Manalapan warehouse plan now defined as ‘distribution center’

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MANALAPAN – An applicant seeking to develop property on Route 33 in Manalapan has redefined the proposed Manalapan Logistics Center as a “distribution center.”

Countryside Developers Inc. is proposing to construct two buildings on an 86-acre property on Route 33 just east of Pegasus Boulevard. The buildings would be 294,560 square feet and 302,250 square feet in size.

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The application is before the Manalapan Planning Board and discussion is expected to resume at the board’s Nov. 12 meeting, which will be conducted virtually during the ongoing 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Instructions that describe how to attend the virtual meeting are posted on Manalapan’s municipal website.

The Countryside Developers application was the subject of an Oct. 15 hearing before the Manalapan Zoning Board of Adjustment, which was asked to interpret the municipal ordinance that applies to the property in the Special Economic Development zone.

The zoning board determined the Route 33 location can be a 100% warehouse use or a 100% distribution center use, but that it cannot have both uses at the same time.

The zoning board members defined a distribution center as a location where goods and materials may be stored and then distributed to retailers and wholesalers, but not to the end users of the products being distributed (i.e., not a parcel distribution location).

When the matter returned to the Planning Board on Oct. 22, attorney Salvatore Alfieri, who represents the applicant, said his client is proposing a 100% distribution center use in accordance with the zoning board’s determination.

After Alfieri clarified what developer Terry Sherman is proposing, testimony resumed on behalf of objectors to the application.

Attorney Michael Lipari, who represents one group of objectors, called Bahman Izadmehr to discuss aspects of the application relating to the number of vehicles that would be entering and exiting the site, and other points relating to vehicle movement.

Izadmehr said he believes, but is not certain, that New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) staff would consider approving the construction of a new traffic signal on Route 33 at the driveway of the proposed distribution center.

He said the installation of a traffic light at that location would allow trucks exiting the distribution center to turn left onto Route 33 west and head toward the New Jersey Turnpike in Hightstown.

The movement of trucks at the proposed development location has been a significant point of discussion during the board’s consideration of the application.

At present, the applicant’s plan for trucks exiting the distribution center that want to head west on Route 33 is to travel east on the highway for about 1.5 miles and use an overpass to access Route 33 west.

That plan would require the trucks to travel a short distance on Business Route 33, an undivided two-lane road that leads back to Route 33 west heading toward the New Jersey Turnpike.

The trucks would pass the Village Grande residential community on Business Route 33 and residents of the Village Grande are objecting to that aspect of the application.

Izadmehr identified several concerns with the Route 33 overpass: could the overpass handle the volume of trucks coming from the distribution center; the overpass is one lane and if a disabled truck blocks the lane of travel, how would emergency vehicles pass the disabled vehicle; the noise level where the overpass intersects Business Route 33, which is near homes; and the motor vehicle accident history at the intersection of the overpass and Business Route 33.

Izadmehr said he “would not rely on that (Route 33) overpass to have trucks get back to the New Jersey Turnpike. My major concern with this (distribution center) project is access to and from the site.”

Alfieri called traffic engineer John Rea to discuss aspects related to trip generation (vehicles entering and exiting the project location).

Rea said what is now proposed as a distribution center would produce fewer trips in and out than what had previously been discussed for a “warehouse” project.

In response to Izadmehr’s comments about a new traffic signal on the highway, Rea said that based on several technical points, he does not believe the DOT would approve a new traffic signal on Route 33 at the driveway of the distribution center.

During the discussion about vehicles entering and exiting the site and how those vehicles would travel in the vicinity of the distribution center, Mayor Jack McNaboe, who sits on the board, said, “We need to make sure this (project) fits in with the character of Manalapan. This is a big project and we are going to get it right.”

Several residents of the Village Grande offered comments about the proposed Manalapan Logistics Center when they were given the opportunity to address the board.

Jim Chirdo said his primary objection to the application is the proposed use of the Route 33 overpass and the impact on safety that will result from directing hundreds of trucks past the Village Grande, which is on Business Route 33.

Chirdo said he does not believe the validity of the trip generation numbers that have been presented by the applicant.

Angela Grandi said she was involved in a motor vehicle accident at the location where trucks would make a left turn onto Business Route 33 after coming across the highway overpass.

“I just wish there could be other alternatives to using that turn,” she said.

Eileen Volpe said, “The reason we moved here was for safety, peace and quiet. People are entitled to have safety in their lives, healthy air, and not to have trucks in their backyard.”

Marie Campbell said, “I’m terrified every time I leave my house (in the Village Grande) and get onto (Business) Route 33. We don’t need the monster trucks and emergencies happening” where the highway overpass meets Business Route 33.

Countryside Developers is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval for the Manalapan Logistics Center from the Planning Board. The developer’s representatives have said there are no tenants lined up for the distribution center at this time.

The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12.

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