By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL — The Planning Board has approved an application that proposed modifications to the Grebow shopping center at Route 9 south and Ford Road.
On Dec. 3, the applicant and owner of the shopping center, 3G Corporation, received approval to add 25,845 square feet of retail and office space to the existing 58,000-square-foot retail center and to add a freestanding 10,200-square-foot office building at that location.
Professionals representing the applicant addressed concerns that had been expressed by board members during a previous meeting.
Engineer Peter Strong, representing the applicant, said modifications from a previous plan included the removal of a proposed daycare center and a two-story office addition from the site. New storage areas are within a truck loading and unloading zone behind the existing stores, removing the need for storage trailers.
A post and rail fence with wired mesh was added around a storm water basin, as well as a barberry landscape perimeter to keep people from accidentally falling into the basin. Other safety features have been incorporated into the basin, which will always contain water that is 6 feet deep, according to Strong.
The applicant also proposed a sidewalk, 15 parking spaces to accommodate the vehicles of individuals who have a disability and five trash/recycling enclosures spread throughout the site.
Traffic engineer Scott Kennel, representing the applicant, said a traffic and parking study was submitted in May. He said the critical time of the day at the site is from 4-7 p.m. and more specifically from 4-5 p.m.
Kennel said data from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) indicated the site should generate 400 trips during the peak hour.
“Based on our observations, the site actually generated less traffic than what was suggested by ITE. During the (afternoon) peak hour we recorded approximately 300 trips,” Kennel said.
“The proposed plan will consider 372 parking spaces for the retail part of the site and 44 spaces for the office use. The retail component will yield a parking supply of 4.4 spaces per 1,000 square feet. That is consistent with peak parking demand and it is consistent with nationally recommended standards and more than adequate,” he testified.
All of the tenants will have traditional retail hours, Kennel said.
“The latest any tenant is scheduled to close is 10 p.m. for a restaurant … There is a fish store that sometimes opens as early as 7 a.m. Most (tenants) open between 8-10 a.m., with the latest (closing at) 10 p.m.,” he said.
During public comment, resident Bill Hitzel expressed concern about the possibility of medical offices occupying the building.
“Will there be anything preventing doctors from renting these offices?” Hitzel asked.
Attorney Kenneth Pape, representing the applicant, said the proposal is for a general office building. He said the applicant would have to return to the board to seek relief if other uses are proposed.
The board’s planner, Jennifer Beahm, said the application does not propose any medical offices.
“If Mr. Pape’s client proposed a medical tenant, they would have to come back to the board,” Beahm said.
Resident Andrei Jackamets expressed concern about a possible increase in traffic at the site.
“I feel there is a traffic issue that is really a tsunami coming. I heard people are on the shoulder making right turns. It is a legal issue with police enforcement. Many people use Ford Road as a shortcut to get to Lakewood,” Jackamets said.
While the board’s chairman, Stephen Johnson, said those observations did not affect the application before the panel, he did say he has asked the Howell Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit to observe the situation and to enforce all relevant motor vehicle laws, as has been done in other areas of Howell.
“We will make the request again (to the Traffic Safety Unit) to make sure that is taken care of,” Johnson said.
A motion was made to approve the application from the 3G Corporation for new construction at the Grebow shopping center. Board members Thomas O’Donnell, Paul Schneider, Kenneth French, Thomas Boyle and Johnson voted yes on the motion.