WAYNE, NJ – Tuesday night’s Wayne Planning Board meeting went the full three-and-a-half hours, but the public on hand, as well as those online were cut short. There was not enough time after the agenda was concluded for all the members of the public to comment, so the issue of Wawa in Wayne will be carried over to the November 9 meeting.
Fear of COVID-19 was the likely reason why Wayne's first public meeting since March was so sparsely attended. There were only nine members of the public in the council chambers, sitting six feet apart in assigned seats.
On the agenda Tuesday night were five resolutions that were quickly passed, memorializing decisions on past applications for smaller issues like changes to parking lot size and recreation fields. A new application was heard by Harbor Freight Tools, who is looking to take over a part of the old Staples space on Route 23. These items took up about half of the meeting
Wawa was the last item on the agenda, and the applicants, MCBS-RENJ Wayne, LLC laid out several changes to their designs to accommodate suggestions made by members of the Planning Board and the public who made comments at the first meeting held February 10 of this year.
- Removing a small parking lot on the east side of the property to create a larger buffer between the proposed Wawa and the closest residential property on Cedar Place.
- Adding a six-foot wide sidewalk along Cedar Place to accommodate bikes and pedestrians
- Changing the signage on Cedar Place
- Widening the exit driveway on Route 23
The Wawa team spoke for about an hour. The highlight was testimony given by Tomlinson Fort, who was described as an “environmental science expert.” He detailed Wawa’s equipment and how it was designed to prevent fuel leakage, as well how the equipment is monitored for leakage 24-hours per day. Fort then described how, if the equipment did leak, it would be impossible for any fuel to make its way down to Packanack Lake. This is one of the bigger concerns for local residents.
Fort described a small creek, called Lenox brook that runs from north to south on the property and separates the commercial area from the wooded area of the lot. The land from the proposed gas station slopes slightly downward toward this brook. Beyond the brook to the east, the land slopes upward.
“This brook represents a groundwater flow divide,” he said. “Any bad stuff that might be in the water to the west, as it’s flowing east, is not going to cross that flow divide.”
As the meeting was coming to an end, Wayne resident Kristi Vaiden reiterated the locals concerns about the water and asked Fort to confirm that any leaked fuel would not make it to Packanack Lake. Fort’s reply: “It would be hydrologically impossible.”
With only about fifteen minutes left before the meeting’s hard-stop at 11:00pm, the public comment portion of the meeting began. There were only eight residents who were present when the floor opened up for the public to speak. But, there was also a couple of lawyers present, one of which took the podium first, introducing himself as Dominic Stampone. He said that they represented Packanacker Ray Egatz as an ‘objector’ to the application.
The attorney stated that he had enough questions to fill up the remaining time. It was then that the board decided to allow those present to ask questions, and then allot time at the next scheduled Planning Board meeting on November 9 to allow more time for any other members of the public to comment or ask questions.
Stampone's main question was about a review of the traffic study that was presented by the Wawa applicants. He mentioned that the Wayne engineering department recommended this review, but was learning at that time, that this did not occur.
Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano, who serves on the board, stepped in and said to Stampone: “Let me help you with this. That is typical boiler plate. Ninety percent of what comes out of engineering…”
The lawyer cut-off the mayor mid-sentence. “It’s boiler plate to ignore engineering recommendation?” Stampone asked.
“That’s not what I said,” Vergano said, his face hardening. “Maybe I’m not going to help you now.”
Stampone laughed uncomfortably and looked slightly taken aback. He turned to the other board members. “I’m just not understanding. Is there not going to be a traffic study review?” he asked.
Vergano answered. “That decision hasn’t been made yet,” he said. “To answer your question: Typical boiler plate coming out of the engineering department is to recommend to the Planning Board that they hire an outside consultant to look at traffic studies that are submitted. The Board makes an individual decision on whether they are going to do that or not.”
Only four residents followed Stampone and stepped up to ask questions. Richard Carlisle, who lives on Cedar Place, spent the most time at the podium and asked about Lenox Brook, smell from dumpsters, the kind of trees that will be planted where the house on the property currently sits, light pollution and traffic on his street.
The Wawa team answered questions patiently, then the Planning Board President Frank Ranalletti called a halt to the public portion and adjourned the meeting.
The next meeting is scheduled for November 9, when there will be more time scheduled for additional questions from the public.