MONTVILLE, NJ – Due to an appeal heard last year regarding the application to build a Wawa in Pine Brook on Route 46 which was granted by Judge Stuart Minkowitz, the Wawa application was restarted at the March 14 Montville Planning Board meeting. The application had been heard over the course of three meetings ending with an April, 2017 rejection. This time the application has 19 fewer variances. Further, four members of the planning board have been recused from hearing the revised application since they served on the redevelopment sub-committee. The area where the Wawa would be built is in the area the township has been earmarked for redevelopment, as there are derelict, empty buildings and the township would like the area to be revitalized. Due to the lawsuit and the granting of the appeal, the application is designed to be heard as a completely new event.

Local attorney for the Wawa Corporation Steven Schepis presented the application to the planning board, stating that a lot of things have changed in the application, which is for 16 Route 46 West. The site is bordered by Bloomfield Avenue, Changebridge Road and Route 46, and currently has a large open parking lot and a two-story, empty building that used to house a restaurant, a dry cleaning business, and a fitness center. All of the buildings and the pavement would be removed, Schepis said, and a 5,585-square-foot food mart, an adjoining trash room with a sloped roof, and eight gasoline and diesel fuel pumps with a sloped A-line roof would be built.

The number of signs has been reduced to a sign at the corner of Changebridge and Bloomfield Roads and the entrance at Route 46. In all, there are only six variances compared to approximately 25 in the former application, Schepis said, but several, such as the number of parking spaces, are actually being rectified as the hearing process continues across more than one planning board meeting. Schepis encouraged a give-and-take style of exchange with the board so that if objections were raised, the applicant could deal with them, rather than have the application rejected.

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The grade of the property presents a challenge, Schepis said, because it is a hill that begins at the Bloomfield corner and descends towards the lower left Route 46 portion if one is looking from 46. The three driveways will stay in the same places on all three roads. The site plan has been changed to eliminate a straight driveway on the left side of the property and to incorporate some rounded grading fences near Route 46. (See the photo gallery)

Engineer for the applicant Matthew Bersch of Dynamic Engineering said that 458 plants would be used in the landscaping, including shade trees and shrubs. He discussed the design of the building and gasoline islands, which will have stacked stone, and a canopy designed to screen the light from the neighbors adjacent to Bloomfield Avenue. He said there would be two towers on the main building to look attractive from both Bloomfield and 46. The loading zone would be located on the Changebridge side of the building to screen it from the neighbors, he said. Signage would include wall-mounted units on both sides of the building plus an 18-foot sign on Route 46, he said. The food mart would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week with 10 to 12 employees, receiving deliveries daily of fresh groceries, baked goods and fuel approximately 1-2 times daily. The diesel pumps would be much lower flow than a tractor trailer would wish to use, so Bersch did not think that the site would be used by truckers.

While the Wawa marketing plan is to not encourage loitering, Bersch said, township contracted planner Joseph Burgis asked if the company would reconsider that position to reduce litter. Bersch feared it would make the facility busier, he said. Another consideration brought up was whether the Bloomfield exit should be no left turn, which was an issue during the last round of hearings. By the end of this hearing it was still up in the air.

Residents listed concerns at the 2017 hearings as increased crime, increased traffic on Route 46, and the fact that Wawa is a 24-hour business, and similar concerns were raised at this meeting.

The hearing of this application will continue at the April 11 meeting. If you wish to attend, confirm that the application is being heard by clicking  Agenda Center, Planning Board, and looking for “PSPP/FC16-23/PSOIL16-24 –PBNJ - 16 Rt. 46 – B: 162, L: 7 – remand hearing.”

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