Last week’s Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting featured two more hours of testimony concerning the that form the southeastern corner of the intersection of Route 1 (Brunswick Pike) and Bakers Basin Road.
Charles Olivo, the professional engineer for the developer, 2012 Lawrenceville Associates (formerly Ferber Construction Management), continued his testimony under cross-examination from Kevin Moore, an attorney representing the owners of the Shell gas station located at Route 1 and Franklin Corner Road directly opposite the proposed redevelopment area.
As part of the proposal before the zoning board, existing buildings on the properties – including the current Mrs. G showroom, a vacant business, an abandoned diner, and three unoccupied homes – would be demolished. Constructed in their place would be five stand-alone buildings that would house a new Mrs. G. store, a McDonald’s restaurant, a Wawa convenience store with fuel pumps and a TD Bank branch. A tenant has yet to be secured for the fifth structure.
“I just want to reiterate something I said last meeting – my client does not oppose this application,” Moore said at the beginning of the Aug. 15 meeting. “We just have concerns about the traffic impacts of the application, predominantly on our access and the functioning of the intersection right by our property, and then to the extent that drainage and on-site operational impacts affect that. We have those concerns.”
Moore peppered Olivo with a variety of questions about the current ground water levels at the site and plans for storm water drainage and flood mitigation; whether parking spaces at the WaWa would be capable of accommodating larger vehicles such as those towing landscaping trailers; and the frequency and timing of fuel and food deliveries to the WaWa.
After Olivo presented an oversized, computer-altered photograph showing what the redeveloped site might look like when completed, Moore asked questions about the types and heights of the trees that would be planted to replace trees removed as part of the construction process.
James Kochenour, the zoning board’s traffic consultant, meanwhile, questioned Olivo about the proposed locations of the buildings on the site and how those placements impact the anticipated flow of vehicles through the adjacent parking areas. Kochenour was particularly concerned about dead-end parking lots to the front and rear of the new Mrs. G. building and asked if those dead-ends might be eliminated by rotating the orientation of the Mrs. G building.
“We have looked at a number of configurations within this area to achieve the best parking. The plan before you is really the most optimal from a circulation perspective. Mrs. G’s is expected to be a low-generating traffic/parking type use,” Olivo said, explaining that altering the parking lot could create other, potentially more-serious traffic problems.
“Based on the characteristics of the property and the geometry of what we’re working with here in trying to accommodate these different systems of roadways, as I explained at the first hearing, we feel, given the operation of Mrs. G’s, the low turnover and the low parking demand expected for this type of use, that the dead-end parking with the notch-outs as we’ve shown will allow for a vehicle to make a K-turn effectively…”
As part of the proposed plan, a “connector road” would be built behind the new buildings both to provide access to the new shopping center and to give motorists traveling north on Route 1 the ability to turn left (westbound) or right (eastbound) onto Bakers Basin Road. Another new access road running parallel to Route 1, behind the existing Lawrence Ford Lincoln Mercury auto dealership, would link that new “connector road” with Litho Road.
The existing jughandle onto Bakers Basin Road from Route 1 North – at which left turns to go westbound were outlawed a few years ago – would be removed entirely. Bakers Basin Road, itself, would be widened into three westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes between Route 1 and the Delaware and Raritan Canal to allow vehicles to safely enter/exit the new shopping center, improve overall traffic flow in the area and increase the cuing capacity of vehicles waiting for a red light.
The plan is before the zoning board because a number of conditional use and bulk variances are needed with regard to the presence of gasoline and diesel pumps at the Wawa, the number of buildings to be built, the amount of parking that would be available, the types of signs the businesses would like to erect, the luminosity levels of some lights that would be on at night, how the sidewalks would be laid out, what types of trees would be used for landscaping, and other design elements.
Testimony will resume at the next zoning board meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 19.