B9 Warehouse Traffic Expert Grilled At Planning Board Hearing

ON THE HOT SEAT – Corey Chase, a traffic engineer for the developer of the proposed B9 Schoolhouse warehouse project, testifies during the June 21 Planning Board hearing.

The traffic engineer for the proposed B9 warehouses at Schoolhouse and Mettlers roads came under prolonged questioning from the Planning Board and public during a continuation of the application’s hearing at the June 21 Board meeting.

Most of the questions asked of the engineer, Corey Chase, centered on the extent to which Chase accounted for future warehouse development in the area when he was calculating the traffic impact of the B9 warehouses.

Chase testified that according to his calculations, the two warehouses would generate about one vehicular trip per minute — passenger car and truck combined – during peak morning and afternoon rush hours.

Plans call for two buildings on the 20-acre lot, with the first building being 144,450 square feet and the second building measuring 70,970 square feet.

The first building will have 42 loading docks, while the second building will have 18 loading docks. There are planned a total of 105 parking spaces on the property.

The project was brought to the Planning Board by Link Logistics. There were previous hearings on the application in January and May.

The project abuts the Canal Walk and Summerfield active-adult communities. Canal Walk residents have formed a citizen’s group opposed to the project.

Chase, the traffic engineer, testified that during peak weekday hours – defined at 7-9 a.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. – the warehouses would generate 49 total trips in the morning and 52 total trips in the afternoon.

“That correlates to approximately one trip every minute during the peak period,” he said. “We’re approximately at 50 percent of the threshold of what the NJ DOT would consider to be a significant increase in traffic.”

Chase said that 43 of those morning trips would be passenger vehicles and six would be trucks, while 44 of the afternoon trips would be passenger vehicles and eight would be trucks.

“When you look at truck traffic, that correlates to approximately one truck trip every 10 minutes during the peak hour,” Chase said.

That comment elicited skeptical grumbling from the audience of more than 200 people. This hearing, as were others, was held in the community room of the Board of Education’s administrative campus on Route 27.

Chase testified that there would be no degradation in the traffic flow at nearby intersections.

Darren Mazzei, the Township’s contracted engineer, asked Chase why he didn’t incorporate Mazzei’s suggestion that another driveway be added for a small employee parking lot, which, Mazzei said, would allow for a truck-on;ly driveway to be engineered in such a way as to force right turns only onto Schoolhouse Road.

Chase said township ordinance only allows two driveways, plus that passenger vehicle driveway would only serve 32 employee parking stalls.

“Signage on site will show that trucks are not allowed to make the left turn onto Schoolhouse Road,” Chase said.

Responding to a question from Board member Sammy Shaban, Chase said the property would not be able to house a large operation with more truck traffic because there are loading docks on only one side, and there are only 105 parking spaces.

“That’s what’s going to limit the size,” Chase said.

“How do you account for other warehouses that are being developed when it comes to trip counts,” Shaban asked. “There are more warehouses being developed simultaneous to this. So how do we not fall into the trap where, you’re looking at this in a silo, another person is looking at it in a silo, another person is looking at in a silo and another person is looking at it in a silo, and in the aggregate it’s much worse for our town?”

“When we do these reports, we look at approved but not built yet,” Chase said. “We don’t generally look at projects that are in their infancy or pending approval. That is built into the analysis … we do look at things that have been approved but not yet built.”

Shaban also asked if the amount of traffic generated by the warehouses would increase if there were more than one tenant in them.

“It’s common, especially in larger facilities, to have multiple tenants,” Chase said. “We don’t provide a metric breakdown by the number of tenants, it’s only square footage.”

A group of Canal Walk residents have formed a citizen’s group and have hired a lawyer to oppose the project. That attorney, Stuart Lieberman, had some questions of his own.

Lieberman asked Chase why the project has a total of 60 truck bays if there were going to be such small truck traffic.

“Doesn’t that look like a discrepancy to you?” he asked.

“That’s very typical in applications that we see for facilities like this,” Chase said. “The number of bays is provided for flexibility associated with loading. They want trucks to be able to move freely to an open bay, not have to potentially queue up on site and wait for another truck to move to have access to those bays. It’s also not required that those trucks be unloaded immediately.”

“The number of bays provides that flexibility, given that we don’t have an actual tenant at this time … you want to make sure that you can adequately accommodate the needs of those future tenants. But it’s not going to impact those” trip generation numbers, he said.

Somerset Run resident Dave Robinson asked Chase if his traffic study, which was written in Febryary 2022 and updated in April 2023, included new traffic counts. Chase told him that they “relied on prior counts.”

“So you’re basing the entire study on four hours’ worth of work,” Robinson said.

“That is correct and that is typical,” Chase said.

“Do you think that makes sense, given all the development in the area?” Robinson asked.

“I do, sir,” Chase said. “It’s typical that we conduct one day of traffic counts on what we consider a typical day and utilize those to generate our reports.”

Alex Straus of Hazlitt Way asked Chase if he agreed that the traffic impact studies don’t take into consideration how people feel about the traffic generated by a particular project.

“If they already think it’s bad, you put a few more trucks on … it doesn’t take into account the human element,” he said.

“(T)the perception should be that there should not be a detrimental impact,” Chase said.

There was some tension at the hearing’s start,over three exhibits that Peter Lanfrit, the B9 Schoolhouse attorney, wanted to introduce.

Board members at the May meeting asked for more detailed drawings for the project’s site plan, landscaping plan and architectural plan.

Lanfrit was preparing to introduce those new drawings as exhibits when he was asked by Board attorney Eric Bernstein if anyone else had seen them.

“No,” Lanfrit replied.

Lieberman objected to the introduction, saying that because he hadn’t seen the drawings, he wouldn’t know what questions to ask.

“My concern is that nobody’s seen these and I think it’s unfair to produce them at the last minute,” he said. “I have no way of cross-examining, I don’t know what we’re going to see. The Board’s professionals haven’t seen them either.”

“There’s nothing requiring us to submit them in advance,” Lanfrit said.

Bernstein said that there is a requirement for all submissions to be made at least 10 days in advance of a hearing.

“The 10-day requirement for product of exhibits is for the purpose of allowing the public to know what is going to be presented at the hearing,” he said.

Lanfrit said that requirement was just for the Covid pandemic, but Bernstein said it was still in effect.

After huddling a few minutes with Board chairman Michael Orsini and Vince Dominach, the Township Economic Development head, Bernstein said that he had come to a decision.

“Your witnesses are going to introduce the exhibits this evening and we are going to mark them,” he told Lanfrit. “You will then supply them to the Planning Department and to Mr. Lieberman by the end of the week.”

“That’s the price of doing things at the last minute,” Bernstein said.

After a short consultation of his own, Lanfrit said, “Rather than just show pictures and not talk about them … I will submit them to the Board in the next day or two. I will get a copy to Mr. Lieberman and we can talk about them at the next meeting. Just showing pictures without any explanation doesn’t make any sense.”

The next hearing is set for July 5 at 7:30 p.m., in the BOE administrative building on Route 27.

At that meeting, Lanfrit is expected to introduce the exhibits he was barred from introducing at the June 21 hearing, and Lieberman is expected to introduce testimony from a hydro-geologist, a planner and a noise expert.

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