By Ron Murray
I am submitting this in response to an article which appeared in the June 19 News Transcript regarding an applicant’s proposal to build a Wawa gas station with eight pumps and a medical office building in Marlboro.
(Editor’s note: The Wawa application referenced in this Your Turn guest column is currently before the Marlboro Zoning Board of Adjustment. The next hearing on the application is scheduled for the board’s July 9 meeting).
The main question the zoning board – which is appointed by the mayor and Township Council – needs to address on this proposal is how does this new retail and office complex improve our community?
The short answer is that aside from getting more taxes from businesses, this proposal does not offer a benefit to our community. Quite the opposite, this proposal will hurt our community in a number of ways:
1. Traffic congestion: The proposal calls for an eight-bay Wawa gas station, a 5,500-square-foot convenience store and a 10,000-square-foot medical building to be located on the corner of Route 79 and Route 520. This intersection is already tremendously busy.
On any school weekday, Route 520 and Route 79 can be backed up from a quarter-mile to a half-mile. Route 79 northbound can get backed up past Marlboro High School, which complicates high school dismissal, with a majority of drivers being students. The additional traffic in and out of a large gas station will definitely slow traffic even further.
2. Safety: The current Wawa (in the Bear Brook Commons shopping center at Route 520 and Route 79) is highly frequented by high school students both before and after school. The school and the current Wawa are on the same side of the street, an easy walk.
The new Wawa would be across the street. Crossing Route 79 for the students is an accident waiting to happen. Plus, the additional traffic going in and out of the Wawa will create a higher degree of potential accidents.
The plan currently is allowing for cars to turn left into the Wawa traveling south on Route 79 across from ongoing traffic. Not safe. Plus, the plan will allow for cars to turn left onto Route 520 west from Meglio Drive, also not safe.
3. Over retail: The proposed location already has a gas station on the corner (Raceway); the new Wawa gas pumps would be a few hundred feet away from that gas station. Plus, there are three other gas stations within a few miles on Route 79. It is quite easy to find affordable gas in and around town so there is not a need for eight more gas pumps.
4. Too much office space: Why do we need another medical building? There are already two medical buildings less than a quarter-mile from this proposed site and a third under construction. There is also an empty office building on Route 79 across from the Marlboro Camelot townhomes. And there is a newly constructed medical building on Route 520 just before the entrance to Route 18.
So once again, how does this proposed additional retail space help our community? The mayor and the zoning board would be doing our town a terrible disservice by approving this plan.
Trying to maintain a good traffic flow on Route 520 and Route 79 is a main goal. Keeping our citizens safe is also a top priority. I am sure that most Marlboro and Morganville residents stand with me on this issue.
Ron Murray is a resident of Marlboro.