By KATHY CHANG
MILLTOWN — The Borough Council will decide next month whether or not to approve an easement allowing truck traffic to travel in and out of the Milltown Public Library’s driveway from a heating and air conditioning business that was approved by the Planning Board in June.
Attorney Mark Goldstein, of Goldstein Law Group in Old Bridge, representing Mike Hanna, owner of Hanna’s Mechanical Contractors Inc., appeared before the Borough Council on Sept. 12 to request the easement.
Goldstein said his client has made vast improvements to the interior and exterior of the former union hall property at 44 N. Main St.
“It’s our understanding my client came here about a year ago, sometime last summer, and took sort of a straw poll of the council to see if [Hanna’s proposed application] was something the borough would like to see or not,” said Goldstein, who noted the poll was favorable.
“The business currently derives its access from North Main Street, both ingress and egress,” he said. “The proposal is to cut off ingress and egress entirely [on North Main Street] and in its place would be a 5-foot-wide sidewalk which would provide pedestrian access from North Main Street through to the rear of the site.”
There would be a 4-foot-high chain-link fence to separate pedestrian traffic from the vehicular traffic in the rear of the site. The sidewalk would be well lit, he said.
“In exchange for cutting off the access to and from the North Main Street driveway, [there] would be a 20-foot-wide easement in the rear of the property, allowing for the ingress and egress through what is a municipal parking lot [for the Milltown Public Library] that immediately abuts it,” Goldstein said.
Two Planning Board meetings on Hanna’s application were held earlier this year. On June 6, the board approved the application. The Borough Council has final approval on the easement.
Hanna had previously told the Planning Board that he opened his business at 155 N. Main St. more than 10 years ago.
Due to the growth in business over the years, Hanna said he decided to purchase 44 N. Main St. in hopes of moving his office operations to the larger location.
Hanna said his business is a privately owned and locally operated company that provides a full range of plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling services, mostly for commercial businesses.
Goldstein said a traffic engineer determined that the magnitude of trip generation barely registers on their scale as a concern.
“It’s unremarkable, quite honestly,” he said, adding that the trip generation is less than the trips generated from the former union hall.
Goldstein said his client is aware of the public concerns with traffic from Joyce Kilmer School and the Milltown Public Library on West Church Avenue.
Specific times were studied for the traffic study: in the morning when children are dropped off and in the afternoon when they are picked up from school.
“The Planning Board asked the engineer to do specific counts of those specific periods and he did and again he found what I categorize as unremarkable basically,” Goldstein said.
The attorney said the worst-case scenario would be that if his client did not secure approval for an easement, he would be left with continuing to use the one access that goes out to the front of the building on North Main Street.
“There is a safety issue there of pedestrian traffic,” Goldstein said, noting adults and children traverse the property regardless, with or without lighting or a sidewalk, as a cut-through to the library and school. “There is a blind spot there as you pull out. If it is dusk or later and a child is running north to south with a car traveling three to five miles per hour, there is a danger.”
Goldstein said the Planning Board made a qualitative decision considering the entire application and found that it was beneficial to grant Hanna’s application for the site with a number of conditions that included limiting the size of vehicles on West Church Avenue to less than four tons; modifications to the library driveway to include striping; landscaping on site; vehicles parking rear in; and no trucks or vans parking in the municipal lot.
Hanna said on occasion he does receive deliveries and he has told drivers not to access the library driveway. He did note that recently a truck utilized the driveway, but he wasn’t sure where that truck was going and that some drivers use the driveway on their own fruition.
Councilwoman Doriann Kerber said she has received photos from the public concerned about tractor trailers using the library driveway. She said with experience working in freight deliveries, a business owner can specify to the driver/company to take a certain route. She said this could become a condition in the application.
The two-story building is approximately 2,700 square feet. The first floor is used for the warehouse of the business that will consist of shelving for the supplies, and the second floor is divided into four offices for Hanna, the engineer, a bookkeeper/accountant and a person to answer phones.
The application calls for 10 parking spaces, which Hanna has said would adequately accommodate his employees. The required amount of spaces is 14.
Hanna said his business uses seven trucks that include Ford trucks and spring trucks, all under four tons.
Goldstein said the site is not a retail facility with customers coming to the site, and he said deliveries from vendors are few and far between.
Bonnie Sterling, director of the Milltown Public Library, has shared her concerns with the council in letters, mentioning that many of the library patrons are either very young or very old. During the day, the library holds four “Story Times” that attract children who range in age from 6 months to 5 years old.
A petition for a public question to be placed on the November ballot to approve or not approve the easement for a curb cut for ingress and egress out of the rear parking lot of Hanna’s business garnered more than 200 signatures.
Resident Alan Godber said the main concern is about child safety, adding that he did not see the benefits of the proposed sidewalk, which he believed would bring a greater risk for pedestrians in the area since it could be used anytime, day or night.
The next council meeting will be held on Oct. 11.
Contact Kathy Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org.