Engineer: Warehouses at Howell site would be constructed over several years

HOWELL – A civil engineer has described the multi-year development process that would take place if the Howell Planning Board approves an application that proposes the construction of nine warehouses at the intersection of Randolph and Oak Glen roads.

The property is in the vicinity of Allenwood-Lakewood and Brook roads and is near Howell’s border with Lakewood.

Testimony regarding the application submitted by Monmouth Commerce Center, LLC, resumed at the board’s June 6 meeting.

Monmouth Commerce Center, the applicant, and Lawrence Katz and Felix Pflaster, as owners, are proposing to construct nine warehouses totaling 1.2 million square feet on a 99-acre parcel. The plan also proposes parking and loading areas, and landscaping throughout the site.

Attorney Meryl Gonchar, of the firm Sills Cummins and Gross P.C., represents Monmouth Commerce Center.

Gonchar has said the warehouses are a permitted use in the Special Economic Development zone where they are being proposed. The applicant is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval from the board.

Returning to testify on behalf of the applicant was civil engineer Steven Cattani, who previously testified there would be no manufacturing, no automotive operations, no toxic materials, no outdoor operations, no tractor-trailer maintenance, no hazardous waste storage, no retail sales and no processing of materials at the site.

He described the proposed buildings as “traditional warehouses” that could contain items such as furniture and plumbing supplies that are awaiting distribution.

Gonchar said no tenants have been lined up for the warehouses.

On June 6, Cattani described a four-phase construction plan that would take between four and five years to complete.

Phase I would see the construction of three buildings on the east side of the property, off-site improvements, a storm water basin and on-site infrastructure for the first three buildings, according to Cattani.

“We would not clear the entire site in Phase I,” he said. “We would clear the site as required for each phase.”

Construction on the property would move from east to west across several years. Phase II would see the construction of warehouses No. 4 and No. 5. Phase III would result in the construction of warehouses No. 6 and No. 7. Phase IV would see the construction of warehouses No. 8 and No. 9, according to Cattani.

When he testified before the board in May, Cattani described a plan to construct five driveways along Randolph Road. He said trucks would only be permitted to use certain driveways.

Board members expressed concern about the number of driveways and asked the applicant’s representatives to consider constructing fewer driveways.

On June 6, the board’s chairman, Robert Nash, asked Gonchar if the applicant had reduced the number of driveways being proposed.

“We are not prepared at this time to change (the number of driveways),” she said, adding that the proposal “is in full compliance with Howell’s ordinance.” She said the applicant’s traffic safety professional would provide additional testimony on that issue.

Cattani said the proposed driveways are 400 feet apart along Randolph Road. He, too, said the traffic safety professional would discuss how trucks would enter the site.

When Cattani concluded his direct testimony, attorney Craig Bossong, of the firm Florio Perrucci Steinhardt and Cappelli, LLC, came forward and said he is representing a group of about 40 residents who are objecting to the application.

Bossong began a cross-examination of Cattani and asked questions regarding planned improvements on Randolph Road and how trucks would access the warehouse property.

Cattani said Randolph Road would remain one lane of travel in each direction. He said it is anticipated that most trucks would approach the site from Route 547 (Lakewood-Farmingdale Road) and turn right into the warehouse property.

Cattani said the driveways would be constructed so a truck driver would not have to enter the lane of oncoming traffic on Randolph Road to make the right turn into the site.

Bossong continued his line of questioning and Cattani deferred some of the questions to the applicant’s traffic safety professional, who has yet to testify.

During the previous hearing regarding the Monmouth Commerce Center, Gonchar said the developer would create a condominium association to manage the common elements of the property, including trash and recycling collection, and storm water management.

Bossong asked questions about that aspect of the application and said, “I think the board should be concerned with how the common elements will be maintained. I think the board has a right to know the makeup of the condo board. If there is a problem (at the site), who are they going to call?”

Gonchar said a condominium association is permitted and she said Howell officials would have the same property maintenance rights they would have at any other development in the community.

She said management would be hired to oversee the daily operation of the warehouse site and suggested that Bossong was “trying to create an issue that doesn’t exist.”

“The board has the right to know who is maintaining the site when problems inevitably occur,” Bossong said in response.

The board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro, suggested that Gonchar and Bossong present case arguments to support their positions at a future meeting.

Testimony on the Monmouth Commerce Center application is expected to resume at the Howell Planning Board’s meeting on June 20 at the Howell municipal building, Route 9.