by OC Board of Freeholders
TOMS RIVER – Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari said he hopes the demolishing of a former gas station on Route 37 starts a trend.
“We have dilapidated old gas stations throughout the county that have become eyesores in many of our communities,” Vicari said. “They need to be removed.”
Numerous gas stations began closing several years ago as Wawa, QuickChek and other chains offering discount gasoline and convenience stores began opening at more locations.
“The smaller service stations couldn’t compete with the draw of cheap gas and fresh coffee,” he said. “These convenience stores became one-stop centers for commuters and other motorists.”
In the wake of their success, the stores/gas stations left a trail of closed service stations, many of which continue to waste away along the county’s main and secondary roads.
In 2015, the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs estimated there were more than 75 former gas stations left abandoned in the county.
Now, after repeatedly calling on these property owners to clean up these eyesores, Vicari said he is seeing some progress.
The old Hess station on Route 37 near Clifton Avenue is being demolished to make way for a car dealership.
The applicant received approval for the new business from the Toms River Township Planning Board in 2013.
Earlier this summer, the developer applied for an extension, which the township approved on the condition that the applicant agree to clean up the property.
Vicari praised the township’s actions, saying the former Hess site sits on one of the county’s most-traveled highways.
“Route 37 is a gateway to the shore,” he said. “We want to give the thousands of visitors that pass this way each summer the best possible impression of our county.”
Vicari said that when he travels through the county he cannot help but notice large number of overgrown former gas stations.
Two years ago, he even petitioned local state legislators to support a bill that would require the owners of these closed stations to clean up their properties or face a fine.
New businesses on these old sites would generate new tax revenue and support the local economy, he said.
“It’s well past time these old buildings are knocked down and the property used for new ventures,” Vicari said. “Hopefully we are seeing the start of that revitalization now.”