B9 Warehouse Application Hearing Continues; Changes To Plan Get Cold Reception

PAYING RAPT ATTENTION – More than 200 people crowded into the Board of Education community room at its Route 27 administrative campus July 5 for the third hearing on the proposed B9 warehouses.

Testimony on changes to a plan to build more than 200,000 square feet of warehouse space at Mettlers and Schoolhouse roads elicited sometimes aggressive questioning from members of the Planning Board and the public at the Board’s July 5 meeting.

Most of the questioning centered on how well-screened from nearby residential properties the project would be.

This was third hearing on the plan, known as B9 Schoolhouse Owner, which calls for the construction of one 144,450-square-foot warehouse and one 70,970-square-foot warehouse on the 20-acre lot.

The plan has been vociferously opposed by residents of Canal Walk, the 55-and-over active adult community that sits across Mettlers Road from the target site.

The testimony heard at the July 5 meeting was originally planned to be heard at the Board’s June 22 meeting, but the exhibits that were to be used were excluded because they were not provided to the Board, township staff or the attorney for Canal Walk objectors in the time prior to that meeting prescribed by law.

As has been the practice for all of these hearings, the meeting venue was changed from the Township Council chamber to the Board of Education community room at its Route 27 administration campus.

And, as has been the case at previous meetings, more than 200 people – most of them Canal Walk residents – were in attendance.

Changes detailed in the testimony of three return witnesses, Kyle Kavinsky, the project’s engineer; Bryan Hanes, the project’s landscape architect, and William Westhafer, the project’s overall architect, included the addition of 301 trees, the reduction in the number of windows in part of the building that fronts Mettler Road, and the strategic placement of certain types of trees in an effort to screen as much as possible of the project from Canal Walk neighbors.

Computer-generated slides shown during the meeting were intended to depict what the property’s perimeter would look like once the trees were mature. That effort seemed to cause more problems for the application.

Board chairman Michael Orsini was not pleased after he was told that only about 30 percent of the trees to be planted are evergreens.

“I don’t think that’s high enough,” he said. “I think I made that comment the last time, that we’d really like to see more year-round evergreen trees.”

Orsini noted that all but one of the slides presented by the applicant, Link Logistics, to show the landscaping depicted summer scenes.

“I don’t believe the renderings accurately reflect what we’re going to see,” he said. “That’s why I think we need more evergreen landscaping as a proportion, because you have got to do something to screen on a year-round basis.”

Other Board members explored issues such as the number of mature trees that would be planted, as a means to shorten the years-long process for the trees to grow into some sort of reliable screening.

The Board was told that it’s harder to plant more mature trees because the larger they are, the more likely they are to fail.

Board members were also not pleased with the news that the property would not have permanent irrigation, especially in light of the fact that Link is going to plant more than 800 trees on the property.

“You get four weeks of rain like we had in May, you’re going to end up with not much going on,” Orsini said. :There should be some irrigation. If my neighbors can lose trees in four weeks, I can only imagine what that would do on this scope, so that needs to be addressed.”

Bryan Hanes, the project’s landscape architect, said that the project will be applying for certification under the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program, and that only temporary irrigation is allowed.

He said irrigation issues would be handled by a watering truck.

Members of the public, including Stuart Lieberman, the attorney representing the Canal Walk residents, aggressively questioned Link’s three witnesses over an extended period of time on issues of screening, tree planting, light pollution and noise pollution.

Representatives from the township’s political establishment also weighed in on the application, with aggressive questioning on the same topics by Brian Levine, who is running for Mayor on the Republican ticket, and Joe Danielsen, the Democrat running for re-election to his state Assembly seat.

Danielsen also had several back-and-forths with Peter Lanfrit, Link’s attorney in this application. At one point, Lanfrit interrupted Danielsen to ask, “Is that a question?”

“You don’t tell me what to say,” Danielsen said. “This is my town.”

The hearing on the application will resume at the Board’s July 19 meeting at the BOE community room.

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