322 for ingress and egress. 

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