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Parking, traffic at mall property at issue in latest Eatontown Planning Board hearing

Residents of Eatontown have taken issue with the proposed parking plan and the anticipated increase in area traffic that would follow the redevelopment of the Monmouth Mall.

The third hearing regarding the redevelopment plan took place on May 7 before the Planning Board at the Eatontown municipal building.

A fourth hearing on the matter has been scheduled for June 4.

Eatontown Monmouth Mall LLC, a joint effort between Kushner Companies and Rouse Properties, is seeking municipal approval to remodel, renovate and repurpose the Monmouth Mall for commercial and retail use, according to the Planning Board.

The proposed residential apartments on the premises, to be called the Heights of Monmouth, are permitted by municipal zoning.

A majority of residents who have spoken during previous meetings have stated their opposition to a residential use at a location that has always been reserved for commercial uses.

On May 7, traffic engineer Gary Dean presented the proposed parking plan for the redevelopment of the Monmouth Mall. Dean said the parking lots on the property will be designed to provide 6,506 vehicle stalls for residents and shoppers, which he said is more than enough spaces.

Members of the public expressed apprehensiveness regarding the proposed parking arrangements for the apartments and an anticipated increase in the number of vehicles at the mall that is located at Route 35 and Route 36.

Dean said 932 parking spots are required for the proposed apartments under the municipal ordinance and said the applicant will meet the standard. 

Members of the public who spoke said they did not believe 932 parking spaces would be sufficient for the future residents of 340 one-bedroom, 340 two-bedroom and 18 three-bedroom apartments.

Dean said the mall currently has 6,023 parking spots. He said an aerial video taken on Nov. 24, 2017 (Black Friday) indicated there were 3,600 parking spaces were in use on what he said is the mall’s busiest day of the year. Dean reiterated his statement that with 6,500 parking spaces to be provided in the current plan, the property will always provide enough parking for the proposed residential and commercial uses.

Testimony indicated that as the project is currently planned, the residents of the 700 apartments will not have assigned parking spaces.

Residents who spoke took issue with the fact there will not be assigned parking for the apartments. Some people said they were concerned about how far a resident of an apartment might have to walk from a parking space to the building.

Regarding an increase in vehicles at the property, Dean acknowledged there will be more vehicles in the area at and around the mall. However, he said the increase will not debilitate local roads.

“This is not going to be a traffic disaster,” Dean said.

Aerial footage taken by a drone showed the mall property and surrounding roads. Members of the public pointed to traffic on Wyckoff Road, which also borders the mall.

Dean said he would reach out to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to request an adjustment in the timing of traffic lights near the mall. He said it is hoped a change in the timing of the lights would accommodate a 40 percent increase in vehicles in the vicinity of the mall.

“If this (project) is the home run we think it is, we will get back to 2004 levels. The mall was certainly more robust,” Dean said.

Suzanne Piazza of Eatontown said she intends to express her disapproval of the project to Mayor Dennis Connolly.

She said the future inundation of people visiting the mall and living in the apartments is not suitable for the size of the area.

“Frankly, you are adding enough square footage to equal that of the Freehold Raceway Mall,” Piazza said.

On another aspect of the application, Eric Dinenberg, the executive vice president of Rouse Properties, was questioned by the board’s chairman, Mark Woloshin, about the nature of the multi-use apartment building.

Dinenberg said the applicant has yet to make a decision on whether pets will be allowed in the apartments. He said the firm is also exploring which building facilities will remain open 24 hours per day. He proposed “entertainment experience” options for the apartment building. 

“We’re trying to create some diversity,” Dinenberg said.

He said if the project is approved by the board, demolition and construction of the redevelopment project would take between three and four years to complete.

Board members said the issues raised by residents will be addressed as the hearing on the application proceeds.

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