PLAINFIELD, NJ - At Plainfield's Zoning Board of Adjustments meeting on Wednesday the decision to approve the HOPES CAP ordinance to increase the number of students from 270 and staff to 76, to 362 and 95, respectively, was delayed yet again.
HOPES had previously presented results from a traffic study conducted during the summer that did not reflect conditions that would exist during the school year.
After a lengthy board discussion, it was decided that dialogue would be limited to the updated traffic study that had been requested in August, and no action would be taken until the city engineer completed a review and provided recommendations to the board.
The new study was conducted on Thursday, Sept. 20 during peak morning and evening hours, and not on Sept. 19 as originally stated in the report, which would have been Yom Kippur, a school holiday.
HOPES attorney Marsha Moore, traffic engineer Joseph Staiger, HOPES administrators, and parents in support of the application were present.
According to Staiger, the revised traffic study concluded that the incremental increase in delays caused by the increase in students was minimal, with no significant impact. But the report did not take into account any traffic impact due to the pending closure of Woodland School and the relocation of students to Cook Elementary, just down the road from HOPES. Per the engineer, the results of the study met all of the DOT standards.
Despite the detailed results presented by the engineer, issues still existed with both Zoning Board members and residents in attendance. ZBA member Jim Spear raised concern over the daily attendance rate used in the model provided by HOPES versus average Board of Education district rates.
Additional concerns were raised about the current congestion at the neighboring intersection of South and Leland avenues during dismissal times at the charter school, and the resulting impact.
During public comment, Sean McKenna cited his recent experiences driving north through the intersection at Leland Ave. and East 7th St. during peak morning hours. He noted the number of traffic light cycles, which he felt was in stark contrast to the conclusions of the study.
School board member Carmencita Pile, who is also a current HOPES board member, offered a solution: have a one-way point of entry and exit for the buses to address some of the issues.
Board action on the HOPES development application will be taken at the November meeting after the city engineer has a chance to review the study's results. An updated site plan will be presented seeking to add an additional bus route and seven parking spaces.
Additional agenda items included the North Ave LLC request to construct a one-story addition to a four-story commercial building located at 537-547 North Ave., which will be carried to the November meeting due to the timing of the board's receipt of the applicant's documents.
Landmark Developers' request to construct a nine space parking lot accessory to an eight-unit residential apartment building was unanimously approved. The site is currently being utilized informally as a parking area, but is in need of repair. The plan will include paving, striping, installation of additional lighting, landscaping, clean-up and relocation of garbage, and ongoing maintenance. Construction is anticipated to begin in November during which time alternative parking arrangements will be provided to current tenants.
The next Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 7 in City Hall Library, 515 Watchung Ave.