By FRED T. ROSSI
For Union County HAWK
SCOTCH PLAINS – The plan to develop the Snuffy’s/Pantagis property — declared dead earlier this year — is being revived after the Lidl supermarket chain recently purchased the site and made plans to build a supermarket, a commuter bus park-and-ride lot and a smaller retail building.
At the redevelopment committee’s meeting, held on November 10, Redevelopment Director Thomas Strowe announced that Lidl is the new owner of the 5.5-acre site bounded by Route 22, Mountain Avenue, Park Avenue and Pinehurst Avenue. The original plan from several years ago has been revised, with the grocery store located at the corner of Mountain and Pinehurst Avenues and the entrance facing the highway, where most of the parking will be situated. A small building suitable for smaller retail space will be moved from close to the highway to Mountain Avenue to the east of the supermarket. The park-and-ride will be situated further to the east at the corner of
Mountain and Park Avenues at the base of the Route 22 bridge. Mr. Strowe said tree buffering will be planted between the supermarket and the streets to shield houses.
Originally, Lidl was going to lease the entire property from the owners of Snuffy’s/Pantagis and develop the supermarket, the park-and-ride and the retail building, but various conflicts between the two sides as well as between the owners of Snuffy’s delayed progress and ultimately ended the relationship earlier this year.
Mr. Strowe said the revised site plans will require some amendments to the earlier redevelopment plan for the site that was approved by the township council, but he expects the governing body to act on that early in the new year. Among the changes, besides reconfiguring where the buildings will be situated, are the size of grocery store increasing from 29,000 sq. ft. to 31,000 sq. ft.
Mr. Strowe also gave an update on two other private properties being redeveloped. The Jade Isle site at the corner of East Second Street and Terrill Road is set to be turned into a QuickChek convenience store and gas station. He showed conceptual plans for the site and said he expects the township council to consider those plans early next year. Township redevelopment officials are working with Elite Properties, which is seeking to build a three-story mixed-use building at 1770-1772 and 1774-1778 East Second Street — which presently house a bicycle shop and an empty lot — with apartments on the second and third floors and some commercial space on the ground floor along with parking for residents. An earlier bid for approval from the planning board was scuttled after board members questioned the density of the proposed building. Mayor Joshua Losardo said it was “a big development” on that street and “we want to get it right.”
Resident questions and comments encompassed about half of the committee’s 90-minute meeting, its last of the year, with comments ranging from how the park-and-ride will operate to burying power lines in the downtown to flooding risks with the new developments to how the new, lower speed limit on Westfield and Plainfield venues is being enforced. A caller into the meeting asked about possible bike lanes in and nearby the downtown. Mr. Strowe and the mayor said there had been discussions about a bike path under the PSE&G transmission wires parallel to Terrill Road but that the utility quashed the idea due to safety concerns.
A question about the possibility of shared municipal courts led the mayor to say that township officials will soon be meeting with their counterparts from neighboring towns about the matter, which if successful will allow the township to avoid building a new municipal court at the Plainfield Avenue site. “I’m optimistic that it’s going to work out,” the mayor said. Mr. Strowe said he expects a study on whether the site meets the criteria to be declared as an Area in Need of Redevelopment to be completed soon and then evaluated by the planning boar early in 2022. Mayor Losardo said he was hopeful that “by June, we’ll have a [redevelopment] plan written for that site.”
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