Buhler & Bitter won a vote of approval from the Hazlet Township Planning Board for a new two-story modern structure accented with tall glass windows and polished aluminum as well as improvements to their longtime location on Route 35 South in Hazlet.
The Planning Board voted 8-0 to approve the final site plan, with agreement from Buhler to make some minor design and curb modifications in consultation by the township engineer. On Sept. 6, the adopt a resolution memorializing the decision.
"We're very happy" said Garry Foltz, one of the owners, as the meeting ended. His father-in-law Don Buhler, who continues to have an active role in the firm, said, "We're pleased, we worked hard on this plan and we think it's an improvement."
The longtime Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealership at 3290 Highway 35, where new and used cars were sold, serviced, detailed and financed, was completely demolished following a spectacular blaze on May 26. The fire was later determined to have been caused by a faulty relay in a battery cable the dealership was servicing. At the time, the owners vowed to hold onto their 34 employees and rebuild anew.
A new masonry structure, more than twice the square footage of the old one, will be built on the 2.29 acre lot located in the Business/Highway zone -- hopefully by the one-year anniversary of the fire, said Foltz. Its location has shifted to be sited closer to Maple Drive. It was designed by Architect Richard Villano. The project manager is Andrew Comi, PE of Kennedy Consulting Engineers.
The family-owned business representatives presented reasons why they needed variances and waivers for lot depth, front and rear setbacks, building height, issues related to the height, number and placement of lighted pylon signs, and elimination of landscape islands and front landscaping in the parking lot.
There are no change for the kinds of services provided, and the Monday-Saturday business hours remain the same.
Safety improvements are in the plans. Previously, there were seven driveways from Route 35. The new plan calls for highway driveway access to be reduced to just two driveways, with more dedicated and purposeful circulation area. Maple Drive access will be restricted by curbing. The changes were to increase safety for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
Two neighbors who commented on the plan were primarily concerned with glaring lights at the lot. But Buhler's representatives explained the new LED lighting will be far less intrusive because the technology allows the illumination to be be directed more precisely.