Landscaper seeking OK to keep use on property

Staff Writer

Landscaper seeking OK
to keep use on property
Staff Writer

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Brad Moini is an enterprising young man, but he has a problem.

In a hearing before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Moini is trying to convince board members and his neighbors on Robertsville Road that allowing him to run a landscaping business on his property would be less intrusive than the riding school/farm that the zoning on the 8-acre property allows.

Moini’s application for a use variance to permit the storage of landscape materials and equipment was heard last week and continued to the zoning board’s June 24 meeting. His neighbors, who have complained about noise, truck traffic and unsightly equipment on the property, sat quietly in the meeting room at the municipal building while attorney Gerald Sonnenblick and planner Daniel McSweeney made the case for Moini’s application.

Sonnenblick explained that his client bought the Robertsville Road property in 2001 to raise nursery stock and to use in conjunction with his landscaping business. Moini was told that a landscape business was not a permitted use on the property and paid a fine. He then applied for a variance.

Moini’s representatives contended that the landscaping business is a better use than a greenhouse with a retail component like a farm stand, which they indicated is what Moini would use the property for if the variance is not approved.

Sonnenblick said there would be less traffic if the board allows Moini to do what he wants to do, run a landscaping business, along with a snow removal business that is a component of many landscape businesses.

Moini testified that the property was once a horse training center with the boarding of horses permitted. The property has a stable with 14 stalls, a barn, an in-ground pool and a two-and-a-half story house. He has three horses on the property and one person takes lessons. The house has a caretaker and a small back office where three office employees work.

There are two bathrooms, one in the house and one in the barn, but the one in the barn is not in use, so he has a portable bathroom on the property.

He explained that there are storage trailers, also called containers, near the barn and in the back of the property that he has tried to block from sight lines along Robertsville Road by building landscape berms as screening.

In addition, there are trucks, some serviceable, some not, he said.

"In the morning, workers come in, load up and leave the site," he said, explaining that he has nine drivers plus day workers who are picked up at their homes. He said most of the drivers take the trucks home at night. There are about 15 vehicles on-site between January and April and because the trees are bare they can be seen from the road in winter, he said.

Moini said his day starts at 7 a.m. and generally ends around 8 p.m., and he operates from April to December, six days a week during the warm months. Once a week or so a flat bed trailer with top soil mulch or stone comes in to drop off materials.

Moini said he would be willing to make concessions if the variance he is seeking is approved. He said he would vacate the variance he has now, he would agree not to sell retail or have a farm stand, and he would limit the number of vehicles that would be on site. He also said he would try harder to hide the vehi­cles from sight.

He said cars that neighbors have com­plained about in the past are no longer on the site. He said they were stored there temporarily during the blizzard of 2000 as a favor for a car dealership.

Moini, who is in his early 30s, is a life­long resident of Freehold and has been in business for 17 years. Until he purchased the property on Robertsville Road, his business, Brothers Landscaping, was based on Mechanic Street in Freehold Borough.

In addition to the landscaping and snow plowing business, Moini said he also sells Christmas trees from a location on Route 9. He said he grows trees on the Robertsville Road property which allows him to be eligible for farmland assess­ment, which means he pays less taxes on the acreage that is considered part of the farm.

Because the testimony of the profes­sionals took up most of the time allotted for the hearing, members of the public did not have much time to question the appli­cant or to voice their concerns.

One woman asked a list of questions which included how many trucks are on the property; how many leave and enter the property every day; whether Moini stores pesticides and how much; and why was there a sign on the property that ad­vertised sprinkler system installation. She also addressed an issue that every­one agreed on — the poor sight distance for trucks leaving and entering Moini’s driveway because of a curve in the road.

Moini said he had intended to do something about the driveway but had heard that Robertsville Road was going to be widened. The woman asked him if he knew that township officials had decided not to widen the road.

Moini said he was told about a year ago that the road widening project had been postponed.

Moini’s 8-acre property is near a 3-acre resi­dential zone. Neighbors contend the commercial landscaping business creates a threat to public health and safety and an unsightly nuisance.