As part of a unanimous decision by the township zoning board, DeHart's Farm Fresh Produce will yield the Jessup Road address it has occupied since 1968 to make way for a new public utility substation and poles.
Although William DeHart’s father sold the easement rights on the property to PSE&G decades ago, the utility board allowed the farm market to remain in its original location, where it evolved into a township staple.
But now, PSE&G must upgrade its infrastructure along Jessup Road as part of the Southern Reinforcement Project, a safety initiative overseen by the multi-state Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection, a federal entity that controls power maintenance.
The line in question runs through Gloucester City, Deptford, Woodbury, Brooklawn, Westville and West Deptford.
PSE&G must perform the upgrades due to a pair of violations having to do with voltage levels and how much the existing wires can carry.
There has been one line in place since 1960, but growth of the township drove escalating power needs that made it necessary to split the voltage between two wires, while placing several different types of towers throughout the township and raising the height of some.
Failure to do so could result in power outages and long-term blackouts, PSE&G representatives told the Zoning Board on Tuesday.
'They've been nice to me'
The utility has offered DeHart a few alternatives: sell him a piece of their land across the street, move his market off the main road, or negotiate with the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) for a piece of its land in the area, which DeHart said he preferred.
“I don’t want to move my stand back because no one will see it and we’ll lose out on the traffic that comes through,” DeHart said.
“I don’t want to move across the street," he said. "Right now, I’m able to pick my corn in the morning and pull right up. If it was on the opposite side, I’d have to cross the street.
"I don’t want to do that because it’s dangerous.”
DeHart estimates 90 percent of his business comes from return customers within the township who know his family brand. He said he might lose some out-of-state traffic if his farm market has to move, but he’s confident things will work out.
“[PSE&G has] been nice to me,” DeHart said. “They really could’ve asked me to move at any time. We’ve always had a good relationship.”
The market closes on Halloween. DeHart is hoping to have a resolution by the time it reopens in mid-May.
'Now we're going to have two towers'
Jeanne Webb is also hoping for a resolution. Her home on Jessup Road is the only home that will see any impact from the project, as the one tower near her home is being replaced by two towers, and are being moved closer to her home.
Typically, the planting of new vegetation is not an option, but PSE&G officials said they would work with her to minimize the impact.
“The one tower we have gives us problems during thunderstorms,” Webb said.
“When lightning strikes near that tower, our alarm goes off and the police aren’t happy when they have to come out. We’ve been there quite a length of time. When we moved there, nothing was there, and now we’re going to have two towers.”
The plan calls for:
- the installation of 11 new “H” frame towers, ranging from 125 to 140 feet tall. They would replace the existing towers that range from 102 to 130 feet;
- the replacement of two 139-foot monopoles with two new 145-foot monopoles;
- six new monopoles, ranging from 140 to 160 feet. They would replace six lattice towers that range from 151 to 173 feet;
- 12 new blowout poles, from 152 to 160 feet tall; and
- the continued use of two existing 144-foot monopoles and 21 existing lattice towers ranging in height from 145 to 182 feet.
Construction is set to begin in November, and must be completed by June 2015, according to PSE&G representatives.
Zoning board members heard the proposal for the first time
Tuesday night, in the form of a four hour-plus presentation that included
comments from the board and members of the public.
Board Member Jerry Maher was concerned about the proposed height of the towers. PSE&G officials stated they wanted to raise the heights of some of the towers to make a way for a yet-to-be proposed NJ Transit lightrail line through West Deptford.
Higher towers are more expensive, but PSE&G is financing the project. Maher wanted to see the proposal tabled so the board could have more time to evaluate the plan.
However, Vice Chairman James Robinson informed him the Zoning Board didn’t have that option, particularly after Secretary Charles Dahmer motioned to accept the proposal.
It went for a vote, with Robinson, Maher, Dahmer, Bill Bondar, Ellen Lanciano, William McKeever and Madeline Fucci in favor; board chairman Michael McManamy recused himself.