Zoning Board Hears from Stop & Shop's Engineer and Traffic Expert

Michael Fowler, Civil Engineer for Stop & Shop Credits: Patricia Harris

MILLBURN, NJ - Residents had an opportunity to ask questions of the civil engineer and the traffic expert for Stop & Shop during Monday night’s Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing.

They were told, however, to reserve their comments on the proposed supermarket until all testimony has been heard.

About 30 residents showed up at Town Hall for the session, which lasted more than four hours.

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Stop & Shop is seeking to build a 68,000 square foot store on the site of the former Saks Fifth Avenue on Millburn Avenue. The company has received approval from Springfield for its site plan, and is now seeking variances from Millburn’s zoning board because the township owns a 20-foot strip of land along the avenue.

Stop & Shop is still presenting its case and will bring in its planner at the next hearing, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25. Also at that session, the attorney for the Springfield ShopRite, which is objecting to the development, will begin presenting his case.

During Monday night’s session, Gail Price, the attorney representing Stop & Shop, called back civil engineer Michael Fowler and traffic expert Dan Desario to respond to concerns raised in a report produced by Hal Simoff, the traffic consultant hired by the board.

Fowler brought diagrams to show how trucks will negotiate the left turn out of the site’s eastern driveway and maneuver in the loading dock area on the east side of the building.

He said the supermarket could expect to receive seven tractor-trailers from Stop & Shop throughout the day, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and approximately 40 vendor trucks during that time, with the bulk of them coming in between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Board member Roger Manshel asked if deliveries could be scheduled during the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“What I’m looking at is the safety of our residents and children who are on the streets,” he said.

Manshel asked Fowler if he knew of any other Stop & Shop stores where overnight deliveries are required, and Fowler answered no.

Board member Cheryl Burstein, who is chairing the board for the supermarket hearings, noted, “If we want to impose conditions [in giving our approval], we will.”

Fowler also testified there will be a sign on the east side of the building that will be lit up when the four bays are full. Trucks coming to the site would then be required to come back later when a bay is available. The light is to be operated by the store’s receiving manager, he said.

Richard Sacks, a Meadowbrook Road resident and a leader of the ad hoc group Residents for Traffic Safety, showed a Google Earth map of the site. He pointed out that trucks initially turned away and circling to return to the store would have to negotiate a sharp turn from Morris Avenue to Millburn Avenue.

Fowler replied that the intersection was not analyzed as part of the plan, since it is regulated by the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT).

In his testimony, traffic expert Desario addressed Simoff’s concerns about potential traffic counts. He said he had rerun the numbers using “the latest and greatest” software program advocated by the board’s consultant and came up with counts close to his original ones.

Desario reported he had observed deliveries during one day last month at a Stop & Shop store in Madison, similar in size to the one proposed in Springfield. He said the truck traffic, which included five tractor-trailers and 23 others, was in line with projections planners are making for the proposed Springfield store.

With regard to cars entering and exiting the property, Desario said he projects there will be 5,241 crossings of the curb cut on a weekday and 9,102 on a weekend day. Those figures are based on data collected throughout the country for supermarkets of similar size.

He qualified those numbers by noting the projections are for new traffic, but in the case of the township, which is well developed, most of the traffic is already in the area and will migrate from other supermarkets to this one.

Desario conceded that trucks trying to make the turn from Morris Avenue onto Millburn Avenue would find it difficult, but called it is an “unlikely event” they would come right back.

Steven Barkan, the attorney for ShopRite, pointed out that Desario did not study two intersections along Millburn Avenue which might be affected, one with Short Hills Avenue and the other with Morris Avenue.

“We looked at the intersections that are in the jurisdiction of this municipality,” Desario responded. Those include two driveways that already exist on the property and the intersection with Baltusrol Road, where Essex County has approved putting in a traffic light.

Burstein pointed out that Stop & Shop is taking a narrow reading of its obligation to assess the traffic impact of the proposed store.

“You ignore the other intersections at your own peril,” she warned the presenters.

“We hear the board’s concern,” Price responded.

Near the end of the session, the board returned to the possibility of trucks entering the site through a driveway off Morris Avenue. Stop & Shop had asked DOT to allow a traffic light on Morris Avenue, which they declined to do, but the applicant could request a waiver of that decision, according to Gail Fraser, the board’s attorney.

At a previous session, Township Engineer Thomas Watkinson had suggested seeking such a waiver.

The board expressed interest in further exploring that option.

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