HOWELL – The third time may well be a charm for the owners of the property located at 90 Industrial Court. After three times before the Planning Board, the developer was granted preliminary approval for a warehouse but they must contend with a possible weight limit for trucks on nearby roads.
The approval comes with a specific condition regarding verification of weight limits on Howell Road and further discussion regarding its impact on ingress and egress when returning for final approval.
According to the applicant’s attorney, Kenneth Pape, Janico Inc, also owns the adjacent building known at 88 Vanderveer Road and intends to further extend its business within the industrial park. No more than two new tenants could be added to the new building, as Janico has no need to occupy it in its entirety.
The proposed warehouse building would consist of 70,320 square feet, including 63,288 square feet of warehouse and two office elements composed of 7,000 square feet all together.
“The relief that we’re requesting is a site plan approval and the only variance relief that is required is a result of moving the parking lot suggested by the board and its professionals,” said Pape. “In all other respects, it’s fully compliant.”
Developers ask for variances if their plans don’t fit 100% with the town’s rules for the property.
Scott Kendall, who testified as a traffic expert, discussed changes made to the original plans submitted to the planning board. One of the things he found critical was that the new plans better separated passenger vehicles from the loading dock. This removed potential conflicts between cars and trucks.
“The plan as provided can accommodate truck access to the existing loading docks as well as the proposed loading docks,” Kendall testified. “In my expert opinion, this plan can operate safely and efficiently.”
Not everyone who listened to Kendall’s assertions appeared convinced that he completely addressed all of the traffic issues. Councilman Fred Gasior, who sits on the planning board, was the first to express concerns.
“I have some questions about what kind of evaluations you’ve done offsite on the roads that traveled to and from this facility,” asked Gasior. “How far out did you go and where did you read the traffic?”
Pape spoke before Kendall could give an answer, explaining the applicant’s responsibility to analyze the surrounding roadways was not part of the applicant’s burden. Planning Board attorney Ron Cucchiaro later confirmed the same legal opinion when traffic in the area seemed to become an issue of concern.
“You know that at Vanderveer and Howell Road, it’s obvious that trucks can’t make a left turn there,” Gasior said, “They’re going to have to veer to the right and go up in that direction.”
Gasior further asked if studies had been done for the intersection of Howell Road and Route 33, and was informed they were not a requirement of the application as it a permitted use.
The project is right off Howell Road and greatly concerned Jacqueline Cestero who lives close to the proposed warehouse. She said that up to 10 warehouses had been approved or proposed within a one mile area of the Vanderveer site and that this project intended to use Howell Road as an access point.
“How are we handling that Howell Road has a four ton weight limit?” asked Cestero.
Kendell said he was unaware that Howell Road had four ton weight limit, a statement subsequently disputed by Marc Parisi, a local resident. Parisi said that Kendall provided testimony in another planning board matter and acknowledged the weight limits.
After the conclusion of public comment, Pape said that he did not know if the weight restrictions on Howell Road were accurate, but indicated his client had no choice but to abide by regulations on roadways.
Cucchiaro, the board attorney, reminded the planning board members that they were dealing with a development that was considered a permitted use.
“The courts say that the governing body when identifying the permitted use is presumptively familiar with the traffic in the area, and that it understands that greater traffic will be created,” Cucchiaro explained. “What the courts go on to say is you can’t deny an application for increased traffic.”
Nevertheless, planning boards have the jurisdiction to analyze the safety of ingress and ingress. Cucchiaro then asked the planning board’s engineering expert, Laura Neumann, PE, PP if she found any ingress or egress issues and she said she had none.
The application ended with preliminary site approval with the stated variance. Prior to final approval, the applicant must come up with a resolution regarding the weight limits on Howell Road and provide it to Neumann.
If the board engineer finds the weight limits result in an impact to the ingress or egress, the applicant will be required to return to the board.