ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — After months of delays, the Township Land Use Board was finally presented with details for a proposed Copart auto storage facility on Stickles Pond Road.
Copart officials provided about three hours of details Tuesday night in front of about 50 members of the public at the Hillside Park barn.
Copart seeks to buy about 100 acres on Stickles Pond Road, the site of the former Newton Airport, to build a facility to store its used vehicles until they are sold via auction, similar to its 200 other sites nationwide.
The township site would also include a 12,860-square-foot building and an 8-foot-tall perimeter fence.
Charles Eichman, Copart’s regional manager for New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia answered questions from attorney William Haggerty, representing the applicant, and from members of the board.
Attorney Elizabeth Durkin, who represents 17 township residents, also questioned Eichman. During Durkin’s questions the hearing concluded for the night at 10:30 p.m. Testimony for the application will continue at the board’s meeting Oct. 20.
Copart currently owns four other New Jersey properties, two in Glassboro, and others in Hillsborough and East Windsor.
The proposed township facility would be operated by Copart but bought in partnership with BHT Properties Group.
Eichman said buyers would not be permitted on the Stickles Pond Road site as Copart only conducts its vehicle auctions online.
Copart does not perform vehicle maintenance at its facilities, Eichman said. Potentially hazardous work such as fluid draining, will be done before the vehicles arrive on site. The regional manager said he is not aware of any spills or other environmental issues during his nine years in various roles at the company.
“I can tell you, to the best of my knowledge, we have not had any violations whatsoever in the state of New Jersey,” Eichman said. “And I can tell you from my personal experience, having been in a facility for many years, many of our locations — probably most or all of our locations — have immaculate track records.”
In response to questioning from Land Use Board Chair Paul Messerschmidt, Eichman said the risk of vehicle fires does exist, but such incidents are not common. He said he has been on site for one fire during his Copart career: a blaze at the company’s Long Island facility in January that impacted 29 vehicles and lasted three hours.
Board members exressed concern about possible vandalism and other negative activities at Copart facilities after hours. Eichman said the chance of unlawful behavior often depends on the area where they are located.
“There are some places in the country that are heavily industrial or (in) poor neighborhoods to begin with, and that tends to be where you could run into problems,” Eichman said. “Generally speaking, when you’re in a relatively good community to begin with, it does tend to stay that way.”
Eichman said he could not speak to specific security measures planned at the Andover Township facility. He said most other Copart sites are fenced in and feature multiple security cameras that are always monitored.
“Generally speaking, we have at least a couple, and sometimes more, different overlapping measures in place to make sure that we’re both preventing any type of malicious activity in the first place, and then certainly responding to it immediately if there were to be an issue,” Eichman said.
Durkin asked about the need for a perimeter fence if vandalism is not common at Copart sites. He said the fenced-in facility would represent a “big distinction” between the Andover Township proposal and a regular car sale lot. Eichman said the fence is for “general protection” of customers’ vehicles at the site.
Durkin provided photos of the company’s Hillsborough and a Glassboro sites taken last week which shows a fence topped with wiring Eichman said is electrified when the facility is closed. Durkin said the fencing as “similar to what a penitentiary or a jail might look like” and questioned whether the “intense security” would be welcomed by neighbors along Stickles Pond Road.
The Oct. 20 meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Park barn. Residents may attend in person or virtually via a link found on the Andover Township website.
Kyle Morel can also be contacted on Twitter: @KMorelNJH, on Facebook: Facebook.com/KMorelNJH, or by phone: 973-383-1292.