Plan for old Voorhees plant raises dander of neighbors
By STEVE LEVINE
A BJ's Wholesale Club may rise at the site of the former Atlas concrete plant, a dusty, degrading
relic off Route 73.
Plans filed with the township this month have sketches of five buildings, one of them a large "big box" megastore that officials say may be a BJ's - a national retailer whose customers pay for discount
Taxes from the nearly 30-acre site between William Feather and Signal Hill drives could bring
hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, offsetting local purpose and school taxes, officials say.
But many neighbors fear traffic, lights and noise from the shopping center will disrupt the private
Sturbridge Lakes community behind it.
The site has not been a functioning concrete plant for years. A broken chain-link fence encloses
the property. The buildings are surrounded by piles of abandoned concrete block and marked by
broken windows and graffiti.
During a township committee meeting Monday, at least 50 neighbors protested the site plan,
which was not on the agenda. Some accused Mayor Harry Platt of working with the developer to
bring the project in.
"Sadly, this ... is an administration more concerned with developers than its citizens," resident Ed
Ferruggia said Platt courted development even though he knew many Sturbridge homeowners would
"The truth of the matter is this administration is acting as it wants, hiding behind the 1998 master
plan," Ferruggia said.
Platt said at the meeting and in private that neither he nor other officials had helped the developer
more than they would any other interested builder.
A retail center is permitted at the site and the township cannot reject the plan simply because some
residents oppose it, he said.
"They seem to feel we can ignore land-use laws or that we can control what stores come in," Platt
He also said reopening the master plan in response to the site plan could be considered spot zoning
and expose the township to a lawsuit.
Some residents want the site salvaged for open space.
Committeemen Frank Sansone, Gary Finger and Platt said they would consider a review of the
of the master plan that deals with the Route 73 corridor but such a review would not likely affect the application before the township.
"We're a little late in the process," Sansone, who helped write the master plan, acknowledged. "The
plan is here. The big box has arrived."
Going against the tide at Monday's meeting, resident Jeff Senges defended the mayor and said
residents may have to accept the inevitable.
"The property is zoned for this use," Senges said. "Sooner or later something is going to be done
on this property. Let's make sure whatever is put there is sensitive to those who live near it."
The planning board is expected to review the site plan in January but no date for a hearing has been
The site's owners, Stafford Family Park Partners in Marlton, did not return a call for comment.