The lot at the former G.I. Auto Salvage yard, in Pine Brook, which has been empty for months suddenly filled with cars this week, causing many Montville residents to question what happened.
Township officials said the owner of the site, who was unavailable for comment, had a recent opportunity to bring cars that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy to the yard. Legally, township officials said this is permitted on the property as no developers have leased or built on the site.
The site has been vacant for more than a year while owners attempt to lease the property. Home improvement store Lowe's had expressed interest in building a store on the land, which faces Route 46 and Home Depot, but later pulled out of the project for economic reasons.
Since then, the township's land use boards and even township committee have had many discussions about . Some residents have also been vocal about what they would like to see on the site, including one Pine Brook resident who petitioned supermarket chain Wegmans to come to the area.
But according to Meghan Hunscher, the township's principal planner, a big-box retail store may not necessarily move in to the property and technically, another junkyard operation could lease the land.
"The use has nothing to do with the owner," Hunscher said.
Hunscher said that if development had already started on the property, the township would have some say over whether junkyard operations could continue on the site.
"Because nothing has been done, there's nothing we can do," she said. "They can do it in perpetuity, they can do it forever."
The cars that currently can be seen at the yard were brought to Pine Brook from Port Newark after being damaged in the storm, Hunscher said. Township Administrator Victor Canning said it was his understanding that the cars were previously to be sold by dealerships.
"The dealerships can't sell them so they needed to get them out of the way," he said.
But in order to be able to bring the cars to the lot, Canning said Quarry Process (QP) material needed to be transported in by the truckload to stabilize the ground.
"It's very muddy there and they decided, the people leasing the property, to put down some quarry stone to make it easier to move cars around," he said.
Hunscher said the quarry stone is aggregate and not soil. The material is laid out at between one and two inches. While the material was spread on the property to prevent heavy trucks from sinking, Hunscher said the QP may not remain there permanently.
"When they develop the property for big-box, it's our understanding that all of that QP woud need to be removed," she said.