MANALAPAN – Developer Vito Cardinale offered a brief response when asked for his reaction moments after the Manalapan Planning Board granted preliminary approval to his Manalapan Crossing project.

“Thank God, we’re closer. God was good to me,” Cardinale said on Jan. 24 at the Manalapan municipal building.

Cardinale has spent several years attempting to produce a development plan for property at Route 33 and Millhurst Road that would pass muster with Manalapan officials.

Minutes earlier, board members voted 9-0 to grant preliminary major subdivision approval and preliminary site plan approval, subject to certain conditions, for Manalapan Crossing.

Final approval for Manalapan Crossing will be sought at a future date and the application will again be subject to a public hearing, according to the board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro.

Cardinale and Associates, LLC, has proposed developing Manalapan Crossing with a 280-home Four Seasons at Manalapan Crossing 55-and-over community, retail space, medical office space, a bank, a convenience store with a gas station, and 58 non-age restricted one-bedroom apartments designated as affordable housing and/or housing for individuals who have special needs.

Following hours of testimony during 2018, the board’s Jan. 24 meeting saw attorney Salvatore Alfieri, who represents the applicant, conclude his presentation by reviewing several outstanding items.

Alfieri said that during the initial phase of construction at Manalapan Crossing, 70 homes in the adult community, all of the affordable housing and some of the interior roads would be constructed, all from an access on Route 33.

Alfieri said no additional housing or commercial space would be constructed at Manalapan Crossing until all of the interior roads have been completed. He said he does not expect any children to reside in the affordable housing units even though there is no age restriction on the planned one-bedroom apartments.

Phase I of the project will not include an access point to Manalapan Crossing on Millhurst Road, according to the attorney.

The plan for the completed project includes access from Millhurst Road at the point where Whitlock Court intersects Millhurst Road. The developer has plans to install a traffic light at that location, according to previous testimony.

Second, Alfieri said the applicant would apply to the New Jersey Department of Transportation for permission to create a third lane of travel on Route 33 from Millhurst Road to the Manalapan Crossing entrance on Route 33.

The applicant had always proposed an access from Route 33, but board members asked for a full travel lane to be created from Millhurst Road to the residential-commercial development’s entrance. Alfieri said the DOT has jurisdiction on the state highway.

Third, Alfieri said all of the one-bedroom apartments in the affordable housing component of the plan will be a minimum of 900 square feet and comply with existing regulations.

Engineer William Stevens said a loading dock at Building A – which has retail uses on the first floor and residential uses on the upper floors – has been added to the plan.

The only member of the public to comment on Jan. 24 was Brad Berger, who lives in a residential development off Millhurst Road.

“I’m against Manalapan Crossing,” Berger said, citing what he believes will be significant traffic problems on Millhurst Road. He described “a failure of the Planning Board to ask the (applicant’s) traffic expert to plot out all the traffic … and a failure to show how cars will merge (where two lanes become one lane) … and a failure to account for school buses (make this application) not worthy of approval at this time. People will realize this after construction begins. I don’t think traffic has been solved by a longshot.”

Berger noted that in recent years, Manalapan officials have been approving the construction of adult communities and said, “I see two factions in Manalapan: people with kids, and seniors who don’t want to pay any more taxes. … I believe a community should support its schools. … The (approval of adult communities) is saying Manalapan doesn’t want children.”

Cucchiaro and Alfieri clarified several technical issues relating to the application before a motion was made to grant preliminary approval for development on a property that has been at the heart of discussions and presentations before the Township Committee and Planning Board for almost two decades.

The Manalapan Crossing project conforms to Manalapan’s ordinances, with the exception of several minor design waivers.

Board Chairwoman Kathryn Kwaak, Vice Chairman Todd Brown and board members Richard Hogan, David Kane, Deputy Mayor Jack McNaboe, Township Committeeman Barry Jacobson, Daria D’agostino, Alan Ginsberg and John Castronovo voted “yes” to grant preliminary approval.

“Thank you for your time. Hopefully we will see you soon,” Alfieri told board members.

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