The board heard the application again for the first time at its July 14 meeting and after listening to nearly 3 hours of testimony, still did not reach a decision.
The 5-count lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kennedy Auto Service Inc. and Excellency Enterprise, LLC, which are an Exxon station at 150 State Route 35, Gas of Eatontown, Inc., which is a Citgo station at 24 State Route 35, on Feb. 24. The business owners are looking to have all approvals for the project deemed null and void, for the developers, Fidelity Eatontown, LLC, to not begin any construction and reimbursement of legal fees.
The gas station business owners contested that their professionals were not given a chance to testify before the board when it originally voted to approve the project on Dec. 16, 2013.
The objector’s attorney, William Potter, said in his opening statement that because of the types of variances needed the Wawa developers, the case should be heard by the Eatontown Zoning Board and not the planning board.
Eatontown Planning Board’s Attorney Mark Steinberg disagreed and said he felt the correct board was hearing the case and that the planning board should continue to hear the application as Potter’s point was not raised in the lawsuit.
“The appeal that was filed by Mr. Potter on behalf of his clients did not raise this,” Steinberg said. “This specific issue…is something for a court to determine.”
“You can’t deny that this is going to go to court and the court is going to reverse you, there’s no question in mind about that,” Potter said.
However, the board still continued the application and heard testimony from the objector’s planner, Sean Muronski and traffic expert, Gordon Meth.
Moronski argued that the borough’s ordinance which does not allow a new gas station to be built within 2,000 feet of an existing one and does not allow it to be within 200 feet of a residential area, should be followed and that granting a variance to bypass it was not correct.
Meth argued that a traffic study he performed showed him that the applicant’s traffic expert’s findings on the site’s impact to the area were not correct.
“I believe the trip generations were grossly understated,” Meth said.
He said his own study generated nearly triple the amount of trips during the morning peak hours and Saturday peak hours and nearly double the amount of evening peak hour trips. He also said the additional traffic would make it harder to make a left turn from westbound Wyckoff Road to southbound Route 35.
“It is a high number of trips concentrated in a high traffic area of town,” Meth said.
Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, who sits on the planning board, said he the large discrepancy in numbers concerned him.
“I’m a little apprehensive about accepting the information you’ve provided tonight,” Tarantolo said.
Board member Mark Woloshin suggested that the board’s engineer should check out the study before the application continues.
Board Chariman Carl Sohl agreed and set the next meeting for Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m.