MANALAPAN – Testimony is expected to resume on Nov. 11 in front of the Planning Board on the Stavola Asphalt Company’s proposal to construct retail and restaurant space at the intersection of Route 33 west and Woodward Road in Manalapan.
Testimony regarding the proposal was initially heard on Oct. 14, but no decision was reached and the application was carried to the board’s Nov. 11 meeting, which will be conducted in a virtual manner. Information on how to access the meeting is posted on Manalapan’s website.
The Stavola Asphalt Company is proposing to construct three buildings on a 6-2-acre lot at the corner of Route 33 west and Woodward Road. Attorney Peter Wolfson and engineer Bill Lane represented the applicant on Oct. 14 and described the proposed buildings:
• The easternmost building will be approximately 7,260 square feet and will consist of two interior retail spaces, a fast-food restaurant on the eastern end and a fast-food restaurant with a drive-up window on the western end, and 62 parking spaces. The two restaurants will offer indoor and outdoor seating;
• The center building will be approximately 8,000 square feet and will consist of two interior retail spaces and two restaurants in the end spaces. The retail spaces may also be tenanted by medical/professional office uses. Each restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor seating. There will be 64 parking spaces allocated to the center building and its users;
• The building at the westernmost portion of the lot will be a 3,000-square-foot fast-food restaurant with a drive-up window, and 57 parking spaces. During the Oct. 14 meeting, Wolfson and Lane said a Burger King restaurant would occupy this building.
Each building on the lot will have one devoted loading space, a devoted trash enclosure, parking and signs. Two access drives are proposed on Route 33 and one access drive is proposed on Woodward Road, for a total of three access points serving this lot.
Wolfson said all of the uses the applicant is proposing on the 6.2-acre lot are permitted under Manalapan’s ordinances.
Justin Taylor, a principal at Dynamic Traffic, discussed proposed road improvements at the intersection and the movement of vehicles at and near the site.
He said representatives of the state Department of Transportation (DOT) have found the proposed improvements to be “conceptually acceptable” and said final design work on the improvements is underway.
Taylor said the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road as it exists now is operating over-capacity.
Among the proposed improvements is the addition of a second left turn lane from Route 33 eastbound to Woodward Road; there will be two receiving lanes on Woodward Road to accommodate vehicles turning left from the highway. The two receiving lanes will merge into one lane farther down Woodward Road.
Taylor described the planned improvements to the intersection as “very substantial.”
Brian Boccanfuso, the board’s engineer, said he had to address “the elephant in the room,” which he indicated is the proposed driveway on Woodward Road.
“I am concerned with drivers (exiting the retail center) and using that driveway to make a left turn onto Woodward Road while traffic backs up from the light at Route 33 which could block that driveway” and cause a conflict, Boccanfuso said.
In response, Taylor suggested that at most times of the day vehicles would not be backed up far enough to block the Woodward Road driveway, but he acknowledged there are peak times in the morning and on weekends when the situation Boccanfuso described could occur.
An assisted living facility is being built next to the proposed retail center and a suggestion was made to route vehicles from the retail center through the assisted living facility site to a driveway that exits from that property to Woodward Road at a point where vehicles on Woodward Road would not block the driveway, thereby allowing unimpeded left turns onto Woodward Road.
Taylor said he does not believe sending vehicles from the retail center through the assisted living facility property is a workable solution.
He said if the proposed driveway from Woodward Road to the retail center is eliminated, all vehicles at the retail center will have to exit onto Route 33 west and use intersections farther down the highway to make a U-turn to come back in the direction they initially wanted to travel by turning left out of the retail center onto Woodward Road.
The matter of the Woodward Road driveway was not resolved on Oct. 14 and Wolfson said, “We respect the concerns that have been expressed” and will investigate other options.
In addition to the proposed retail center at the corner of Route 33 and Woodward Road, the Stavola Asphalt Company is also proposing to construct a 20,250-square-foot medical office building on Woodward Road, farther north of the road’s intersection with Route 33. No testimony regarding the medical building has been presented at this time.