By JOHN T. WARD
A bid to create a last-chance coffee stop in Red Bank for Parkway-bound commuters got underway at the zoning board Thursday night.
Among the issues: what if it’s really popular?
Over nearly three hours of testimony, engineers hired by the owner of the Shell gas station at Newman Springs Road and Shrewsbury Avenue defended a proposed addition of a Dunkin’ Donuts to site.
The shop, with seating for 12 and a drive-thru lane along the western edge of the property, would replace the existing convenience store and car wash. A use variance is needed for the combined food and retail sales.
The proposal, by station owner Waseem Chaudhary, comes five years after his plan to add a 7-Eleven to the site was shot down by the borough planning board. A number of helpful ideas came from those hearings and were incorporated into the current plan, which features less lot coverage and improved traffic flow, civil engineer James Henry told the board.
Among them: the pumps would be reoriented to an east-west configuration, from the current north-south lineup, Henry said. And unlike the 7-Eleven, which was to have been open 24 hours a say, the Dunkin’ Donuts would be open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., while gas sales would continue 24 hours a day, he said.
Board members pressed Henry and traffic engineer Nicholas Verderese about the movement of cars into and through the site, and the challenges posed when there’s a surge of customers for gas and coffee, or when a tanker truck is making a gasoline delivery.
“The safety improvements we’ve made here far outweigh the additional traffic,” Verderese said. Among the changes: turns would be limited to right-ins and right-outs, meaning that drivers heading eastbound on Newman Springs would not be permitted to enter the site.
“That’s not going to happen,” said board member Sean Murphy. With the addition of the coffee stop, “I’m concerned there’s going to be even more people trying to make that left, even though you don’t want them to.
“That, to me, would be horrendous at that intersection,” he said.
“We’re trying to make it as difficult as possible,” with the installation of large concrete islands, Verderese responded.
Verderese noted, also, that local drivers hankering for Dunkin’ Donuts have two nearby options — one at Newman Springs and Broad Street, and one on southbound Shrewsbury Avenue, each of which is accessible without having to cross a busy traffic lane.
The owner of those two shops is the prospective tenant of the proposed one, he said.
The hearing was ajourned with additional testimony still to be given by a planner. In addition, former mayor Ed McKenna, an attorney representing the owner of the Exxon station at the intersection, is expected to cross-examine the Shell professionals.
The hearing was scheduled to resume March 21.
Another board matter, a proposal to add two stories to 42 Monmouth Street, was postponed until February 21 at the applicant’s request.