The Vernon Township Land Use Board passed along a recommendation to the township council on Jan. 13 to accept a redevelopment plan of the empty D&S Mall property on Route 515 that can bring a convenience store/gas station, retail space,and apartments to the Town Center.
Only one Land Use Board member, Richard Spoerl, declined on the recommendation, suggesting the township did not need a gas station in that area.
Mayor Howard Burrell said he has been in contact with the owner of the D&S Mall property, located at 525 County Highway 515, across from Acme, and three members of a company that have signed an agreement to purchase the property.
Plans to improve the property include renovating and providing a facelift for the building and using a portion of the building as part of a Circle K convenience store and gas station. Burrell said the other units in the building will be renovated to attract other businesses, and a second story will accommodate two two-bedroom apartments.
Burrell said the same company recently opened the Circle K, located at the corner of Route 23 and Holland Mountain Road in Hardyston.
He also said the redevelopment plan supports four master plan objectives: provide economic development through enhanced commercial development, encourage mixed-use development, direct future growth to the Town Center and redevelopment areas, and create plans consistent with the redevelopment plan.
The township council on Jan. 11 unanimously agreed to send the plan to the Land Use Board for review. Councilman John Auberger and Councilwoman Toni Cilli both abstained from the vote. The council tabled the introduction of an ordinance to approve the redevelopment plan until after the Land Use Board looked at it.
The council is expected to take the matter up again on Jan. 27.
Township Planner Jessica Caldwell said while there’s a concern about too many auto-oriented businesses in the Town Center, the area doesn’t have a modern convenience/store gas station.
“We wouldn’t want to see this all over the Town Center,” Caldwell said.
Vernon resident Suzanne Ishee said she had concerns about the longevity of the gas station, indicating it could be rendered obsolete within the decade as electric vehicles become more prevalent.
“I’m not sure of the need for another gas station,” she said.
Caldwell said if the gas station became unnecessary, it could be taken out and the parking lot reused for something else.
“I’m not sure of the need for another gas station.” Suzanne Ishee