Manalapan planners approve retail center at Route 33 and Woodward Road

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MANALAPAN — The members of the Manalapan Planning Board have granted preliminary and final site plan approval to an applicant that proposed the construction of a retail center at the corner of Route 33 west and Woodward Road.

However, when board members voted unanimously to approve the application during a meeting on Oct. 13, they did not grant the complete access to the project that was sought by the Stavola Asphalt Company.

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Testimony on the project concluded that evening and was followed by a discussion between board members and representatives of the applicant on two key issues: the number of signs that would be permitted at the site and access to and from the retail center via a driveway on Woodward Road.

Board members Kathryn Kwaak, Daria D’Agostino, Todd Brown, John Castronovo, Barry Fisher, Township Committeeman Jack McNaboe, Township Committeeman Barry Jacobson, Richard Hogan and Steven Kastell heard the application.

The Stavola Asphalt Company was represented by attorney Peter Wolfson, architect Charles Dietz and traffic engineer Justin Taylor.

The Oct. 13 meeting was the last in a series of public hearings regarding the company’s proposal to construct three buildings at Route 33 and Woodward Road.

The company’s representatives said the retail center needed the access driveway on Woodward Road to permit right turns in, right turns out and left turns out. Left turns from Woodward Road into the Stavola retail center would be prohibited.

However, several board members raised an issue, as they had done during previous meetings, with the left turn that would be made by drivers exiting the retail center to head north on Woodward Road.

In a plan described by Taylor, a space he called a “refuge lane” would receive vehicles that made the left turn before those drivers eventually merged into the main lane of travel on Woodward Road.

“This (refuge lane) is a traffic pattern that is not unfamiliar to New Jersey drivers,” Taylor said.

Castronovo responded, saying, “My concern is that we have people in town who can’t handle a four-way stop. Now (with this plan), we will have people going into an unfamiliar merge lane.”

Taylor said that at most times of the day, drivers would not need to stop in the refuge lane and would immediately be able to complete the left turn onto Woodward Road.

Kwaak said pavement markings and other means of delineating the refuge lane might cause some drivers to become confused and inadvertently make the left turn out of the retail center and into the oncoming southbound lane of travel on Woodward Road.

The Stavola retail center will consist of three 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 (four tenants);

• The center building will be 11,200 square feet in size with four interior retail spaces and a restaurant in each end space (six tenants);

• 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 said a Burger King restaurant will occupy this building.

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 the applicant’s representatives.

There will be two driveways on Route 33 to provide right in, right out access to and from the retail center.

During his testimony on Oct. 13, Dietz described the four pylon-style signs the applicant wanted to construct at the site.

The proposal called for a sign at the driveway on Woodward Road; a sign at the corner of Route 33 and Woodward Road; a sign at the Route 33 driveway serving the Burger King; and a sign at the second Route 33 driveway.

During a discussion of the signs, some board members said they did not want a sign at the corner of Route 33 and Woodward Road; some took issue with a sign at each of the two driveways on Route 33; and some said the combination of pylon signs and facade signs was too much for the site.

None of the board members took issue with the pylon sign at the Woodward Road driveway.

Each tenant of the retail center will be identified by a sign on the facade of the building it occupies. There is space for 10 tenants, plus the Burger King.

As the sign issue was being discussed, Wolfson conferred with his client and said, “The applicant has listened to the comments of the board. We would propose to eliminate the sign at the corner of Route 33 and Woodward Road.”

The board members were amenable to the concession from the applicant which reduced the number of pylon signs from four to three.

During public comment, resident Debbie Sheir said, “It’s crazy driving there. It’s going to get very congested. You (board members) have to look out for the safety of school buses and trucks. I think you have to take safety issues into concern. I know you want to build up the area, but please take into account who lives here now.”

Wolfson summed up the application and said the applicant believed the refuge lane design would address the board’s concerns about the left turn out of the retail center onto Woodward Road.

Following the attorney’s summation, a motion was made to approve the Stavola Asphalt Company retail center application, but to only permit right turns in and right turns out of the Woodward Road driveway.

Kwaak, D’Agostino, Brown, Castronovo, Fisher, McNaboe, Jacobson, Hogan and Kastell voted “yes” on the motion as offered. Left turns will be prohibited into and out of the Stavola retail center driveway on Woodward Road.

The Stavola retail center will be in the vicinity of a Wawa convenience store, the Sportika indoor sports facility, the Springpoint assisted living facility and a medical office building that has been approved on Woodward Road, but not yet constructed.

Videos of Planning Board meetings may be viewed on Manalapan’s website at mtnj.org.

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