CRANFORD - At Wednesday's Planning Board meeting, Hartz Mountain brought in two witnesses to testify, which included an industrial engineer and a traffic engineer. 

The industrial engineer spoke first and touched upon opinions that have been testified by other witnesses, mostly the declined market for suburban North Jersey industrial and office space and the increased demand in urban areas. The expert, Mr. William Sitar, also spoke on some other issues of why the land is more suitable for residential.

Mr. Sitar mentioned that ideal warehouse ceilings range anywhere between 32 and 40 feet high and anything under 28 feet is essentially useless. Companies now are looking to stock inventory multiple pallets high to take up less ground space. Mr. Sitar said 750 Walnut has low ceilings, though no specific height was mentioned. 

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Another caveat to leaving the area zoned for industrial use is the location not being near major highways. The closest highway to 750 Walnut is the Garden State Parkway, where trucks are not allowed on. Having to travel through the Clark Circle to get to highways such as 1-9 could cause major truck traffic. 

A suggestion of converting the building into self-storage was also shot down by the expert. Mr. Sitar mentioned that self-storage businesses look for buildings that are visible from the road, multiple stories high, and climate controlled. The current buffer on the property shields most visibility. 

After a five-minute recess, the Traffic Engineer, Mr. Karl Pehnke, testified next, but due to a hard stop at 11 p.m., the board questioning and public questioning will continue at a later date. 

Mr. Pehnke spoke about the traffic impact study and concluded that if the building as is were to be leased out to capacity compared to if it were to be redeveloped into residential, it would result with "roughly the same level of traffic," and added that the morning would see "slightly less" but the evening "slightly more, 15-20 trips more."

Though Mr. Pehnke said the level of traffic would roughly stay the same, he did acknowledge that the traffic pattern would completely change if converted to residential. With office and warehouse space, the morning traffic flows into the property with employees coming to work. With residential, the traffic would flow out of the property with tenants going to work and vise versa for the evening peak hours. 

Before the hard stop occurred, some questions were asked by the Board in reference to the traffic study. Mr. Pehnke earlier stated that the study showed that between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., the existing site would generate "about 530 trips." One Board member questioned how the proposed 905 unit complex with 1,775 parking spaces would generate only 530 trips, to which Mr. Pehnke replied that not everybody is going to be leaving for work between the 7:30 and 8:30 a.m hour, and that trips would be spread over roughly four hours. 

Hartz Mountain was set to return on October 3rd, but with two other applications set to meet with the Planning Board that day, Hartz Mountain's next meeting will be on October 17th with the continuation of Mr. Pehnke, followed by the fiscal impact statement from the Planner, Mr. Hughes.