Manalapan warehouse project granted extension of time

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MANALAPAN – A developer’s plan to construct two warehouses at the intersection of Route 33 east and Smithburg Road (Route 527) in Manalapan is taking longer to get underway than initially planned.

The two buildings that are planned for the site will total almost 1 million square feet of space, according to plans for the project that were approved by the Planning Board in March 2019.

During the Feb. 10 meeting of the Planning Board, attorney Peter Klouser, of the firm Heilbrunn Pape, Millstone Township, appeared before the board to bring its members up to date on the project. The meeting was conducted via Zoom during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In comments to the board, Klouser noted that in March 2019, the application filed by Joseph Skeba received preliminary major site plan approval from the board.

He said the preliminary approval was good for three years (until March 2022) and prevented Skeba’s plan from being affected by any zoning change the Township Committee might make on the property.

At the time preliminary approval was granted, the applicant was still seeking permits from other agencies so the project would be able to advance. The applicant’s initial plan was to return in about March 2020 to seek final approval from the board, according to an article that was published at the time preliminary approval was granted.

However, as Klouser explained to the board members and members of the public on Feb. 10, after preliminary approval was granted, it was determined a portion of the property was encumbered by New Jersey Green Acres regulations.

Klouser said it has taken two years for the applicant’s representatives and several outside agencies to resolve the Green Acres issues, but he said the issues have finally been resolved.

“We are now working with Monmouth County to complete certain approvals. Our sewer and water approvals remain in place. We need a little more time to finish up,” Klouser said.

The attorney said the applicant has the right to ask the Planning Board for two one-year extensions on the preliminary approval and protection from zoning changes. Klouser said the request on Feb. 10 was for one one-year extension.

The board’s professionals did not take exception to Klouser’s request for a one-year extension of time. A motion was made to grant the extension and approved in a 9-0 vote by the board members.

According to information that was made public when the Skeba application was initially before the board, Skeba proposed to construct two warehouses at the intersection of Route 33 east and Smithburg Road (Route 527): Building A would total 300,220 square feet and Building B would total 652,000 square feet. The 97-acre parcel has 1,500 feet of frontage on Route 33 eastbound and 1,500 feet of frontage on Smithburg Road.

Testimony indicated warehouses are a permitted use in Manalapan’s SED-20/W zone (Special Economic Development/Warehouse).

The SED-20/W zone in Manalapan borders a residential zone in Millstone Township and residential uses on Smithburg Road in Manalapan. Smithburg Road is the border of the two municipalities.

During the application process three years ago, the applicant made several revisions to the plan based on comments residents made during a series of public hearings.

Engineer Mark Lescavage, representing the applicant, described three revisions in the application:

• Building A, the building that was closest to Smithburg Road and to residences in Millstone Township and Manalapan, was moved closer to Route 33. Instead of being 194 feet off Smithburg Road, Building A will be 235 feet off the road.

• A second driveway on Smithburg Road was added on the Skeba property, closer to Route 33. That driveway is an exit only. Vehicles exiting the warehouse site can turn right into a new lane on Smithburg Road.

• On Route 33, beginning at the state highway’s intersection with Smithburg Road and heading east, a third lane will be striped to permit vehicles that are heading to the warehouse property to exit an existing lane of travel on Route 33 and have a designated lane to reach the warehouse property entrance driveway.

Attorney Kenneth Pape, of Heilbrunn Pape, Millstone Township, represented Skeba during the public hearings. Pape said signs would be placed on Route 33 and Smithburg Road to direct trucks to the property’s main entrance on Route 33.

The driveway on Smithburg Road that is the farthest driveway from Route 33 (about 1,500 feet from the highway) will permit left turns and right turns in and left turns and right turns out. The two driveways proposed on Smithburg Road are about 1,000 feet apart, according to the testimony.

A traffic engineer who testified on behalf of the applicant said it is anticipated that most of the vehicles heading to the warehouses would come from Route 33.

Brian Boccanfuso, the board’s engineer, said the applicant worked with his office to address the road issues and called the proposed second driveway on Smithburg Road “a significant improvement.”

Pape said the end users of the warehouses would be identified when final approval for the application is sought. He said the Skeba project would comply with all applicable environmental standards and regulations.