WESTFIELD, NJ — At the Westfield Planning Board’s continued hearing on Monday about a 7-Eleven store, proposed for the site of an abandoned service station at Central Avenue near West Grove Street, residents questioned whether the proposal would become an attractive nuisance for teenagers. They also wanted to know whether additional traffic generated by the store would pose a danger to school children crossing the busy intersection of Central and West Grove.
7-Eleven attorney Jason Tuvel said the proposal was for a “state-of-the-art” 3,044-square-foot building to replace the former service station service bay facility on the site. He added the new facility would take the place of the current building, which lies in a “state of disrepair” and the proposed development would provide much better screening from residential properties adjacent to the site.
Tuvel added, “We want to keep the activity toward Central Avenue and provide substantial screening from the residential properties with a substantial buffer of trees.”
However, during public questioning, a number of residents expressed concern that a large grassy area, proposed for the rear of the store, would become a “hangout” for local teenagers where alcohol and drugs might be used.
Resident Gregory Blasi of 779 Carleton Road, which is adjacent to the site, said the current proposal for the site would create a “void” where local kids could “hang out.” He asked why the store could not be moved more to the rear of the site to avoid this.
7-eleven engineer James Henry replied this would eliminate the buffer between the store and the residential zone and the move possibly could require more lighting and the movement of the store’s trash bin to the rear rather than to the side of the site, as currently proposed.
When questioned further about the potential of the rear open area becoming a “hangout,” Henry replied that there would be a six-foot fence with a locked gate at the rear of the property, which should prevent intruders from entering that area. He said that 7-Eleven might be willing to install lighting in the rear area to provide additional security.
Henry, in response to other resident concerns about inadequate buffering from the site, said the company would negotiate with the town and add more landscaping than the 13 evergreens around the perimeter of the site and shrubs near the parking area and around the dumpsters if desired.
He also said 7-Eleven could restrict garbage deliveries to the site so there would be no noise to disturb residents in the early morning.
Regarding resident concerns about the intersection, board chairman Vincent Wilt said it was not in the jurisdiction of the planning board to require 7-Eleven to pay for a crossing guard to be placed at the Central Avenue-West Grove intersection.
7-Eleven traffic expert Nick Verderese said that traffic studies conducted by his office in July and September and projected out for two years showed that 60 percent or more of the traffic traveling in the area of the site already was there.
He added, that, during the peak hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 6:30 p.m. approximately 1,500 vehicles passed by the site on Central Avenue and 400 on West Grove Street.
The traffic sigal at the intersection, according to Verderese, could accommodate the “proper levels of service” for movements into and out of the three driveways proposed for the site.
He added 7-Eleven was proposing that crosswalks be erected in the areas of the driveways and “detectable warning surfaces” would be built near the stop bars and stop lines of the driveways to so that drivers would be more aware when they were approaching those areas.
There was some concern expressed about traffic backing up at the driveway closest to the intersection when vehicles were making a left turn out of the driveway, and the traffic expert said 7-Eleven might be willing to restrict access to that driveway during peak travel hours.
Town traffic expert Gordon Meth suggested, however, that there be a permanent restriction on left turns out of the driveway.
Wilt indicated that the applicant and the town could work out a solution when 7-Eleven appeared before the board’s site plan committee.
On another matter, resident Robert Nehring of 850 Carleton Road said the former service station site remained on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s list of toxic waste sites and wanted to know if it would be cleaned up before the new store was built.
The applicant’s attorney replied that the company would not take final possession of the site until it was cleared of any toxic waste remaining.
The 7-Eleven hearing will continue with the testimony of additional witnesses and public questions and comments on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7:30 p.m.