Despite being appeased about some concerns of signs at the at the intersection of Finderne Avenue and Route 28, for members of the zoning board of adjustment, the biggest issue is with the perceived burden on traffic.
The zoning board heard a continuation Tuesday of an application concerning a proposed CVS on 2.75 acres of land at the intersection that is currently undeveloped. The drug store, if built, would be 14,600 square feet.
But for the zoning board, the biggest concern was the applicant's desire for unrestricted access in and out of the parking lot from Finderne Avenue.
According to engineer David Caruso, the current plan is to have one entrance and exit off Route 28 that only allows for right turns in and out of the building. On Finderne Avenue, he said, the applicant is looking for the ability to make a left or a right both in and out of the parking lot.
This piece of the application is still waiting on approval from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
"We have had communications with the DOT, and they will require a right in, right out curb on Route 28," Caruso said.
But, Caruso said, the applicant is currently waiting for word from the NJDOT on whether that has to be the case on Finderne. He said they are fairly certain they can have the unrestricted access off Finderne, and the county, which maintains the road, is allowing the waiver so long as the DOT agrees.
"The county does not want to allow for the full access until the DOT has finished review of this," he said. "We are still under negotiations to try to get them to relent on the right in right out for Route 28."
Caruso said the applicant is pretty sure there wil be unrestricted access at one of the entrances, but both would be better. If neither are granted, he said, the application will be withdrawn.
Board member Carl Schulz said he does not believe making a left turn onto Finderne will even be possible, given the kind of traffic that is seen on that road throughout the day.
But, Caruso said, there is only a small portion of the day where that could be a problem. He said that in a study done, it was found that the maximum queue length from the light at the intersection on Finderne is 380 feet from the light, and that would be about to the southern property line of the site.
"And we only see that less than 5 percent of the day, and that's during peak hour," he said. "On Saturday at peak hour, it only extends 240 feet."
On the other hand, Caruso said, the Route 28 queue length could be as much as 460 feet.
"So there is much more potential for a blocked entrance or blocked left there than there is on Finderne," he said. "The Route 28 access from the stop bar is about 180 to 200 feet, so we are dealing with the potential of being blocked far more than on Finderne."
At this point, Caruso said, the understanding is that the applicant will probably get permission for a full access entrance and exit on Finderne and only a right in right out on Route 28. He said they should hear sometime in early May.
"If we don't get this, the application is not viable," he said. "Not many developers will take this site given that restriction."
In going through his traffic study, Caruso said he took traffic counts on weekday evenings and Saturday midday, both at peak hours. It is expected, he said, that the CVS would generate about 152 trips during the peak hours of the weekday evening, and about 114 trips for the weekend time.
But board member Donald Sweeney said he does not think all the traffic conditions of the area have been considered.
"This level of service is now and will remain at level 'E,' and, if I recall, the level of service 'A' is the best," he said, maintaining that "F" is considered the worst. "So we're one away from the worst and will continue to be so. So there's a lot of traffic through the intersection."
"You're looking at unlimited access on Finderne, which means that if people are crazy enough to try to leave, they can leave the access point and try to make a left turn across two lanes of heavy traffic to get on to Finderne," he added. "Would you do that?"
Sweeney said he believes this is an impossible situation because it is asking drivers to cross over two lanes of oncoming heavy traffic into two more lanes.
"There will be times when you can't even go because there will be cars in front of you standing still," he said.
Marie Hughes, executive director of the People Care Center on Finderne Avenue, said there is never any break in the traffic on that road.
"It's busy from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and it never stops," she said. "You have two lanes of traffic to cross before going to the next two lanes. You will wait for five, 10 minutes until someone is polite enough to let you go."
Caruso said the study has found that at peak time there are about 300 cars making the left turn, but there did not appear to be a difference in the level of service.
"The traffic did not increase with the amount of trips utilizing the intersection," he said. "The traffic is not constant. There are breaks because of signals."
Discussion also centered on the number and size of signs being proposed for the property.
Robert Oelenschlager, of National Sign Services, said the applicant has altered its sign proposals to make them smaller in an effort to comply with township ordinances, and it has also removed the banner sign proposed for inside the vestibule.
Still, board members were unsure about the need for the electronic sign proposed, as well as a pylon and one monument sign.
"Personally, I think two monument signs would be nice and the pylon sign doesn't do it for me," said chairman William Vornehm.
Planner Michael Tobia said the applicant would be willing to go to two monument signs instead, and would remove the electronic sign if the board required it, although it preferred to keep the latter sign.
"If you say no, we'll remove it," he said. "But there are benefits, and we do have the benefit of being a community bulletin board, and having amber alerts and silver alerts."
Board attorney Lawrence Vastola said the board has to decide what is appropriate for that piece of land.
"Whether that type of sign is called for is something for the board to decide," he said. "They might regret it. If this was in a commercial zone with uses that are similar [it might be different]."
The applicant agreed to put only two monument signs on its property, and eliminate the pylon. The board is expected to discuss in its deliberation whether it wants to allow the electronic sign or not.
On the whole, Tobia said he believes the land at the intersection is very well suited for the CVS, in part because it will always be a commercial area.
"My opinion is that this site will never be developed for single family residential because of the heavily traveled roads nearby, and the commercial development," he said.
And CVS buildings, Tobia said, are usually constructed at signalized intersections on corner lots.
"It's a perfect fit for the neighborhood," he said.
Because the board did not have a chance to deliberate on all the aspects of the application, including the issue of traffic, it was carried until May 1.