Traffic is the current focus concerning a project called The Views at Highland that has been proposed for 3715-3725 Route 9W in the area of Chapel Hill Road, South Chapel Hill Road and Mayer Drive.
The proposed project consists of two, three story mixed use buildings that have retail and office space on the ground floors and 22 apartments in the upper two floors of each building.
Land Use attorney Taylor M. Palmer, of Cuddy & Feder, acknowledged that traffic is the “big issue” surrounding this proposed project. A new supplemental document was submitted to the board with an updated traffic report containing draft mitigation measures. He said the project, as proposed, is an “as of right use and a very limited one at that, based on how the zoning is for this district.”
Andrew Villari, of Stonefield Engineering & Design, touched upon the amount of traffic the project will generate and how they will deal with it.
Villari pointed out that traffic coming into the site from the north is a right in, right out via Route 9W. Traffic arriving from the south would have to go left on Chapel Hill Road, then right onto South Gate Road, another right onto Mayer Drive and finally a left into the project site. He said they are proposing instead for the town to change South Chapel Hill Road from a one-way south to two way, allowing cars to come up to Mayer Drive and go left and then right into the proposed Views site. He said this suggestion eliminates traffic from winding through the residential South Gate Road and Mayer Drive.
Board Chairman Fred Pizzuto said there would still be impacts from commercial traffic servicing the first floor entities that front onto Route 9W. Villari said all of the residential and commercial traffic flows were considered in the new study.
Town Engineer Andrew Learn voiced concerns about this new suggested traffic pattern.
“I worry about the stop line going north on South Chapel Hill Road; that concerns me a little bit in terms of the potential for accidents,” he said. Chairmen Pizzuto pointed out that traffic is coming south onto South Chapel Hill Road at abut 50 mph. Learn concluded, saying, “other than that I think it’s a good solution but it only solves one of our issues; It doesn’t solve the issue of a left hand turn from South Chapel Hill Road onto Chapel Hill Road, a backup that inevitably will happen there.” Villari said if a “small pocket” were incorporated at this point, vehicles would be able to turn left towards Route 9W while allowing cars to turn right without a backup. Villari said the expense for this fix would be worked out between the applicant and the town. The Planning Board, however, said the town would not pay for this solution.
Attorney Palmer said they are at a preliminary point in the process. Pizzuto said moving traffic off of South Gate Road and up through the neighborhood, “was never going to happen. This is a step in the right direction.”
Board member Lambros Violaris questioned this “step in the right direction,” pointing out that this project will create additional traffic issues due to the possibility of a Stewart’s Shop and an Auto Zone store going in across Route 9W.
“The traffic is going to be exponentially a lot higher versus that car dealership [corner of Route 9W and Chapel Hill Road] that gets virtually no traffic coming in and out,” he said. “This is definitely going to have to be studied and drilled down a little deeper because there is going to be a hot bed of activity just in that little 100 to 150 foot area with traffic going in and out, now going in both directions, especially on that little corner, and then you throw in the Route 9W traffic with all the other projects going in.”
Villari insisted they have looked at the amount of traffic going south on Route 9W and South Chapel Hill Road and consulted with the Department of Transportation. He said the DOT indicated there may not be enough “gaps” in traffic to make a right turn out and also whether there is enough space for a car to make a turn out. Villari, however, told the board, “it will all be all right in the future. That is what our analysis shows.”
The board and the project representatives indicated that further discussion will take place on the project at the next few Planning Board meetings.