ANDOVER, NJ- Thousands of disabled cars could end up in Andover if the Land Use Board approves a request for a variance made by BHT Properties Group. On Tuesday, May 19, the Land Use Board is set to hear the variance application for the old airport on Stickles Pond Road.
Residents have spoken out against the proposal spearheaded by Eileen Ibranyi saying it will “completely change the complexion and culture of not only Andover but Sussex County. “
BHT plans to lease the property, once approved and modified to COPART who would be auctioning the disabled vehicles.
According to township officials, neither vehicle sales nor junk yard are permitted uses in that zone. The 99 acre property is Block 151 Lot 21. According to residents, BHT also tried to purchase 77 acres from Saint Paul’s Abbey but “the monks said ‘no’.”
The property is currently owned by PSE&G. They have used the parcel as a staging area for equipment during large storm cleanups. Roger Trudeau, PSE&G representative listed in the application documents, did not respond to a request for comment.
Andover residents have organized opposition to the plan, including establishing a facebook page, change.org petition and GoFundMe page to raise money for legal and other professional services. They oppose the plan to have “4,000 to 6,000 inoperable and demolished vehicles,” as well as the construction of “a warehouse and have an auto auction.”
The florist, owner of Ibranyi is Floral, has hired attorney Elizabeth Durkin from Livingston to represent the interests of residents and business owners. She said they will also be calling on the professional services of engineers, planners, hydrogeologists, traffic planners and any other professional Durkin feels is needed to support their case.
Ibranyi, whose home and business are in the same neighborhood as the old airport, has been a vocal opponent of the project. She said in a letter to the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions or ANJEC “248 Stickle Pond Road is home to the Muckshaw Pond Preserve, Springdale Spring and Pequest River. The land is located in a residential neighborhood with shallow wells.”
Ibranyi said when she went public with her opposition to the BHT's application they offered to buy her home. She refused the offer, she said.
In March, Ibranyi also petitioned Governor Phil Murphy to ask for help with issue. She contacted Thorlabs, whose property is in proximity to the proposed junk yard and car auction. Neither have responded.
Concerned Andover residents have reached out to residents of Green Township, Newton and Byram, “all who would be affected by increased traffic, pollution or decreased property values.”
The application by BHT says the vehicles will be emptied of all fluids. Ibranyi said a major portion of the “bible sized” application is abatement plans including approved contractors, to clean up fluid spills of oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, gasoline, transmission fluid and every other type of fluid associated with a vehicle.
According to Andover officials the application by BHT has been deemed to be complete by the Land Use Board. The official also confirmed the application does not include any applications or waivers from New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The engineers' report states BHT said they received an exemption and they have an application though officials confirm those documents are not included in BHT’s application to Andover's Land Use Board.
Another Andover resident opposed to BHT said “there will be a number of permits necessary due to the wetlands [on the property] and its proximity to the Pequest River.” BHT will have to “answer to the DEP on issues of where to place structures and roads, how much vegetation they are allowed to clear, where motorized vehicles will be in relation to the wetlands designation” for example.
The proposed plan, according to documents submitted to the Land Use Board, is to “demolish all existing structures, regrade the lot and construct asphalt milling access roads, gravel vehicle storage areas, asphalt driveways and loading areas.” BHT, the applicant will "add pedestrian facilities, a commercial office building and subsurface and surface stormwater facilities."
COPART, headquartered in Dallas, Texas is an international company that holds “online salvage, insurance auto auctions and sales,” according to their website. They are a publicly traded on the NASDAQ, listed as CPRT.
“We are afraid they will use the coronavirus as an opportunity to slip this by when people are not paying attention,” Ibranyi said. The first hearing was scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day, March 17 which Ibranyi also said was likely chosen because people the day is typically celebrated by many in the community; people would not be attending.
According to an Andover Land Use Board official, the attorney for BHT, Dolan &Dolan of Newton, New Jersey, has requested another postponement of their hearing. They are asking to be placed on the June agenda.
The Land Use Board will have that request on their May 19 meeting agenda, according to town officials.