RANDOLPH, NJ - The Wawa application for development on the site of the former Nagel’s Candy Barn still has not made it to a vote from the Board of Adjustment, but expert testimony and questioning continued at Thursday’s public hearing. The next hearing will be Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
A large portion of this project centered on the public improvements to the Quaker Church Road and Millbrook Avenue which will be completely funded by Wawa. With changes to the stop bars and curbing, traffic will be forced to slow down and visibility will increase to prevent accidents in that section.
The Wawa team came prepared with several additional updates based on comments from July’s meeting, including a solid white fence to block headlights shining into homes from the parking lot, 15 10-foot evergreen trees surrounding the tall light poles and lower-temperature light from those parking lot lights.
Complying with the town engineer’s suggestion, Wawa will add an insert to their storm water drainage to block hydrocarbons from any gasoline spills from discharging downstream. In accordance with state regulations, the new development will decrease storm water runoff from the current site.
“At the heart of this application is the private investment in what will be a public improvement,” said certified planner John McDonough.
While McDonough was unable to finish his presentation before the 11 p.m. cutoff, he provided extensive support for the many variances and waivers required by this project. He reminded the board and the public, “it’s not a question of whether you like the use or you don’t like the use, it’s really whether the application meets the statutory tests.”
The largest zoning variance is the change from a residential to commercial zone on the lot next to Nagel’s Candy Barn, described as an “orphan lot” on a strip of commercially-zoned properties. The lot will only be used to move the current Nagel’s driveway, improving the appearance of the lot, as well.
“This is clearly separate and distinct from the residential neighborhood,” McDonough said, “and it is not substantially going to change the character of the district.”
While residents fought the second driveway, McDonough reminded the board that ease and convenience are required for a gas station, and “that second driveway is so important because it needs to be convenient.”
He also explained the reasoning for a dual-use convenience store/ fueling station on the Nagel’s Candy Barn lot with support from the Randolph Master Plan stating the board should consider allowing this dual-use on lots with fueling as a permitted use.
Historically, this is a return to the general store concept with fueling pumps in front of the store, McDonough added.
The zoning code does permit fueling stations on the property, but the dual use is under consideration. McDonough reminded the board and public that another buyer with a permitted use could have purchased the lot, and “the site could be reactivated for commercial use, and we can’t plan popularity.”
Further support from McDonough included the master plan use of Route 10 as an economic core for the community and the aesthetic appeal of a well-maintained, busy facility compared to a vacant building.
The next meeting will cover the design exceptions which “are subject to a much lower standard,” according to McDonough.
Questions from Residents
Approximately 30 residents attended the hearing to question the need for a rear entrance/exit on Quaker Church Road, which has been marked with “no truck deliveries” signage and will be enforceable with traffic tickets.
Residents primarily questioned the current traffic situation and the safety of children walking to school in the area. Chairman of the Board of Adjustment, Harry Gerken, reminded the public that the school is over one-half mile away from existing entrance to the site.
“They did take into account future growth,” Gerken said. “Now you can argue that that wasn’t enough or it was too much, but that was the number [two percent] that was used.”
As questions became redundant, the board restated the comments by asking, what is the specific design objective of the rear driveway?
Engineer Mark Whitaker responded that standard engineering practices include two exits for safety reasons (a second access point for emergency vehicles), as well as a better flow of traffic and convenience.
When residents argued that traffic assessed in April would be less than traffic assessed in September, board members began to question the need for such specifics.
Several residents continually brought up the hazards of driving when “they haven’t had their coffee yet.”
The public hearings continue on October 25 at 7:30 p.m.