HOWELL – Supporters and opponents of an application of the proposed Monmouth Commerce Center project will have the chance to present their view during a January 16 planning board meeting at the municipal building.
The meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. at the township’s main administration building, will serve to continue an ongoing hearing for a proposal that involves building 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space on Randolph Road.
Members of the board have been listening to testimony about the application since April. The project sparked the formation of a citizens group that has strongly opposed it. The group called Howell for Open Land and Preservation of the Environment, or HOPE is expected to be present at the meeting in force.
The project would cause the removal of 100 acres of forest on Randolph and Oak Glen roads and add a two-story office warehouse, eight warehouse/industrial buildings, plus more than 700 parking spots.
It would also include 142 trailer parking spots and more than 250 loading spaces and five driveways providing access to the site along Randolph Road.
Opponents of the project have loudly voiced their concerns about the amount of added traffic on roads surrounding and leading to and from the proposed site.
During a Monmouth County Development Review Committee meeting held in October, the proposal was heard and a proposal was made that included three requirements before the committee would fully hear the project and take any action.
During that session the applicant was requested to submit a road improvement plan, as well as a traffic signal plan for the Lakewood-Farmingdale (County Route 547) and Randolph Roads intersection.
The plan also needed to provide a left turn lane for traffic turning from Lakewood-Farmingdale Road to Randolph Road, as well as a left turn lane for traffic turning from Randolph Road to Lakewood-Farmingdale Road.
The plan needed to indicate existing right-of-way features, required right-of-way acquisition(s), proposed road improvements, required traffic signal equipment, phasing, and a timing directive.
It was also required that the applicant update a traffic impact study to reflect timing changes recently implemented at the intersection of County Routes 21/547/549, and revise mitigation to adequately accommodate traffic generated by the proposed development.
The Ocean County Planning Board would need to receive the application for its own review and comment on stormwater impact to a bridge located on Brook Road at the boundary between Ocean and Monmouth counties.
Traffic Engineer Joseph Fishinger spoke out more recently for those opposing the project testified that traffic counts done at Route 547 were invalid and underestimate the amount of traffic that would be generated were the project approved. Fishinger is a traffic engineer with NV5 of Parsippany. He was questioned during the December 5 Planning Board meeting by Meryl Gonchar Sills, the attorney for the developer of Monmouth Commerce Center. Sills and Adam Faiella of Sills Cummis and Gross, of Newark are representing the applicant.
During that meeting Planning Board Chairman Robert Nash said the application was reaching the public comment phase.
The applicant is Monmouth Commerce Center LLC and the property owners are Lawrence Katz and Felix Pflaster according to township records.
According to township zoning, warehouses are allowed in the special economic development zone in the south-central region of Howell. That region is a 61-square-mile area where approximately 51,000 county residents live.
While the project would bring a significant tax ratable to the township and hundreds of jobs, opponents fear that the complex would draw hundreds of tractor trailers daily which would travel several miles around the area’s rural roads toward the highway.
Justin Tayler, the applicant’s traffic engineer, previously testified before the Howell Planning Board hearings and presented an animated video his firm produced imagining a drive past the site.
The warehouse would exist along Randolph Road, which runs into Route 547. Route 9 is approximately one mile to the west, around four miles south of Route 195, which runs into the New Jersey Turnpike.
Township resident Dawn Van Brunt started a Change.org petition against the plan which has around 1,700 signatures as of press time. She noted that a sign her group HOPE erected in the community opposing the project had been vandalized.
“I started seeing the over development in Howell. HOPE has around 300 members opposing the massive scope of the project,” she said.
“We absolutely remain hopeful that the “powers that be” will see that this project is detrimental to the area for many reasons. “The traffic alone that this project will generate is out of control. That, compounded with the environmental factors, is enough to debilitate the area. We have seen concerns raised by the planning board at each meeting. I truly feel many on the board see this is not good for anyone.” Van Brunt previously said.