Tempers Flare, Residents Get Their Chance At The Mic At Latest B9 Warehouse Hearing

CROSS-EXAMINATION – Carlos Rodrigues, right, is cross-examined by attorney Peter Lanfrit during the September 6 Planning Board hearing on the proposed B9 warehouse project.

Tempers flared at the penultimate Planning Board hearing on a proposed two-warehouse development at Mettlers and Schoolhouse roads on September 6.

The tension came when Peter Lanfrit, the applicant’s attorney, was blocked from presenting a witness because a report on what the witness would testify to had not been submitted to the Board.

Visibly agitated, Lanfrit said, “why don’t you just vote to deny the application so we can institute our law suit.”

That statement was met with catcalls from the audience, the large majority of whom were Canal Walk residents opposed to the development.

Also during the meeting, the Board decided to hear a fleshed-out version of a suggestion to create a third, 24-foot-wide driveway on the site, made by Board engineer Darren Mazzei.

Mazzei said he made the suggestion because a third driveway would separate auto traffic from truck traffic, and would also allow for the construction of a wall preventing truck drivers from turning left onto Schoolhouse Road.

One of the opposition’s expert witnesses, Carlos Rodrigues, came under fire from Board member Robert Thomas, who criticized the engineer for what he said was the man’s inability to completely answer questions posed to him by Lanfrit.

“Did you visit teh site?” Thomas asked Rodrigues.

Rodrigues said that he had driven by the site.

“It’s usually a good idea to visit or be acquainted with the site,” he said./

“And yet, you can’t answer half the questions,” Thomas said.

“I did answer them,” Rodrigues protested.

“No, you didn’t,” Thomas said. “As an expert witness giving testimony, the questions that were asked of you, you should be able to repeat the answers back to us by memory. In my mind, you have absolutely no credibility.”

Thomas, who is also chairman of the Township Zoning Board of Adjustment, is known to have no truck with expert witnesses who do not seem to have a grasp on their material.

Thomas was backed up by Board chairman Michael Orsini, who, after hearing Rodrigues testify that he created his reports using area maps and other reports, told Rodrigues that, “if you’re doing them from maps and reports, rather than the memory of your brief Sunday drive, which is completely understandable, I would think you’d be able to answer those questions in a more precise way.”

“Perhaps Mr. Thomas was harsh, but I have a hard time disagreeing with the basic premise,” he said. “Your testimony doesn’t give us a warm fuzzy feeling that you are facile with this particular area.”

The Planning Board has been hearing the application, proffered by Link Logistics, to build a 144,450-square-foot warehouse and a 70,970-square-foot warehouse on the property that is across the street from the Canal Walk 55-and-over residential development.

Canal Walk residents have formed a citizens’ group and hired an attorney to help fight the development.

The September 6 meeting was a chance mainly for the public to ask questions of the opposition’s experts, and to make their general statement about the project.

The questions and statements offered by the public dealt mainly with noise created by trucks visiting the warehouses.

Several residents were left stranded at the podium when Orsini declared a 10 p.m. cut-off.

Those who did not get a chance to speak will be able to do so at the last hearing on the matter which is set for September 26. It is then that Mazzei is expected to present his idea for the third driveway.

The September 26 hearing, as it stands now, will be the last hearing on the application, and will include a final vote. That’s because there is a September 30 deadline for the Board to vote on the application, and Link Logistics has refused to grant the Board an extension into October.

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