By LAURA KREISER
For Union County HAWK
CRANFORD — Cranford’s traffic expert Maurice Rached fielded a number of questions pertaining to the 750 Walnut Avenue redevelopment project during a recent meeting of the planning board, held Wednesday.
Mr. Rached took questions from residents that did not get to ask questions at the previous meeting. George Collins, of 5 Behnert Place, brought several photo exhibits to the meeting and questioned the potential impact that tractor-trailer traffic might have on the area. Hartz Mountain’s lawyer, Henry Kent-Smith, objected several times by stating the photos were not relevant to the application the board was listening to.
Mr. Kent-Smith further objected to exhibits showing a tractor trailer crossing the double yellow line saying, “…for all I know this could be an impaired driver. This driver could have intentionally driven this trailer over the lines, intentionally, for the purpose of showing a false movement. Therefore, that is my standing objection.” This prompted board member Diana Sen, to ask if the attorney could address the public, since she had thought the applicant’s attorney could not do that.
Board Attorney Jonathan Drill said it was Mr. Kent-Smith’s time Mr. Kent-Smith was using up and if he wanted to he could. Ms. Sen clarified she wanted to make sure members of the public did not feel intimidated to ask questions or comment about the plan. Mr. Drill then asked Mr. Collins if he felt intimated by Mr. Kent-Smith to which Mr. Collins responded, “I absolutely felt intimidated by Kent-Smith, absolutely.” But after Mr. Drill said it was unfortunate, Ms. Sen reminded the board that there was still a protocol to follow.
Mark Zucker, of 19 Pershing Avenue, said he felt the signs would not be enough to deter through traffic since the proposed driveways are in line with current roadways. Mr. Zucker asked if anyone had considered putting a concrete island to further deter through traffic.
Mr. Rached explained that more than likely, the island would make the driveway much larger than it needed to be and make the complex seem larger than it actually is. Mr. Rached later added, according to studies he had read, the majority of drivers obey traffic signs. He noted speed limit signs seemed to be the exception, making the audience chuckle.
Then Christine Esposito, of 11 Behnert Place, brought up the fact Matthew Seckler, a principal at Stonefield Engineering and Design, had testified to the driveways being aligned was something the county preferred but did not mandate. Mr. Rached said the county said it needs to be aligned and the only way not to be aligned is if it is truly not possible. He also added when on calls with the county’s officials, he understood it as a mandate, not a preference.
Dawn Beresford, of 706 Lexington Avenue, asked why Lexington Avenue and Raritan Road were left out of the traffic study since Lexington Avenue had been identified as a major cut-through for tractor trailer traffic. Mr. Rached explained when doing a study like this, they first analyze the driveways, three in the case of 750 Walnut Avenue, and what the volumes of traffic would be like flowing in and out. They the follow the volumes wherever they go. Mr. Rached said then they go to the next intersection that the volume follows and assess how many trips from the driveway to that intersection there are. He said they then count the number and if it is over 100, which is a nationwide criterion, then they will include that intersection in the study. Mr. Rached then clarified they only used 50 trips as the criteria for this study. Mr. Rached then said any intersection that does not meet the number is then not included in the study.
The night ended with Mark Chaplin, of Stonefield Engineering, going back through issues that had come up during his previous testimony. Mr. Chaplin made sure to add Hartz Mountain had listened to residents and replaced the basketball court with another storm water basin as well as landscaping that would go all the to the driveway, as long as the board approved the variances to the plans. There was no time for the public to question and Mr. Drill said that would be pushed to the next hearing.
The next hearing is scheduled for October 19, with the planning board beginning their workshop meeting in Room 108 of Cranford’s Municipal Building at 7:30 p.m. and the hearing will begin no later than 8 p.m. in Council Chambers. Residents can either watch live on Tv35 or Tv35’s livestream on Facebook.
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