NORTH BRUNSWICK – Although the applicant proposing a new QuickChek gas station and convenience store has provided analysis that the property’s development will not impact traffic and safety on Route 130, residents claim otherwise.
Gary Dean, professional traffic engineer, Dolan & Dean Consulting Engineers, testified about the impacts of a 5,670-square-foot convenience store with 11 indoor seats and eight outdoor seats, plus 16 fueling pumps along Route 130 north between Nimitz Place on the north and Washington Place on the south in North Brunswick.
Residences off McKinley Avenue lie to the west in the R-2 residential zone.
During the original meeting of the North Brunswick Zoning Board of Adjustment in December, Henry L. Kent-Smith of East Ridge Development acknowledged that board members denied prior applications for a self-storage facility and a Walgreens pharmacy at the site, but he said the bifurcated application being considered in conjunction with a concept plan would complement QuickChek sites on How Lane and Route 1 south in North Brunswick.
During the Feb. 2 meeting, Dean said that according to a traffic study completed in November 2019, the morning peak hour from 7-8 a.m. has 1,500 vehicles traveling south along the frontage of the property. Nimitz Place is “very lightly traveled” with 23 cars approaching the site and only two cars continuing west into the neighborhood, he said.
In the evening peak hour, 1,900 vehicles traveled along Route 130 south, while between 1,600 and 1,700 vehicles traveled northbound.
He also said the peak traffic times coincide with the busiest times for QuickChek inside the store. He said 236 customers visit per hour in the morning, and about 197 per evening peak hour.
Dean said the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the traffic landscape, especially as people are working and schooling from home. He said 2019 represents “typical conditions,” but said it is “difficult to predict” traffic flow over the next two to three years due to the current shift to telecommuting and e-commerce.
“COVID has changed traffic growth. It hasn’t grown in 2020 and for the foreseeable future, 2021 probably wouldn’t either,” Dean said.
As of November 2019, Dean said the typical wait time at the traffic signal at Washington Place is 35 to 55 seconds, and “those delays for a state highway are pretty good.”
He said that during rush hours, few people go out of their way to patronize a gas station or a convenience store. He said they are already passing the site, decide to stop in and continue on their way.
On the contrary. most visits that are off peak or on the weekends are by people who specifically visit the store as their primary trip for milk or a newspaper, for example.
He said according to polls conducted by the company, 85% to 90% of people stopping during the peak times do so because the location is conveniently on the highway.
Dean did note that Saturday conditions were not studied in the analysis because Route 130 itself is not as busy on weekends. Also, QuickChek is not as busy on the weekends compared to the commuter workweek.
He said the projected trips on the weekend would be 380.
He also mentioned that at night, truck traffic is less than 5%.
According to the study, Dean said 40% of trips will come from the north side on Route 130, 40% will come from the southbound side, 18% will come from Washington Place and 2% will originate from the neighborhood off Nimitz Place.
“I am pleased to say it will have no impact on Nimitz Place. … Those residents leaving in the morning and going out on Route 130 wont be affected by this application,” Dean said.
Dean also detailed the three driveways proposed for the site. There will be a right-turn ingress only from Nimitz Place to the site exclusively for residents of the neighborhood; 78.8 feet along Route 130 with a right in, right out; and a 15-foot wide ingress at Washington Place and Route 130 with two 12-foot wide lanes to exit, and allowing for right turn on red or a cross-over to Washington Place to turn north.
The next expert to testify, Oliver Young, professional architect, gk+a Architects, said the 5,760-square-foot convenience store will be 77 feet wide and 68 feet deep. The bump out in the front, where the sales area is located, would be 53.5 feet wide and 8.3 feet deep, plus two entrance vestibules.
The primary colors will be gray, white and green, with brown brick.
The green tower with the “Q” of the QuickChek logo will be 9.4 feet wide and 9.2 feet deep. The tower is only 6% where it exceeds the maximum height allowed in this zone, Young said.
“We have created this tower to identify the QuickChek because we see everything this day and age as hashtags and abbreviations, and we see the ‘Q’ as being the identifier for the QuickChek,” Young said. “We see the ‘Q’ on the sign as an integral part of the sign” though it typically creates variance issues, he said.
The roof is 19 feet from the front elevation, but it pitches back to the rear, he said, so any equipment on the roof is hidden, such as heating and cooling systems, condensers, exhaust fans and a flue for the hot water heater.
Professional planner Christine Cofone then testified about the inherent positive and negative criteria for the project, but her audio was unclear during the virtual meeting.
“The underlying context of the entire application is that this orphan lot is a left-over from the developed R-2 district that fronts on a major state highway at a signalized intersection,” Kent-Smith said.
However, resident Maynor Mendizabal asked, “Why do we need three gas stations in one location?” referring to two stations on the corners of Route 130 north and Washington Place across the highway.
He asked for the rate of crime in residential areas that are near a QuickChek, and what effects there are on property values when a QuickChek is two blocks away.
“This is a quiet area and is now going to have a 24-hour QuickChek that is going to change the culture of the neighborhood,” he said.
Kent-Smith said he would answer those questions at a later meeting.
Resident George Labik asked the board to look for an application that is not as hazardous as a gas station, such as a food use. He said the intersection “is more dangerous than people appreciate.”
“The traffic backup from Washington Place, in either direction, is significant,” he said.
Mark Fosse, who was the real estate agent on the property and the agent who brought forth the storage facility that was opposed, said he does not believe residents will be happy with the alternatives if the QuickChek is voted down.
Yet resident Susan Levine said the surrounding area is not a stable community, and nine families reportedly have moved out already because of the potential development, she said.
Board members said this is the beginning of a series of meetings, since the applicant must finish all witnesses’ testimony, hear from an attorney hired by a group of residents, and then accept general public comment.
During the board’s Feb. 23 meeting, members will decide when the application will be heard next.
For more information about the meeting dates and application, visit http://northbrunswicknj.gov under the Department of Community Development/Zoning.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com