HOWELL – Members of the Howell Planning Board made it clear they have issues with the volume of vehicles that will result from an applicant seeking municipal approval to construct nine warehouses at the intersection of Randolph and Oak Glen roads.
Monmouth Commerce Center, the applicant, and Lawrence Katz and Felix Pflaster, as owners, are proposing to construct nine warehouses ranging in size from 85,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet, totaling 1.2 million square feet, on a 99-acre parcel.
Testimony on the application has been presented over the course of several meetings. Attorney Meryl Gonchar and traffic engineer Justin Taylor represented Monmouth Commerce Center when testimony resumed at a special meeting on July 29.
Previously, board member Robert Nicastro asked the applicant’s representatives about the inclusion of the Cornerstone Calvary Chapel, which was not included in the traffic estimates.
Cornerstone Calvary Chapel has been granted approval to construct a church and to relocate/build a new parsonage on Allenwood-Lakewood Road, and to remove an existing church and parsonage.
“Just to refresh the board, the approved church is 704 seats and they will have services on Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. Based on the analysis that was prepared by the church’s expert, it was determined in their studies and in ours that there won’t be any impact to our proposed project based on the church,” Taylor said.
The board’s vice chairman, Brian Tannenhaus, asked Taylor to clarify if he was referring to automobiles or trucks.
“On the tapes I listened to, I thought I heard you mention there would be no truck traffic going that route (toward the church); that all traffic would go toward Lakewood-Farmingdale Road. So it is just automobiles we are talking about?” Tannenhaus asked.
Taylor said in regard to the church, traffic was referring to automobiles. He said truck traffic would primarily use Route 547 (Lakewood-Farmingdale Road) to presumably reach Interstate 195.
Taylor said the Monmouth Commerce Center is proposed to have five driveways on Randolph Road, between 250 and 575 feet apart. He said the applicant has 2,500 feet of frontage on Randolph Road and could, according to a Howell ordinance, construct 10 driveways.
Taylor said the goal of the plan is to promote the best internal circulation possible for the proposed development.
The board’s chairman, Robert Nash, said he was hearing disappointment from his fellow board members regarding the driveways.
“These are not the nice, neat driveways we saw on the aerial (view). I think the applicant has to go back and look at these driveways and make them work more realistically,” Nash said.
Taylor said proposed signs would help with internal circulation of trucks on the site. He said most people would know where they are going because they would not just be visitors to the property.
“We know that now because you now know who the tenants are?” Nicastro asked.
Taylor said he knows that because of the layout of the site.
Nash expressed concern with the proposed internal circulation on the property.
Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick, who sits on the board, said he was “somewhat confident” with the number of driveways the applicant has proposed.
“I understand what (Taylor) is saying (and that) the reduction (in the number) of driveways could potentially create more of an issue. I get it. I am still up in the air. I think I would rather see a circulation pattern,” Kudrick said.
Taylor said that during the morning peak hour, there would be 27 trucks coming in and eight trucks heading out. In the evening peak hour, there would be 10 trucks coming in and 26 trucks heading out.
Regarding cars, he said, “In that same morning peak hour, you have 107 cars coming in and 32 cars going out, and in the evening peak hour, you are talking about 38 cars coming in and 103 cars going out.”
Taylor addressed the conditions at the intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547 and said, “This could be an issue. It is currently operating at an F level of service,” on a scale of A to F.
He said he believes the installation of a traffic signal at Randolph Road and Route 547 would address the board’s concerns at that location.
“Is the applicant paying for that traffic signal?” Nicastro asked, prompting Taylor to say the issue could be discussed.
Gonchar said she believed Taylor’s testimony was that the intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547 as it exists is operating at an F level of service and not that the warehouse project would create an F level of service.
Nicastro said the intersection is operating at an F level of service now and asked what it would be with the warehouses operating, but without the installation of a traffic signal.
Taylor said the intersection would continue to operate at an F level of service with a possible delay of up to 665 seconds (11 minutes) at certain times. He said the proposed improvements could reduce the possible delay to about 300 seconds (5 minutes) at certain times.
During the evening peak hours, with no improvements at Randolph Road and Route 547, the delay could be 921 seconds (15 minutes), and with the warehouses operating the evening peak hours could result in a delay of 1,356 seconds (22 minutes).
Nash said he had a problem with the discussion regarding the signalized intersection.
“My whole problem with this discussion is that the intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547, as everyone here knows, is under Monmouth County’s jurisdiction. So we can do all the posturing we want, but the fact of the matter is that this board and this town do not have a decision as to whether that intersection is signalized or when it becomes signalized, and that is an issue,” Nash said.
Nash asked the applicant’s representatives if they have discussed the issue with the county or presented their traffic study to the county for consideration.
Taylor said the traffic study was not submitted to the county.
Nash also took issue with the traffic study only considering two signalized intersections, when he said there are multiple intersections between Herbertsville and Randolph roads. He also took issue with the traffic study being conducted on a Friday, near a large Orthodox Jewish community in neighboring Lakewood.
“Are you aware of the Jewish Sabbath, where (members of the community) have to have their meal and have to be in temple by sundown? Would you offer a professional opinion as to the appropriateness of counting traffic on Friday evening in the town (Howell) that is adjacent to a very heavily Jewish population (in Lakewood)?” Nash asked.
Taylor said the applicant’s representatives did not see any issue because nothing was brought up in the initial review letter.
Gonchar said the evening peak hour for the warehouse would be 3:30-4:30 p.m. and said the Sabbath does not begin until several hours later.
Nash said if the applicant was going to take that position and use the Friday traffic volumes, then he wants to see that there is no difference between the peak hour on Friday and the other four days of the week.
Nicastro said regardless of the issue with Monmouth County’s jurisdiction at the intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547, it is the board’s responsibility to know the potential adverse effect of the proposed project on the other roads in the area.
“I definitely want to hear what we plan on doing if that traffic light (at Randolph Road and Route 547) is not coming. It will have an adverse effect on the locals. … We need to address that,” he said.
The Monmouth Commerce Center application was carried to the board’s Sept. 19 meeting.