Hamilton Honda gets OK to build new car wash, body shop
HAMILTON — The township planning board gave Hamilton Honda the green-light tonight, approving construction of a new car wash and auto body shop on two abandoned residential lots on Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road.
The car wash is part of the Route 130 dealership’s sales pitch, dealership principal Mike Saporito said: All customers get free oil changes and car washes, he said.
Currently, about 300 customers squeeze into an existing car wash — located within the showroom and service area — each month, he said.
“We’re trying to make it a little more free-moving for the customers we have,” Saporito said.
However, the car wash is not exclusively for Hamilton Honda customers: Any driver can pull up to the car wash and pay for the service.
Saporito said the new car wash wouldn’t lead to any new customers, a point that planning board member Rich Watson, director of the township’s water pollution control department, disagreed with.
“You’re putting it on the road itself. It’ll be more accessible and more visible to the public, so how can you justify the same number of vehicles,” Watson said. “You’re building a new car wash and saying there won’t be a lot of new traffic. That doesn’t sound like a very profitable venture for the owners.”
But Saporito said that the car wash wouldn’t be marketed like other car washes, which advertise special discounts or enticing offers for newcomers.
“If someone comes up for a car wash, we’d like the opportunity to sell them a new car,” Saporito said. “But the whole purpose is to facilitate, handle and give good service to our customers.”
As part of the planning board’s 6-1 vote, Hamilton Honda was given approval for a 7,500-square-foot auto body shop at another small lot along Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road.
The auto body shop would be built with no current tenant signed on to run a business there.
“A partnership with another individual is ongoing and is trying to be solved,” Saporito said.
The dealership currently utilizes the Body by Mule shop, one mile away on Route 130, for much of its collision work, township economic development director Mike Angarone said last week.
In the past, owner Robert Mule has considered moving his business to the new Honda site, Angarone said, to make room for a jughandle intersection along the highway.
But the planned jughandle was linked to a proposed shopping center that would be anchored by a Target store.
After 10 years of rumors, Target may not open a store in that location, Angarone said, leaving Mule’s plans up in the air.
Board member Robert Hall cast the board’s only dissenting vote, requesting a median to be constructed along Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road.
A few more vacant residential lots on the road will likely be developed for commercial uses over the next few years, Hall said.
By leaving room for drivers to illegally turn left into the Honda dealership — and a Wawa gas station approved in July — the board set a bad example, he said.
“Eventually, all those driveways onto Crosswicks are going to face the same issue: How do you deal with left-turn-in, left-turn-out? That would ultimately lead to a median,” Hall said. “This sets a poor precedent for the remainder of the development in this zone.”
Traffic engineer Jeffrey Fiore disagreed: The remainder of Crosswicks-Hamilton Square Road separates traffic flow with simple dividing lines, he said, which should be adequate for cars making legal right turns.
“Why would you have a median at his location when you have a perfectly safe right in, right out access,” Fiore said.