The Wyckoff Planning Board voted unanimously Monday to allow Inserra Supermarkets to go ahead with its plan to build a massive grocery store on an abandoned Greenwood Avenue commercial site, in spite of some board members' lingering concerns regarding a potential increase in traffic on township roads.
"Redevelopment of this site is what I think is needed," said Wyckoff Planning Board Member Scott Fisher. "It will bring jobs to the community and the surrounding area [and] it will beautify the area."
Each of the planning board's nine members voted in support of the application, which asked the land use board to consider requested variances for issues such as lot depth requirement, buffer width, parking stall size, sign regulations and design issues such as non-compliant slope.
Board Member Robert Kane called the three-plus year process leading up to Monday's vote a "long, arduous road," but stressed that the deliberation on the Inserra application had not taken "too long."
"To those who believe this process should have been shortened, circumvented or rushed: If you believe that than you just don't get the process," Kane said. "We the planning board have an obligation to the town to make sure that we have afforded everyone the opportunity to have their voices heard and their positions set forth."
Similarly, Planning Board Member Doug Christie called the Inserra application a "big deal" for Wyckoff, and said that he wasn't surprised nor taken aback by the duration of the application process.
"I don't think the application took that long," Christie said. "This is very important for our township; there are not many parcels of property left and whatever we do we want to make sure we get it right."
The time invested by attorneys, experts, and board members was well spent, said Christie, who is also a Wyckoff Township Committeeman.
Christie, however, voiced a strongly-cautious approval for the project, citing a potential traffic situation on one of the streets adjacent the ShopRite site
"I'm very concerned, and I'm not the least bit comfortable with the entrance off Greenwood Avenue and that parking lot design," Christie said. "Leaving that up to 'We'll figure that out later if it doesn't work,' is a poor design — we've spent two and a half years, we ought to get that right."
Vehicle traffic at food stores is especially intense in the days leading up to weather events and holidays, Christie said, and should that volume reach a critical mass, "that could be a huge bottleneck for us.
"So, I am concerned about traffic."
Planning Board Member Doug Macke, however, posited that were the existing supermarket and small strip mall that now sit vacant on the Greenwood Avenue lot to be re-inhabited rather than razed to make way for a ShopRite, traffic would increase on the streets of Wyckoff and the planning board would have no say on the matter.
"While traffic is a concern, I don't know that it is an overriding concern," Macke said before giving the application his blessing.
"Traffic was a concern when the YMCA started their summer camp, does that mean there should be no summer camp?" asked Planning Board Member Jaime McGuire before casting her vote in support of the application.
Planning Board Chairman Richard Bonsignore said that many of the issues that were raised by opponents of the application throughout the process were mirrored by the application that eventually led to the development of Boulder Run.
"The concern of traffic — and I do feel it is going to be of a concern — how is it more of a concern that it was with Boulder Run?" Bonsignore said.
Bonsignore said there was an economic motivation in approving the application, as well.
"To have a thriving entity come into this community and create traffic, I think, also creates life and movement and could, in turn, have people introduced to adjacent businesses and that is part of the master plan," Bonsignore said.
The public had twice been given the opportunity to speak up regarding the project, and has been generally favorable to the application. The few persistent voices expressing trepidation with another supermarket in Wyckoff had been residents worried about this potential increase in traffic.
Following the unanimous vote approving the application, Attorney Robert J. Inglima, Jr., said the board's decision was "not unexpected."
Inglima, who represents Munico Associates and Wyckoff Residential — effectively the interests of the Hekemian family and Boulder Run — did not want to comment on a potential future appeal of the board's decision before first seeing its official resolution.
The Wyckoff Planning Board's next meeting in scheduled for Dec. 12, at 7:30 p.m.
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