Auto storage hearing is postponed because too many people showed up

Andover. The hearing that was supposed to continue Tuesday night in the Hillside Park Hall/Barn, which has a capacity of 80 people, has been postponed to Nov. 17, giving the Land Use Board time to find a bigger venue.

| 21 Oct 2020 | 10:02

So many people showed up to a public hearing in Andover on Tuesday night, the hearing had to be postponed.

The township’s Land Use Board postponed the continuation of the public hearing on the BHT Property Group’s application for a variance to build an auto storage and auction facility at 248 Stickles Pond Road, a property owned by Public Service Electric & Gas.

Members of the public filled the Hillside Park Hall/Barn to capacity, leaving people outside unable to get in. The building has a designated capacity of 80 people.

“The building is already at capacity for the amount of people that are allowed in here,” said Paul Messerschmidt, who chaired the meeting. “By law, we have to allow for as many people who want to come. So, we have to not hold the hearing tonight because there’s people that can’t come into the building.”

The hearing was postponed until Nov. 17, giving the Land Use Board time to find a larger venue to accommodate the crowd. Those who live within 200 feet of the BHT site will be sent a certified letter telling them of the time and place of the hearing.

The new location has not been determined.

BHT attorney William Haggerty said his client consents to the postponement.

“We know it’s not the board’s fault in any sense whatsoever, and it is strictly because on the guidelines that have been published restricting the number of people that can be allowed at this time in this facility.”

The hearing began on Sept. 15 with testimony by Charles Eichman, regional manager for Copart Auto Auctions, which would operate the proposed facility.

BHT plans to demolish three non-conforming dwellings, construct a 12,860-square-foot building, install a new well and septic system, and plant hundreds of trees and shrubs. Copart will employ from 15 to 30 people and beef up the township’s coffers, according to the application.

Residents who live near the site say the project will have a major negative environmental and societal effect on the neighborhood. Fluids could leak from the stored vehicles, they said.