Public Will Have Chance To Comment on Proposed Stop & Shop Supermarket on Nov. 18

The zoning board's acting chairman, Cheryl Burstein, right, and its attorney, Gail Fraser, set the agenda for upcoming hearings on the proposed Stop & Shop supermarket. Credits: Patricia Harris

MILLBURN, NJ - Members of the public will have an opportunity to comment on a proposed Stop & Shop supermarket on Millburn Avenue during the next zoning board hearing, to be held Monday, Nov. 18.

Members of Residents for Traffic Safety, the grassroots group of residents opposing the application, welcome that news.

“We need a continued showing of public concern,” co-chairman Rick Sacks of Meadowbrook Drive said in an e-mail to interested parties. “Your support and questioning will help us separate the fantasy of Stop & Shop’s ‘it’ll-all-be-fine’ claims and the harsh realities that local residents and others using Millburn Avenue and surrounding roads will face.”

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The board’s acting chairman, Cheryl Burstein, and its attorney, Gail Fraser, set the schedule for the next two hearings near the end of Monday night’s session. The remainder of the Nov. 18 meeting will be devoted to hearing testimony from planners retained by the township’s zoning and planning boards.

The Monday, Dec. 16, meeting will be devoted to discussion among the board members and voting on a resolution to either approve or deny the applicant’s request for variances from municipal land use ordinances.

The board’s intention is to render its decision before the end of the year.

Stop & Shop is seeking to build a nearly 70,000-square-foot store on the site of the former Saks Fifth Avenue. Through hearings and legal battles over nearly two decades, the company has won approval from the Township of Springfield, in which the bulk of the property lies.

The applicant is now before the Millburn zoning board because the township owns a 20-foot strip of land along Millburn Avenue through which traffic will enter the site. To build driveways through the strip, the applicant needs a number of variances.

At Monday’s meeting, Stop & Shop’s attorney, Gail Price, spent an hour and a half cross-examining the planner who last month testified for Village Supermarkets. The company, which owns a nearby ShopRite in Springfield, is one of several objectors to Stop & Shop’s application.

In his testimony, planner Andrew Janiw contended that current traffic issues will be exacerbated and new ones created by Stop & Shop’s plan. Price sought to undermine his credibility by questioning his knowledge of previous rulings in the case, land use law and terminology.

The site plan approved by Springfield calls for trucks to enter the property off Millburn Avenue. In his earlier testimony, however, Janiw had endorsed a suggestion by the traffic engineer for Village Supermarkets that trucks be required to use an existing driveway off Morris Avenue.

Price asked Janiw, “Have you ever advised your private clients to walk away from an approval?”

Another line of questioning involved on-street parking along Millburn Avenue. The attorney asked the planner if he had reviewed any of the township’s police reports. Janiw fought back, saying, “My point is that [on-street parking] will become of limited utility,” he said, citing increased traffic and decreased flow. “That is still my concern.”

At another point, Price asked Janiw about a term he had used in his report to describe how trucks will have to turn to leave the loading docks and exit the property.

“Is ‘kink’ a defined term in the ordinance?” she asked. He had to reply no.

Resident Bernie LaGreca of Myrtle Avenue asked about improvements to the easterly driveway to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. After a private meeting with him during a break, Price returned to say, “If we get the approval, we will comply in all respects with ADA requirements.”

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