The Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on the Stop & Shop site in the old Saks building on Millburn Avenue has been postponed twice since December, but it is set to continue tonight with testimony from traffic engineers and planners about the effect of a 69,000-square-foot grocery store would have on the area.
Though the meeting starts at 7 p.m., there are other cases on the Zoning Board of Adjustment's agenda so it will probably not get started until closer to 8 p.m., officials say.
Although Stop & Shop had an engineer ready to testify in December, the issue was carried over to January because the zoning board wanted to hire an engineer, a traffic engineer and a planner to be at the next meeting to hear and review testimony and, if necessary, conduct an independent study. Those consultants weren't hired by January.
Stop & Shop attorney Gail Price is seeking an interpretation of the ordinance because she said she did not believe it is applicable to this case, which involves a 20-foot section of right-of-way on Millburn Avenue – the rest of the property is in Springfield, and Springfield, Union County, Essex County and the Department of Transportation have all signed off on the project, she said.
The Township of Millburn is the last holdout.
“This has been going on for 16 years,” she said after the December meeting. “Meanwhile, it could mean 300 jobs for the area, plus 200 construction jobs.”
Because the 20-foot strip of land in Millburn would contain a driveway that would empty out onto Millburn Avenue, residents are concerned about what that would mean for safety as well as their quality of life.
Millburn & Springfield Residents for Traffic Safety sent a letter to the board saying the traffic would impact the township in the following ways: delay emergency vehicles and pose a risk to pedestrians, many of whom are students at St. Rose of Lima Academy and Millburn High School.
The group, represented at the meeting by former Millburn Mayor Elaine Becker and Rick Sacks, is also concerned about increased noise, air pollution and spillover traffic into the adjacent neighborhoods.
They cite industry standards compiled from the Food Marketing Institute and Progressive Grocer that estimate that a supermarket the size of the proposed Stop & Shop would bring in 20,000 customer cars and 500 delivery trucks and vans entering and leaving the parking lot each week.
“This dramatic traffic increase more than warrants an independent study,” the letter states. “We urge the board to hire a traffic consultant to conduct a new study based on current traffic conditions.”
The Zoning Board’s lawyer, Gail Fraser said she would enter the letter into the file but it was not appropriate to give to board members.
Lawyers for ShopRite and Kings were also present and said they would hire their own engineers and planners as well.
In response to Price’s request for a interpretation as whether the ordinance is applicable to Stop & Shop, Fraser said she thinks the ordinance “applies to you because it’s a public safety issue.”
Price said she hopes the public realizes that the issues as to size of the building and the parking lot have already been decided in Springfield and are not issues that can be re-decided in Millburn because Millburn does not have jurisdiction.