Hearing on plan for warehouses in Howell scheduled to resume on Nov. 7

HOWELL – A principal in a business that is seeking approval to construct warehouses in Howell offered details of the operation during a recent meeting of the Howell Planning Board.

The board has been hearing testimony on an application that proposes the construction of the Monmouth Commerce Center at Randolph and Oak Glen roads in Howell. A special meeting was devoted to the application on Oct. 10. The hearing is expected to resume on Nov. 7.

Owners Lawrence Katz and Felix Pflaster are proposing to construct nine warehouses totaling 1.2 million square feet on a 99-acre parcel.

During testimony on Oct. 10, Henry Guindi, one of the principals of the Monmouth Commerce Center, said he has 27 years of experience in warehousing, specifically importing. He addressed several operational issues related to the application.

Guindi said a project of this type typically has designated parking spaces for the trailers.

“The spaces will be used as trailers come and if there are no (warehouse) doors available to unload the trailers, they will wait in the parking spots. It can be a day or two and once a door becomes available the trailer will back in and be unloaded,” he said.

Guindi said there will not be long-term parking of trailers at the location because the trailers would have to be returned to a port.

The board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro, asked if there would be a scenario in which a truck driver would sleep in a trailer overnight.

Guindi said a driver would not sleep in a trailer.

The board’s chairman, Robert Nash, asked where the driver would go.

“The driver unhooks the tractor and the trailer. He will drop the container, he will unhook the trailer and leave,” Guindi said. “(Trailers) can be full or empty, but they will not be there for longer than 24 to 48 hours.”

He said some companies pick up empty trailers and called that a simple procedure.

Howell Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell, who sits on the board, asked how the applicant’s representatives can know about the operation of the warehouses if they do not know who the tenants of the warehouses will be.

“I am one of the users anticipated being in there,” Guindi said.

Cucchiaro said “whoa, whoa, whoa” to that revelation.

“You are a principal of the applicant and you intend on being one of the users? I thought the testimony was that you did not know who the users were going to be?” Cucchiaro said.

Attorney Adam Faiella, who represents the applicant, said the applicant’s representatives had indicated that an entity related to the applicant plans “to potentially take space in one or two buildings. We have said the (warehouses) are being built (on speculation), we do not know the tenants, but one potential tenant is the parent company of the applicant.”

The applicant’s representatives said they would agree to a 96-hour limit based on Howell’s land use ordinance regarding outdoor storage.

Guindi said it would cost money for trailers to remain at the site.

Nash said, “forget about the trailer” and asked a where a driver would go to rest.

“The (driver) who is coming to pick up would not come (to Howell) unless he is ready to pick up. Pick-ups will get done on the spot, immediately. It is only when you are holding full containers” that a driver could be waiting, Guindi said.

Nash asked if there would be overnight parking where a driver could sleep.

“It is not common for truckers to sleep at somebody’s place,” Guindi said.

Board member Paul Dorato asked Guindi, “What type of square footage would you be leasing for your products?”

Guindi said he would lease 300,000 square feet of space.

Dorato asked if Guindi’s products would get imported into Newark, then trucks would use Interstate 95 (New Jersey Turnpike) to Interstate 195 into Howell.

Guindi said he did not know the routes, but he said for now the products go from Port Elizabeth to Old Bridge.

Attorney Craig Bossong represents residents who are objecting to the Monmouth Commerce Center application. He asked Guindi about the necessity for 234 loading docks to have 142 trailer parking spaces.

“Why can’t those spaces be eliminated and more green space put on the site? And better (vehicle) circulation,” Bossong said.

Guindi said it was an industry standard.

“Not all of the loading docks are for inbound (shipments). Most of the loading docks I use are for outbound (shipments). You can’t let a trucker wait to come pick up goods. He has to get in and get out as quickly as possible. So only 20% to 30% of what is there is for inbound. You have to calculate the ratio that way,” Guindi said.

The Oct. 10 meeting also included testimony by and questioning of Justin Taylor of Dynamic Traffic, who is the applicant’s traffic engineer.

Board members, residents and Bossong, on behalf of his clients, have focused significant attention on the impact the construction of the warehouses could have on this area of Howell.

The property at which the warehouses are proposed is near the intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547, which is not controlled by a traffic signal.

Concerns have focused on the number of trucks and other vehicles that would enter and leave the Monmouth Commerce Center each day, and how the vehicles associated with the warehouse site would impact residents who use the roads in the area on a daily basis.

Previous testimony has indicated it is not certain that Monmouth County officials will authorized the construction of a traffic signal at Randolph Road and Route 547.

The applicant has made modifications to its proposed driveways on Randolph Road to address some of the concerns that have been expressed by board members and the public.

Planning Board members have also mentioned a plan that has been put forth by Resource Engineering to establish a solid waste transfer station at 34 Randolph Road near Route 547, which is a county road. The solid waste transfer station has not received approval at this time.

Taylor said the applicant’s analysis of the area includes the proposed transfer station.

Nash said, “My concern is that realistically what we are talking about here is that there will be a diversion of traffic when the (traffic) gets excessive. (Drivers) will seek the easiest path to go (and) we do not know what the impact is on Oak Glen Road and the intersection of Route 547 because there has not been a study done,” Nash said. “You (Taylor) can’t represent with any certainty that the diversion of vehicles will not have an adverse impact on Oak Glen Road.”

Taylor said he could represent that the diversion of traffic will not have an adverse impact on the operation and safety on the driveways of the proposed warehouse site.

Taylor said some of the other permitted uses in the zone – such as manufacturing, general offices and medical offices – could generate more traffic than the proposed warehouses.

Board member Robert Nicastro asked Taylor if he meant vehicles, trucks, or both, and Taylor said he was referring to vehicles.

During public comment, resident Kathi Novak asked about the proposed transfer station being taken into consideration by the individuals who are proposing to build the Monmouth Commerce Center.

Novak asked how many trucks would go in and out of the solid waste transfer station.

Taylor said he did not have that information in front of him.

“Are you aware that traffic study was done for one day? Their counts were for one day,” Novak said.

Taylor said he used the data that was in the transfer station’s traffic study. He said he was not aware of the number of days the study was conducted.

“I really feel your statement that the transfer station has been taken into consideration is totally flawed,” Novak said.

The Monmouth Commerce Center application was carried to the Nov. 7 meeting of the Howell Planning Board.