BERKELEY, NJ — Preliminary approval was granted to a proposed development off Station Road, on the condition that the developers make several changes and adjustments to the project before returning for final approval.

The 24-home development was met with some resistance by neighbors on Station Road and Brittany Drive, who shared concerns about traffic and detention basins. These concerns previously delayed the project’s approval. Read more: Traffic Concerns Further Delay 24-Home Development In Berkeley

At the latest Planning Board meeting, neighbors and board members still had some concerns, so while preliminary approval was granted, developers must return once more after amending the plan again.

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Ryan Murphy, the applicant’s attorney, said that they were amenable to the changes and has been listening to neighbors’ concerns from the beginning. It was because of this that the meeting was pushed to January, as at the prior meeting, residents said they wanted to hear from a traffic expert and get information about the environmental impact.

Traffic was perhaps the biggest concern, as Station Road is a busy road. Scott Kennel shared the details of a traffic study completed on Dec. 15, 2022 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Dec. 16, 2022 from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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Kennel said his analysis concluded that only one point of access would be needed for the development, based on the estimate that there would be 240 trips per day. The proposed new intersection for the neighborhood would “operate at great levels of service,” Kennel said.

Neighbor David Blackford questioned this, as he noted that much of the traffic happens before 7 a.m. – Berkeley Township Elementary School, which has students from the whole town, starts at 7:15 a.m.

Kennel, who noted that he had been doing these studies for 40 years, said that the hours studied are still peak hours, and that adjusting the hours “would not materially change the results of our findings.”

Another neighbor, Elisa Suarez, said there had been new homes since 2022 built on Hickory Lane that used Station Road.

Kennel replied that the analysis considered an increase in traffic using 10-year growth estimates, so that was considered. Also, a traffic light at Hickory and Route 9 is forthcoming, township officials said.

Planning Board Chairman Nick Mackres added that as the town continues to grow, “adding some traffic is inevitable.”

Penelope Griber, an environmental consultant, said that there were no wetlands and no threatened or endangered species found on the 11.74 acre property.

There are “non-regulated species” on the site, meaning animals like deer, birds, squirrels and rabbits, which will be displaced by construction, but Griber said these animals often repopulate in nearby areas in these instances.

Concessions were made by the applicant in order to get approval. A change from the previous meeting was the moving of one detention basin into the middle of the site and the shortening of another. They agreed to further move back that basin in order to get final approval.

After speaking with residents during a brief break, the applicant also offered to look into changing the entranceway, possibly angling it to avoid headlights shining into existing homes,

They also agreed to any other changes the board deemed necessary.

A date for the final public hearing has not yet been set.

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