Once again on tonight’s agenda for the Middletown Planning Board is a continuation of the public hearing concerning the controversial Four Ponds (Avaya) Redevelopment plan. Tonight’s meeting will be the 5th such hearing on the redevelopment plan that, if allowed to move forward, will approve the building of 342 high density housing units (270 townhouses and 72 apartments) in Lincroft.
Since the first Planning Board hearing on this issue took place back on May 4th , these meeting have been extremely well attended and have filled the Middletown Court Room (where the meetings are held) with area residents expressing their disapproval of this planned high density, residential redevelopment of the former Avaya industrial site. The main concern of these residents isn’t so much about the number of homes being built as it is about the traffic and safety concerns that need to be properly addressed on the local roads as a result of these homes being built.
The roads over in the Lincroft area are already congested and often impassable during the rush hour or when Brookdale Community College is in session; the intersection that comprises Newman Springs Rd/520, Middletown Lincroft Rd and Swimming River Rd is a nightmare and getting into and out of the shopping centers that surround this intersection is nearly impossible at times. West Front St won’t be easy to navigate around either once residential cars from the redevelopment start to pour out of the back entrance of the site and onto the road.
Safety concerns for area residents are valid especially when you factor in “cut-through” streets like Turnberry, Whispering Pines, Jumping Brook, Hillside; cars looking to avoid the congestion of the main roads will no doubt filter through the side streets looking for short-cuts around the traffic. Pedestrians and other vehicles parked on these residential streets will be placed at a higher risk for harm which does not exist now.
That’s why when at the last Planning Board meeting held on August 3rd, Traffic Engineer John Rea presented to the board the results of a traffic study that was completed during March last year, residents were right to question its’ validity.
According to the Brookdale College 2010 academic calendar spring break was held during this time and campus activities were limited, so a representative study wasn’t possible. Rea went on to state that there was a follow up traffic study completed during the week of May 16th 2011 to show that traffic didn’t change much.
Coincidentally however, the Brookdale Community College spring semester ended the week before and Christian Bother’s Academy had a shortened academic week and held graduation during this time period. So again, the validity of this follow up traffic study was in question.
Based on this information, I would think that another, more representative study should be completed by a third party before further discussions on the redevelopment of the Avaya site proceeds.
A new study needs to be completed that includes the areas from the intersections of 520/Half Mile Rd, 520/Middletown Lincroft Rd and future developments west of Garden State Parkway. Surrounding areas and planned developments (Bamm Hollow) need to be included and thought out to show the real impact on the community. The study should be done at the peak of traffic season, possible during the 2nd week of October, when the fall session is in full swing at Brookdale for example, to ensure that a true representative sample of traffic conditions are taken. In addition another study should be done during a weekend when residents are home and out shopping to show what the difference in traffic conditions would be. These studies should be done to provide data for a worse-case scenario and provide plans to mitigate traffic increases during peak times.
Before moving forward with this redevelopment of the Avaya site, the Planning Board needs to make sure that a true, accurate and representative traffic study is performed that will take into consideration the concerns of Lincroft and other area residents. This new study should be done by a firm mutually agreed to by Four Ponds Developers, Middletown and the residents that are fighting the planned redevelopment of Avaya, with the costs of the new traffic study being split between the three.