MILLBURN, NJ - About 20 local residents concerned about the impact of a proposed Stop & Shop supermarket on Millburn Avenue met Nov. 29 to strategize about their next moves.
The meeting was held in advance of the next hearing on the proposed store before Millburn’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, scheduled for Monday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
The hour-long session at the Millburn Free Public Library was led by Brookhaven Way resident Elaine Becker and Meadowbrook Road resident Rick Sacks, active members of Residents for Traffic Safety.
The group contends that Stop & Shop’s traffic plan will add more than 20,000 vehicles a week to an already-congested Millburn Avenue. The store presents a serious threat to public safety and the quality of life in Millburn and Springfield, the group says.
Becker opened the meeting by explaining that after 18 years of hearings and legal battles, Stop & Shop has received site plan approval from Springfield to locate its store on the site of the former Saks Fifth Avenue. The applicant is now appearing before Millburn because a 20-foot strip of the property lies within the township’s borders.
“Thank God, we have a slight bit of control on the ingress and egress from the site,” she noted.
Residents for Traffic Safety cannot speak directly against the application during the hearings, but its members can raise enough questions to discredit experts’ opinions and thereby influence zoning board members, who are in a position to deny it, according to Becker.
Sacks noted the board has hired its own traffic consultant, who is to give his testimony at the Dec. 17 meeting. Becker indicated a stronger measure might be a traffic study, which the zoning board can request and for which the applicant must pay.
“So far, they have been listening,” Becker observed. “They should be more proactive, in my opinion.”
The free-flowing discussion yielded five areas for the group to pursue.
In the first place, questioners want to know what the address the proposed supermarket will use. A Short Hills address might be prestigious but misleading, because the store does not lie in the township or pay taxes to Millburn.
Another tactic might be to appeal to Essex County concerning a traffic light it has agreed to place at the intersection of Millburn Avenue and Baltusrol Way.
Thirdly, the group can encourage the township’s traffic consultant to bring in a truck driver who can discuss the proposed loading area and problems trucks might encounter in making U-turns in the space.
Also, the group wants to meet with parent-teacher organizations at nearby schools that will be affected by higher traffic volumes, including the high school and Glenwood elementary school.
And finally, residents can place signs on their lawns with slogans to the effect of “Say No to Stop & Shop Traffic.”
“This has been very helpful,” Becker said in summing up the discussion.
Near the end of the session, Springfield resident Peter Quinn presented a letter he had written to the new executive team of Royal Ahold, the parent company of Stop & Shop, located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He asked that residents add their signatures and some did.
In his letter, Quinn says, “Stop & Shop has attempted to build and open a large store in a community that has expressed a high resistance.” He suggests the costs have been a drain on corporate resources and hearings and ensuing litigation could last another three to six years.
Quinn also says, “The community cannot understand why a well-managed company would continue to wage a protracted legal battle with the people in a community where it plans to open a business.”
He invites the leaders to send an observer to the Dec. 17 hearing to report back to them and their board.