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Improvements to local roads at issue in warehouse project in Howell

HOWELL – Planning Board members will continue to hear testimony about an application that proposes the construction of 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space on Randolph Road in Howell when they meet on Jan. 30.

Monmouth Commerce Center, the applicant, and Lawrence Katz and Felix Pflaster, as owners, are proposing to construct nine warehouses that range in size from 85,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet, totaling 1.2 million square feet, on a 99-acre parcel. The plan proposes parking for 706 vehicles, 142 trailer parking spaces and 234 loading spaces.

Warehouses are a permitted use at the location where they are being proposed.

Attorney Meryl Gonchar and traffic engineer Justin Taylor represented the applicant at the Jan. 16 meeting of the Planning Board when the Monmouth Commerce Center was once again the subject of discussion.

Howell residents who are objecting to the project were represented by attorney Mark Caliguire and traffic engineer Joseph Fishinger.

Gonchar cross-examined Fishinger regarding his testimony from a previous hearing before she called on Taylor to provide additional testimony on behalf of the applicant.

In his testimony, Fishinger said there were other options available to calculate peak hour trip generation that the applicant could have used to develop certain data associated with the application.

Fishinger said he believed it would have been more appropriate and conservative for the applicant to use average rate numbers, which he said were higher than what the applicant used in its traffic study.

In response, Taylor said the applicant used its data “the right way” when calculating projections for the land use.

Regarding the issue of trucks coming to the location, board member Paul Schneider said a truck turning into a driveway on Randolph Road to enter the warehouse property would have to cross into the oncoming lane of traffic.

Taylor responded to Schneider, saying, “We are currently working through conceptual designs .. .to more accurately develop a concept plan. So this one solution, there are probably multiple solutions. We are going to evaluate it from a property impact standpoint … once we collect all that data. I do not disagree in general with the turning lanes being imposed.”

The board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro, asked Taylor if his trip generation data was based on the possibility of a traffic light being constructed at the nearby intersection of Randolph Road and Monmouth County Route 547 (Lakewood-Farmingdale Road).

The intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547 is unsignalized and testimony presented to the board has indicated trucks heading to and from the Monmouth Commerce Center would pass through the intersection in greater volumes at certain times of the day.

“Our analysis at this point identifies a traffic signal will be (at Randolph Road and Route 547) and after meeting with the county, the county has made it very clear they are going to require a traffic signal (at that location) in order to do this (project). So the analysis does anticipate the construction of a traffic signal,” Taylor told Cucchiaro.

Residents were allowed to ask Taylor questions about his testimony.

John Gurzo asked if there has been any analysis regarding vehicles that would come to the warehouse property on Randolph Road from Oak Glen Road.

Taylor said the applicant’s traffic study included an analysis of the intersection of Oak Glen and Randolph roads and the intersection of Oak Glen and Lakewood-Allenwood roads.

“We are proposing improvements on Oak Glen Road (between Brook Road and Randolph Road). We are going to widen Oak Glen Road to provide left turn lanes onto Randolph Road and onto Lakewood-Allenwood Road to mitigate the impact of traffic,” Taylor said.

Kristen Burke asked what type of improvements the applicant is proposing.

“We are proposing improvements along our frontage on Randolph Road and our frontage on Oak Glen Road (there is no entry to the warehouse site from Oak Glen Road). We are also, based on the requirements of the county, going to be putting in a traffic light at the intersection of Randolph Road and Route 547,” Taylor said.

Burke said the roads around the site where the warehouses are proposed are too narrow for what the applicant is proposing. She said she does not believe the applicant is considering enough improvements.

“All those roads are so narrow and clearly not made to handle what you are talking about putting in and the traffic you are putting in. The roads are dangerous and narrow back there,” she said. “You do not think that eventually they are going to use the roads, like Lakewood-Allenwood Road, and other roads around there and put more traffic on the back roads?”

Taylor said the applicant identified the intersections necessary for the permitted use in the zone.

“I think we identified what we need to identify,” he said.

Burke said she was not certain the applicant has taken everything into consideration.

The Monmouth Commerce Center application was carried to the Howell Planning Board’s Jan. 30 meeting that will be held in the municipal building on Route 9.

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