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Woodward Road driveway a key point in Manalapan retail center plan

MANALAPAN – Access to a proposed retail center at the corner of Route 33 west and Woodward Road continues to be a focus of attention for the members of the Manalapan Planning Board.

Testimony on an application that has been filed by the Stavola Asphalt Company continued at the Aug. 11 meeting of the board. The company was represented by attorney Peter Wolfson.

Board members Kathryn Kwaak, Daria D’Agostino, Todd Brown, John Castronovo, Barry Fisher, Township Committeeman Jack McNaboe, Township Committeeman Barry Jacobson and Rick Hogan heard the testimony from professionals who represent the applicant.

The Stavola Asphalt Company has proposed developing retail and restaurant space at the intersection of Route 33 west and Woodward Road.

Information previously provided by the applicant states that the Stavola Asphalt Company is proposing to construct three buildings at the intersection. According to the application:

• 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;

• The building at the westernmost portion of the lot will be a 3,000-square-foot fast-food restaurant with a drive-up window. The applicant’s representatives have said a Burger King restaurant will occupy this building;

• In the applicant’s initial proposal, the center building was approximately 8,000 square feet and consisted of two interior retail spaces and two restaurants in the end spaces.

On Aug. 11, engineer Christopher Szalay said the center building has been increased to 11,200 square feet and would now include four interior retail spaces.

Szalay said municipal guidelines require 158 parking spaces at the site and he said 169 parking spaces will be provided.

Utilities, landscaping, lighting and storm water management facilities will all be provided in accordance with municipal regulations, including Manalapan’s Route 33 greenbelt requirements, according to Szalay.

The application proposes a total of three driveways to serve the development; two driveways on Route 33 and one driveway on Woodward Road.

Traffic engineer Justin Taylor provided the bulk of the testimony during the Aug. 11 meeting. The proposed driveway on Woodward Road was the subject of much discussion among the board members, the board’s professionals and the applicant’s representatives.

“The retail center is the real traffic generator of this project,” Taylor said, noting that related portions of the Stavola application included a residential development to be constructed behind the retail center and a medical office building to be constructed on Woodward Road, north of the retail center.

Both of those elements have been approved by the Planning Board.

“We understand there are issues generated from Sportika, from Wawa, from CVS” and from other Route 33 traffic, Taylor said.

Sportika, an indoor sports facility, and a Wawa convenience store are on the same side of Woodward Road as the proposed Stavola retail center. A CVS pharmacy is on Woodward Road on the opposite side of Route 33.

Taylor described the road improvements that are being proposed in the vicinity of the project. He said two left turn lanes are being proposed from Route 33 east to Woodward Road north.

Two northbound lanes are provided on Woodward Road to handle vehicles turning left from Route 33. Those two lanes would eventually merge to one lane of travel on Woodward Road, he said.

A U-turn would be permitted for vehicles traveling east on Route 33 for drivers who want to access the Stavola retail center via one of the two driveways on Route 33 west.

A dedicated left turn lane would be added on Woodward Road for vehicles heading north that want to turn into the Springpoint assisted living facility and for vehicles heading south that want to turn into Sportika and Wawa, according to Taylor.

“All of that coupled together essentially meets the criteria for the proposed development. We have submitted this plan to the New Jersey Department of Transportation and conceptually they have said yes,” he said.

Regarding the retail center’s proposed access point on Woodward Road, Taylor said, “We heard the concerns of the board” as he described a revised plan for that driveway.

Initially, left turns would have been permitted from Woodward Road into the Stavola retail center.

In Taylor’s revised plan, the construction of two small islands on Woodward Road will prevent left turns into the retail center. The placement of those islands will also prevent left turns from being made out of a Wawa driveway where drivers are currently making what is a prohibited left turn, he said.

In the revised plan, left turns from the Stavola retail center to Woodward Road would be permitted. A space that Taylor called a “refuge lane” would receive vehicles that make the left turn before those drivers eventually merge into the main lane of travel on the road.

The Planning Board’s engineer, Brian Boccanfuso, said, “This (revised) plan is far better than what was originally proposed. I appreciate the applicant’s efforts. Is it perfect? No, but it is the least we can accept. That will be up to the board.”

Several board members asked questions about and commented on the proposed road improvements. The movement that prompted the most attention from board members was the left turn out of the retail center onto Woodward Road.

During his remarks about the road improvements, and specifically that left turn, McNaboe said, “I want to make sure this is right. I am here to do what is best for Manalapan.”

“I believe we have met that burden of safety,” Taylor said regarding the applicant’s proposed road improvements.

Castronovo asked Taylor to provide him with other locations where the “refuge lane” is in use. Taylor said he would provide those locations to Castronovo.

No decision regarding the Stavola retail center was reached by the board members on Aug. 11 and the application was carried to the board’s Oct. 13 meeting. Videos of Planning Board meetings may be viewed on Manalapan’s website at mtnj.org

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