The Planning Board deemed Dollar General technically complete but tabled the application until its August meeting due to many unanswered questions.
The general merchandise store, if approved, would be located at 120B Lacey Road where an existing and occupied house sits, bordering Railroad Avenue and the Forked River School.
The store would not be considered a dollar store as it sells a variety of generic household brands from household products and office supplies to clothing and toys ranging from $1.50 to $60.
With a 9,100 square foot building on 1.02 acres, the applicant is seeking minimum lot width, front setback, side setback and rear setback variances as well as several design waivers.
“The lot is narrow in configuration,” Harry Tuvel, the applicant’s engineer said. “There is no potential to make it larger or gain area from adjacent property owners.” He added that there is no detrimental impact to adjoining properties.
But the site is located on a wellhead protection area and only provides 38 parking spaces, which poses concerns for the Planning Board.
“A lot of issues have to be addressed,” Committeeman Gary Quinn said.
The Lacey Municipal Utilities Authority would have to give its approval prior to the Planning Board since the site could potentially impact drinking water.
“It’s the most sensitive area of the wellhead protection zone,” board member John Curtin said. “This is our drinking water.”
The applicant also has to submit a revised drainage plan separating the parking lot’s drainage from the roofs.
With such a large building located on a limited lot, the Planning Board also expressed their desire to receive comments from the Forked River Fire Company as well as the Board of Education.
Board Vice Chairman Charles Wood questioned why the applicant could not narrow the building by 5 feet.
“The parking and traffic pattern is optimal for the site,” Tuvel said. The store has a large turnover and could not fit additional parking.
Hours of operation would be from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Deliveries would be done once a week before school hours lasting approximately 45 minutes, he said.
The parking stalls are 9-by-18-feet, which is industry standard, Tuvel said.
If a large truck attempts to gain access to the site, at least nine parking spaces would be blocked, Curtin said. Quinn added that a 70-foot truck would not be able to fit in the lot.
“There are a lot of issues. We have to be able to work this issue out in some way,” Quinn said.
According to the applicant’s traffic study, in that area during peak hour activity, approximately 900 vehicles travel in one direction on Lacey Road and about 600 in the other, Transportation Planner Louis Luglio said. The applicant anticipates adding 47 vehicles during peak hours on weekdays and 70 on a Saturday.
If a project or development projects less than 100 extra vehicles generated, it is determined that the site would not significantly increase delays, he said.
The number of parking stalls is sufficient since the Dollar General in Whiting functions with 17 and another in Clifton has 21, Luglio said.
“The number of parking spaces is definitely doable. The requirement should not be that high,” he said.
Board Engineer Bruce Jacobs was concerned that such little parking would make it difficult to fill the building if Dollar General was to leave Lacey.
“It’s a catch 22…I understand your future concerns,” Luglio said, adding that those concerns should not dictate whether a currently proposed site gets approved.
The board also showed concerns over the appearance of the building, which is stucco, saying it looks like a “warehouse.” They asked the applicant to add windows, a sidewalk in front of the building and improve its aesthetics.
The attorney of the Board of Education relayed to the board that the school district would like the applicant to consider finishing all four facades as well.
“It’ll pay more taxes and look better than that mess the guy has got there now,” said Edward Sherwood, the owner of the property. “It’s a commercial building. It won’t send more kids to school and that thing that’s there now is pretty dilapidated.”
The occupants moved in with the understanding that they would have to leave once the land was sold for commercial purposes, a tenant said.
“They do what they do and that’s it,” the tenant said.
School Board President Jack Martenak said he is aware of the plans for Dollar General but could not comment at this time. Administration will first be examining the plans to determine if there are any impacts to the Forked River School, he said. The Planning Board extended the timeline for the School Board to provide comments.
“I personally feel like it won’t have an impact on me,” said Pam Depasquale, owner of Land of Oz, which would be located directly across the street from Dollar General. “Lacey is pretty busy right now. The traffic would be my only concern.”
The applicant plans to reappear before the Planning Board at August 13 meeting.