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Changes Expected to ShopRite Design

Residents, Design board urge revisions to better reflect character of downtown

The design of the ShopRite proposed for the old A&P site on Greenwood Avenue is expected to change, after representatives heard from residents and the Design Review Board. 

"We will be back at the drawing board, literally," said Thomas Ashbahian, the project architect.

A crowd filled the Municipal Courtroom Monday night to hear Ashbahian and attorney James Jaworski present Inserra Supermarkets' plan to the Design Review Board, a township advisory body that occasionally convenes to vet proposed projects' design specifications. 

Board members and residents both raised concerns about the project's current design, feeling that the all-brick building proposed for the site is not within the character of the township.  Several characterized the proposal as having the look of a big-box store, rather than a Colonial feel that would be more in keeping with nearby buildings.

Jaworski repeatedly said that Inserra was willing to modify its proposals to please both township government and residents. 

"We will be cooperative," the attorney said. "We have no reason not to make this the best it can be."

Similarly, Ashbahian said, "There is no preconceived notion of what the building has to look like."

Board member Barbara Daley said the ShopRite plan doesn't exactly conform with the nearby buildings but thinks there is the ability to create a store that is compatible with the feel of downtown. 

Mayor Rudy Boonstra, the liaison to the Design Review Board, suggested that Inserra may have the "wrong look, especially in light of the fact that it's adjacent to Main Street."

Presently, the project calls for the destruction of both the old A&P building and the strip mall that houses several stores. Inserra has called for a 62,174-square-foot store that would not exactly track the footprint of the present building. Rather, it would be angled more toward the railroad tracks on its eastern edge, with room for parking around the western edge of the building, along Greenwood Avenue. The parking lot would be lined by landscaped islands, and various trees and shrubs would be planted along the perimeter, more than doubling the current greenery.

Ashbahian said his design calls for brick, with a bit of concrete in the loading dock areas in the back of the store. His renderings "suggest a metal roof," which he described as durable, but said he will take direction from the board if they prefer another material, such as asphalt shingle. The footprint of the building is a bit irregular, not an exact rectangle. Furthermore, the planned facade isn't uniformly flat across the building. Rather, there are various gable elements and brick arches designed to make the building more attractive. The majority of the building would be red brick, although lighter colors would be incorporated to break up the look of the building.

"We like to feel we've created a building that has a pedestrian scale," the architect said.

Resident Michael Brienza, the co-chairman of the Friends of Wyckoff, urged the Inserra representatives and the board to take a look at a ShopRite on Main Street in Lodi, which he praised as particularly attractive. That building, also red brick, is rounded, with an irregular roof line and has green awnings over the windows. The signage is contained on the building itself. Essentially, that ShopRite doesn't immediately announce itself as a supermarket.

Jaworski said he and Ashbahian would go to Lodi to take a look at the building. Board chairman Lawrence Skott told Brienza that the finished product in Wyckoff likely wouldn't be far from the look of the Lodi supermarket.

Residents and board members also were concerned about truck traffic to the site. Ashbahian and Jaworski said they anticipate trucks entering off of Wyckoff Avenue, driving up the railroad side of the site, unloading their deliveries around the back of the building, and exiting onto Greenwood Avenue, either making a left to head back toward Wyckoff Avenue or a right to head toward Godwin Avenue. Jaworski said a traffic study also would be submitted to the Planning Board, which will eventually decide to grant or deny several variances needed to construct the project.

Other residents, especially those who live nearby, were concerned about lighting. Ashbahian said lighting on the building itself would be "purely decorative," and Jaworski said their task would be to insulate residents from bright lights. Skott said streetscape lighting along the perimeter of the site may be appropriate.

The Planning Board, which meets Wednesday, isn't likely to begin hearings on the project until February or March. Inserra will have to come back before the Design Review Board with revised plans, and those board members will eventually submit recommendations to the Planning Board. Similarly, the Shade Tree Commission expects to complete a report on the site's landscaping plans within the next two weeks, which also will be submitted to the Planning Board. Neither Shade Tree nor Design Review can issue binding instructions, but their input will be considered at the Planning Board, which can incorporate the recommendations as condition of approval of the project.

The Design Review Board has not yet set a date for its next meeting.

Opposition

Over the weekend, some residents in the township received a pink postcard in the mail urging attendance at the Design Review Board and Planning Board meetings, urging residents not to "let developers run over our community with another Boulder Run type development." The flier, sent out by a group calling itself the "Wyckoff Residents for Responsible Development," urged residents to contact the Township Committee with their concerns, although the governing body does not have a role in approving or denying variances needed for the project.

Speculation abounds about who is funding the postcards, which follows a similar mailer in the fall that urged residents to contact the Planning Board chairman with concerns. Inquiries sent via e-mail and Twitter to the group were not answered as of Tuesday morning.

Brienza told the assembled crowd and board that the Friends of Wyckoff had nothing to do with either mailing. Many of the Friends, a nonprofit that urges open space preservation, Smart Growth and historic preservation, had been critical of the Boulder Run project's look and approval process. While the Friends have urged their membership to attend meetings and learn about the ShopRite proposal, the group has not come out against the project. Rather, they hope to see a building that is consistent with the township's character that takes into account environmental concerns on the site.

The most recent postcard urges attendance at Wednesday's Planning Board meeting. While it is a public meeting open to all, there will not be a formal discussion of the ShopRite proposal. Rather, the meeting is expected to be brief, focusing on its own reorganization, as the body is welcoming several new members.

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