The Montclair Planning Board had a light schedule for its March 25 meeting, as it considered an ordinance passed by the Township Council on first reading to prohibit left turns into the parking lot of the planned Lidl supermarket at Lackawanna Plaza from northbound Grove Street and reviewed a plan by the widow of community activist Wally Choice to have her garage converted into accessory housing for herself.
Mike Dannemiller of the traffic consulting firm NV5 said his firm reviewed the possibility of inconvenience from traffic queuing to make a left turn into the lot from Grove Street, and he said his firm projected 60 vehicles queuing up during weekday evening and Saturday peak hours, with an average of only one vehicle for each of the peak hours.He added there is room for at least seven vehicles to line up in the proposed left-turn lane between the intersection of Grove Street and Bloomfield Avenue and the driveway connecting Grove Street to the Lidl parking lot.
“While the northbound left turn could be blocked by southbound vehicles queuing at Bloomfield Avenue,” NV5’s report states, “this queue would not extend back to the Bloomfield Avenue intersection. This northbound through movement on Grove Street is provided with a separate lane which would not be impeded by the northbound left turn queue at the Lackawanna Plaza driveway.” The report, submitted by Dannemiller to Planning Director Janice Talley and shared with Baristanet, was written by Joseph Fishinger, NV5’s director of traffic engineering.
Based on Fishinger’s report, Dannemiller said NV5 did not recommend that left turns into the Lackawanna Plaza lot from Grove Street be prohibited. Instead, NV5 recommended that “the location be monitored after construction is completed and the left turn prohibition enacted only if warranted based on queueing or crash history.” The conclusion was that the separate left-turn lane should provide a steady flow for northbound traffic on Grove Street while not being a terrible inconvenience for southbound traffic on Grove Street.
Left turns from Grove Street southbound into the TD Bank entrance – more of an off-ramp for northbound traffic, like a freeway exit – will remain prohibited under the traffic plan. Board member Anthony Ianuale wanted to know why there was no sign for southbound traffic prohibiting a left turn into the TD Bank entrance. Board member Daniel Gilmer noted that the double yellow line down Grove Street should be enough, and Officer Frederick Cook, who recently joined the planning board, said it is common knowledge that motorists don’t cross the double yellow line to make a turn. Board member Carmel Loughman asked out of curiosity how motorists coming from the north would get into the TD bank, and Chairman John Wynn noted that there is an entrance to the parking lot around TC Bank from Glenridge Avenue, on the Lackawanna Plaza property’s east parcel, though the concession was made that, because of the new apartment building planned for the east parcel, some people might not be aware that access to the TD Bank will be through the parking lot behind the new apartment building.
The board voted to recommend that the council not pass the ordinance restricting turns into the Lidl parking lot off Grove Street, though the board’s Council liaison, Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager, abstained.
Celine Choice, Wally Choice’s widow, then came forward to testify with her son, also named Wally, about the new accessory planned for her house on Pierpont Drive, near Canterbury Park. Mrs. Choice plans to convert the garage of her house into a living space for herself, with a bathroom, bedroom, living room and kitchen. Mrs. Choice plans to have her son and his family move in with her and occupy the rest of the house. In addition, the existing driveway would be expanded to the eastern side of the property and wrap around the house’s eastern side to produce more parking space. The accessory dwelling will also be connected to the main house.
The application was passed unanimously with little debate. William Scott of the Montclair Housing Commission welcomed the planned conversion, saying that it brought visibility to the need for more senior accessory housing in town. It passed with the conditions that it be subjected to an annual certificate of occupancy and that the accessory dwelling be removed once it is no longer occupied.
The board had also planned to hear an application on the new structure for HVAC units to be used by the Bellaire House high-rise condominium apartments on Valley Road, a project already reviewed by the Development Review Committee earlier in the month, but it was postponed until the board’s April 8 meeting.
The video of the meeting is here: