The lengthy Airgas USA, LLC hearings came to a close Wednesday when the Plainfield Township Zoning Hearing Board unanimously denied the company’s variance and special exception requests.
Airgas proposed operating a distribution facility at 730 Bangor Road, where it would warehouse flammable gasses and chemicals in a 34,800-square-foot storage facility. Airgas planned on keeping a large portion of those materials above ground, in bulk, which necessitated the company’s request.
On the third night of hearings just four people testified and only one resident spoke during the public comment period. Sentiments reflected those expressed at previous meetings: concerns about safety and aesthetics were paramount.
Ultimately, though, the board based its decision on the township’s zoning ordinance. Airgas needed to meet five criteria to receive a variance, but it fell short on the fist. It failed to demonstrate its use was uniquely suited to the particular piece of land at issue.
Airgas argued the property sat on the market for two years and that no other company showed interest in adapting it. However, Airgas did not purchase the property—it merely paid earnest money.
“Now I could see if you owned this property and there was no other way you could use it. Then you’d have an argument,” Chairman Glenwood Rissmiller said. “But in my opinion, there are other uses in that district.”
The board said two years was not enough time to foreclose any possibility of alternate use. “The fact that it’s only two years is not indicative of today’s market,” John Santo said.
Because the board did not grant the variance, it could not grant the special exception, either.