August 20, 2014 at 11:36 PM
RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph Planning Board made a difficult decision on Monday Aug. 18, to allow the owners of the complex at 961 Rt. 10 to construct a back exit onto Morris Turnpike that could give employees and visitors to the site an easier way to exit and travel west from the property. The exit driveway seemed like it could be a routine construction approval, until approximately half a dozen citizens turned up to the meeting to support the denial of the application.
The proposed and now accepted exit would allow passenger vehicles leaving the complex to turn right onto Morris Turnpike to avoid having to travel east on Rt. 10, all the way down to the jug handle at Dover Chester Road in order to turn around. All in all the exit saves those traveling west about two miles of driving and a difficult rush hour jug handle at Dover Chester Road and Rt. 10.
The Randolph citizens who attended however, felt that the intersection of Morris Turnpike and Canfield Ave. would become too dangerous if the driveway exit was allowed. Most of the citizens that turned up live on Morris Turnpike and already dread some of the intersections on the road, and thus did not want additional traffic in the area. Also, the citizens were worried that cargo trucks would break the law and use the exit creating additional noise in the area. Some also expressed concern that drivers would try and turn left out of the exit illegally and create an even worse traffic problem than imagined.
The applicants however, had a traffic analysis prepared for the meeting and maintained that the new exit would only have a maximum effect during rush hour of about one car per minute, and would not create a significant traffic problem. The applicants also proposed that the driveway exit could take some, but not much, traffic out of the difficult to navigate jug handle on Dover Chester Road.
Despite the turnout of citizens, the board still voted in favor of the driveway exit in part due to some legal maneuvers used by the applicant. For instance, the Planning Board itself, in many instances, is not allowed to deny applications such as this one based on traffic outside the complex according to state law.
Also, the applicants used a loophole based on the variance they were requesting. The complex would technically not have enough impervious space if the driveway exit was constructed and thus they needed the variance. However, the applicant’s lawyer threatened to eliminate several unneeded parking spaces to put them in line with town ordinance if the board denied their application. Had the applicant eliminated the parking spaces and made more impervious space, the Planning Board would have little or no say in the new driveway exit anyway.
The board was thus somewhat backed into a corner and voted to allow the variance and the new exit driveway onto Morris Turnpike by a count of 7-2. While the citizens that attended were not pleased with the outcome, the Planning Board did make its mark on the project by mandating that the exit driveway be constructed in a fashion that it would be physically impossible for a truck larger than a passenger vehicle to exit, and that no vehicle could possibly make a left turn. All in all, most board members agreed that traffic is in fact an issue in certain areas of Randolph, but denying this application would not be an appropriate way to fix the problems.