Representatives of Inserra Supermarkets plan to continue to revise landscaping plans for the proposed ShopRite project after going over details of suggested plantings with members of the Shade Tree Commission.
Attorney James Jaworski and landscape architect Scott Koenig appeared before the commission Tuesday night to discuss a report issued last month that called for various planting measures designed to soften the impact of the proposed project while shading it for the benefit of homeowners, shoppers and passers-by.
"What we're trying to do is establish a dialogue for making the project as good as it can possibly be," said Jaworski, of the firm Wells, Jaworski & Liebman.
Both the Inserra representatives and the commission expressed a willingness to be flexible on suggestions at this stage in the approval process, especially since the report was issued before Inserra submitted revised architectural renderings for the township's Design Review Board to vet.
"The more changes you make at this stage effects the amount of landscaping that you can have or not have," said Committeeman Kevin Rooney, liaison to the commission.
One area of disagreement had been Shade Tree's suggestion for a brick standing wall on the Greenwood Avenue side of the project, which is proposed to take the place of the old A&P, adjacent to Boulder Run.
"Our preference is to go with what we think is a softer look... of using earthen berms as well as a mix of plant materials," Koenig said Tuesday.
Rooney said that the concern of the commissioners, who conducted site tours to compile their report, was in the amount of debris a shopping center would generate, which could potentially impact those living on Greenwood Avenue.
"A berm is not going to trap it," Rooney said.
In response, Koenig said he could place a "tightly-spaced" evergreen hedge that would provide a barrier that would be a "softer solution" than a brick wall.
"We're concerned about creating a physical barrier," Jaworski said.
Rooney said the commission wasn't insisting that a brick wall be constructed; rather, whatever is eventually installed must be able to trap debris.
"We understand the goal. We'll find a way to accomplish that," Jaworski said.
Shade Tree also had proposed additional plantings on the Main Street side of the supermarket, primarily to screen the building from the businesses and motorists on that road. However, the Design Review Board also had expressed concerns about the view from Main Street, prompting Inserra architect Thomas Ashbahian to propose new elements designed to make that elevation more visually appealing.
Given the proposed changes, Koenig said he'd prefer "to increase the greenery... but do it to accent the facade rather than screen it or hide it."
Rooney said the commission understood the desire given the proposed architectural changes. "We understand that there has to be some flexibility as you work through the different boards," he said.
Shade Tree also had suggested in its report that Inserra consider reducing the planned 403 parking stalls in favor of additional plantings, and Koenig said that Inserra could comply.
"We do have the ability to play with some of the excess parking and use that to create additional landscaping," he said.
Some of those stalls could come from the railroad side of the property, almost at Wyckoff Avenue, where you would "just see a big void of parking" without more greenery, Rooney said.
"That's the area that's not screened at all," he said.
Koenig agreed that he would keep a desired double-row of plantings in the center of the parking lot while breaking up the lot by installing plantings between stalls, as Rooney suggested.
Shade Tree's recommendations are not binding, but they will be taken under advisement by members of the Planning Board, which has authority over the proposed project.
Inserra next must go back before Design Review to present their revised renderings. That hearing, initially scheduled for March 15, has been moved to March 31 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. As with Shade Tree, Design Review's work is solely for the benefit of the Planning Board as it considers the Inserra application.
The Planning Board isn't likely to begin hearings until all work has been completed by Design Review and Shade Tree. The board's March meeting has been canceled due to a lack of business.