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Whole Foods Raises Traffic, Other Concerns, Residents Say

Disputed Waterview Plaza proposal continues to be met with resistance from neighbors.

Testimony on the disputed Waterview Plaza development proposal—which would bring a Whole Foods Market to Parsippany—continued before the township Planning Board at the municipal building Monday night.

Before the board is a plan for a mixed-use 26-acre development for retail stores including the high-end natural-foods market and 72 upscale three-story townhomes to appear in or near 2015 on Route 46 across from the Parsippany Police headquarters. The land in question is the last undeveloped piece of the 132-acre plot that stands between Route 46 and Iintervale Road.

The Nov. 19 Planning Board meeting served as round one in what looks likely to become a long-lasting, acrimonious slugfest between developer RD Realty LLC and Intervale area residents, who turned out en masse to stand against the proposal.

The area, zoned for office development (which will require an approval to become an overlay zone to allow mixed use) has been targeted for development in the past as a combination retail/residential project and as an office complex. Both plans were shot down due to resident backlash.

Another full house of citizens greeted the board Monday night for what turned out to be a brutal round two, with many if not most in the audience hoping to see this plan, like its predecessors, fall to defeat. 

Testimony resumed with traffic engineer John Meyer, who described proposed traffic improvements to the area while answering resident complaints regarding protecting accessibility for those who live in the area.

Among the ideas proposed in what Meyer called merely a "concept plan" at this stage of the process, included blocking Forest Drive to through traffic; widening left-turn lanes; and creating U-turns, cul de sacs and hammerhead turns to control traffic flow. 

Meyer also mentioned the proposed addition of a pedestrian walkway from Waterview Boulevard to Route 46.

Most in the audience reacted harshly to the ideas, with people snorting derisively, laughing or shouting out comments to criticize the engineer's statements.

Meyer maintained throughout that traffic and engineering studies show the project to be a viable one, however, it did not appear that residents found his testimony credible.

One area of contention dealt with the idea of traffic flow.

"We found the peak for retail [traffic] would be in the evenings between 4-6 p.m. and Saturdays between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. That's when the heaviest traffic is," Meyer testified. "In the morning between 7 and 9, there wouldn't be much traffic. On Saturday, traffic is very, very low, in connection with offices on Waterview Boulevard, and that's the heaviest time for retail."

He added that the traffic plans would have to win the approval of the state Department of Transportation.

"Overall we believe this site is ideally situated," Meyer said, describing the project as being upscale and high-end and having "very tastefully done" signage. "It's not very often that you have a shopping center in an area where you would have office space. ... Retail and residential access and traffic would be totally separate."

The engineer added that the developer is working to meet the township's requirements and to "answer the comments of our neighbors." 

The Planning Board had a number of questions for Meyer.

Gordon Meth, the board's traffic engineer criticized the developer's plan to create cul de sacs around the Waterview area to control access.

"There's about 150 homes back there," Meth warned. "I wouldn't recommend closing any egress or access back there."

He noted that a downed power line could create serious difficulty for residents during an emergency situation. He added that a number of the roads involved are in Mountain Lakes, making enforcement of traffic rules troublesome.

When the public was given an opportunity to question the engineer, Board Chair Kaushik "Casey" Parikh delivered a stern warning.

"Questions only are allowed, no comments," he said. "There will be a chance for comments later, but if you comment now, I will have to stop you."

Queries covered traffic particulars and parking, and there were numerous attempts by residents to trip the engineer up on surprise questions or by giving him questions better suited to the developer's architect, who has yet to testify.

In one series of questions, resident Alison Bavas asked the engineer about traffic analysis.

"Did you look at the school times for drop-off and pick-up of buses?" she asked.

"That was included in our counts between 4 and 6 p.m.," Meyer replied.

"School lets out before 4," Bavas said, having landed an apparent "gotcha." "Buses were not included."

Then she switched to the developer's stated plan to have 50 feet of evergreen buffer between existing residences and the development.

"Did you take into account the bears that would be displaced and where they were going to go?"

The engineer conceded he had not.

Some residents applauded Bavas' efforts.

Another resident later asked about deer, foxes, turkeys and other wildlife. Meyer had to admit that he wasn't the expert who could deal with that topic.

Resident Ken Yarama couched a comment within a question. He asked about plans to construct sidewalks leading down Waterview Boulevard and allowing pedestrians to cross Route 46, and then brought up a traffic situation in another part of town.

"We've had problems with accidents at Beverwyck Road and Route 46," he said. "It's a very dangerous game to play where you have pedestrians trying to cross Route 46. Have you studied that aspect of the serious nature of pedestrians trying to cross Route 46 given the volume of traffic?"

"Pedestrian safety has been studied," Meyer countered. "That's all part of our final plan, which would have to be approved."

Resident Eileen White asked Meyer to define "department store."

"It's a store that offers a variety of goods for purchase," the engineer replied.

"What kind are you contemplating?" White demanded, wanting to know the identity of an unnamed store that reportedly has a signed lease to operate as part of the Waterview development. "Is it Target? Is it Macy's?"

"I am not at liberty to indicate that information," he said.  "That will be divulged as soon as it's completed."

Meyer added that he does not know the name of the department store.

Hoots from the audience indicated that many did not believe that statement. Rumors have swirled that Target is the mystery merchant that would serve as an anchor for the retail portion of the development along with high-end Whole Foods Market.

Resident Nancy Choffo asked about the stores' potential impact on Sunday traffic.

"I assume they will meet all requirements of law," said Meyer. "We assume Sunday will be the lightest [in terms of traffic]."

"Right," Choffo noted with a bit of sarcasm. "Because people aren't shopping in a shopping center on Saturday and Sunday."

She continued onward.

"Has anyone contacted the [Environmental Protection Agency] regarding runoff for the brook that runs behind Forest Avenue?"

Meyer said the the brook was not a tributary.

"Runoff will go south toward Route 46," he said, adding that the water would wend its way to stone water detention basins. "Runoff will be no greater than before development."

Choffo didn't buy that answer.

"I looked it up," she said. "Mercury and water runoff from high traffic areas. The brook is already contaminated to some degree. You're guaranteeing no widlife will be impacted?"

"With respect to drainage, ours will be going in the opposite direction," the engineer maintained. "There are no wildlife impacts with the Troy Brook Tributary. We will get clearance on that issue from an investigation by the state Department of Environmental Protection." 

Resident Robert Sudol took issue with the proposed 50-foot buffer.

"Why did that go down from 300 feet when I bought the property 13 years ago, and then it was reduced to 200 when development was tried years ago and now 50," he said. 

Despite being pummeled with questions and gotcha attempts, Meyer stood firm in his defense of the proposal "based on my experience of 50 years."

"Nothing is absolutely guaranteed, but i feel confident," he said.

Then a question sailed from the audience: "So there's no guarantee?" 

Nancy Brighton, representing the Historic Preservation Committee, asked about the potential impact of land disturbance on adjacent historic homes and a tiny historic cemetery in the area.

Attorney Robert Garofalo indicated that the question needed to go to the architect.

The lawyer asked for the testimony to be carried to the Dec. 17 Planning Board meeting to allow the developer's architect to come and deal with appropriate questions that could not be handled by the traffic engineer.

Chairman Parikh agreed and said the matter would begin again on the 17th. The board voted to adjourn.

Nancy Choffo spoke for her fellow residents: "We don't want this." 

"I am sure there is some fact buried in what the traffic expert said," noted resident David Kaplan. "But they are not taking into account that people will ultimately find shortcuts ...when traffic builds and those shortcuts will be through our neighboroods seven days a week.

"We're going to have to find a balance that neighbors can live with. Right now, there is no balance, it's what [the developer wants]."

Resident Phil Kornreich agreed, pointing to resident concerns over buffering, density, noise pollution, light pollution, traffic and a sense that those who live in the Intervale area aren't being taken seriously.

"This clearly would change our quality of life," insisted Kaplan. "Until we can find a balance, an impact that's less egregious, we're going to keep packing the room until they listen to us."

Patch attempted to ask Mayor James Barberio, who attended the meeting, his thoughts on what the proposal could mean in terms of economic development for the town. He declined to comment.

Arie December 05, 2012 at 02:48 PM
This mayor is not know for his "openness." Remember how he and the Council handled hiring a PR firm behind closed doors, attacked when confronted, and then was forced to rescind the offer. It is election year time. Let's hope the citizens of this town remember
Robert December 06, 2012 at 01:40 AM
This project may be financed by Chinese. Look at 2nd page bottom (Jay Furman Patners - http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/vprr/07/9999999997-07-028198) Beside (1) RD Management LLC He has (2) MF EST LP (3) MF EST LLC (4) Jay Furman Patners (5) American Securities China (B) LP (6)American Securities Patners II LP This thing is big! Money getting move around multiple companies and at the end who knows how much tax gets paid .... God Bless U S of A
Robert Steelman December 06, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Dear Outraged Citizens Calm down. I’m an “interested party”, please look it up. I don’t have a financial interest in the project. I don’t know if this project makes sense and you don’t either. This process plays out in nearly all NJ municipalities. It is wasteful of resources that should go toward reinvestment. It also fosters community mistrust. This applicant property owner has a right to make a presentation of facts. The public has a right to ask questions and present facts too. Elected officials and land use boards have a duty to hear facts and decide an outcome based on facts. No matter how out of control your emotions are, you don’t have a right to hijack the process. This is not a referendum. Protecting rights through due process is the only way to avoid flawed land use. And don’t put too much faith in a planner that trades vision for job security or in a master plan that can’t anticipate future conditions. Robert Steelman, Broker, 4a Realty
Robert December 07, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Dear Robert, Please put your money where your mouth is. Why don't you buy a house somewhere around intervale or mountain lakes boro and than tell us how you feel. We understand their right to present to board and our right to protest. and board will do what they deem is right. We all are doing our part and you are doing your part (you may want to sale a gas station or restaurant once it build fine by us). I would request you to start living next to 900 car parking lot, 4 AM delivery trucks humming, restaurants open up to 11 PM and who knows crime it will bring and than tell us don't get emotional. Its zoned for office and we have no problem office getting build. May force be with you
Par4theCourse December 07, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Robert Steelman, Who the hell are you to tell us how to act? Maybe that sanctimonious attitude works in Summit but as my fellow citizen states just above me, try living next to this project. It's clear you're just shilling to curry favor for some business, how about if this happens in Ridgewood, do you take the same stance?
Curt December 07, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Dear Mr. Steelman, What you wrote is true they have rights and we the citizens have rights. But if they bought the the property knowing that it was zoned for offices, then they should live with that. Not try to change the Master Plan that the local citizens bought houses thinking it would be offices. So I'm sure you could understand our frustration as our property values fall even further than the housing bubble created. People should not loose money on property they own while the newer land owner makes a larger profit. Your comments also seem callus and arrogant. I'm not sure if that was on purpose but non the less thats how you come across.
Annie December 08, 2012 at 01:01 AM
The current online tax records for the 26 acres, blk 421 & lot 29, says that Bellemead Dev Group/Chubb at 15 Mt. View Rd, Warren, NJ owns the property. Maybe these people will buy the property from Bellmead/Chubb if they can get the zoning changed. Is it possible this is all speculation, because I do not see the property being sold to anyone. I'm not an expert at looking at these records so I could be mistaken.
Julia Peterson December 08, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Many times a land purchase is "contigent on zoning approval."
Julia Peterson December 08, 2012 at 01:50 PM
"contingent" (sorry)
Robert December 08, 2012 at 10:56 PM
@Annie, Great Info you found. I did some more digging ... one thing surprise me - this property assessment always going down every year .. How is this possible? Can town answer this? Year Owner Land Assessment Building Assessment 2012 BELLEMEAD DEV CORP 2000000 0 2011 BELLEMEAD DEV CORP 4989000 0 2010 BELLEMEAD DEV CORP 4989000 0 2009 BELLEMEAD DEV CORP 7989000 0 http://njtaxrecords.net/r/waterview-blvd-parsippany-morris-county-nj-property-tax-record-2232460
Kenneth Kaplan December 09, 2012 at 01:04 PM
The average size of a new Whole Foods store is 47,300 sq. ft.. The old Walgreens is only 30,000. Unless you buy it, you have no right to tell a property owner that he shouldn't use his land for what he deems to be the highest and best use.
Kenneth Kaplan December 09, 2012 at 01:27 PM
There is a glut of office space in the market now and for the forseeable future. Two projects for this site have been turned down already. At some point, depriving the owner of the economic value of his property may reach the level of a constructive taking. According to USLEGAL.COM "Constructive taking is a term used in property law to refer to actions that amount to depriving an owner of the use and enjoyment of his/her property. The legal term “takings” refers to the physical acquisition of private property by governmental bodies. It also applies when government regulation removes all economically viable use of private property in what the courts describe as a “regulatory” or “constructive” taking. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that private property cannot be taken for public use unless there is just compensation. A constructive taking falls short of physical seizure or possession. It is a legal fiction, based on fairness principles, to apply to a situation that is tantamount to physical deprivation of possession. For example, a zoning regulation that deprives the land owner of the economic value of the property might be challenged as a constructive taking." At some point, if continually turned down for viable projects, the owners could sue the town for "just compensation." That would result in higher taxes instead of an upscale ratable that could increase our tax base and lower taxes for home owners, while creating many jobs.
Dave Phillips December 09, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Mumbo umbo Kenny, they would never win such a suit and you know it. "Upscale" ratable, laughs. They are getting tax breaks, the project will not lower anyone's taxes in town and the jobs will all be low paid/minimum wage with people from urban cities (Paterson/Newark) being bused in.
John December 09, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Kenny, There's also a glut of unused retail space in Parsippany as evidenced by the vacancies on Route 46 and Route 10. As for "depriving" the owner of economic value - the owner participated in the current zoning for this property that was established over 30 years ago when they wanted to develop the land. The neighbors, land owner, and township worked together to agree on the current zoning for the property. I've lived in Parsippany for the past 20 years. During that time, developer after developer have appeared before the town council with high density building projects and the same promise - "approve my project and the township will benefit from the tax revenue it will bring in!" The town "leaders" salivated over the increased taxes but were too short sighted to realize the increased services that resulted from these projects. Despite all the high density building and increased revenue over the years, my taxes have never gone down. Instead, my taxes have steadily gone up (to pay for things like school expansions, more police, road maintenance, etc.) while the quality of life and education services have gone down.
Nancy December 09, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Yes Bellemead owns the land. They lease it to RD Reality so that they can build the stores. RD Reality then leases the building to Whole Foods and other retailers. It's a triple lease and it is commonly done. Bellemead did not sell the land if the building burnt to the ground Bellemead loses nothing.
Robert December 09, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Kenneth Kaplan, Your argument doesn't work. BELLEMEAD DEV CORP bought this property in 1987. For 25 years they sat on this property for whatever reasons. They could have made a killing if they developed offices in late 80s. Fast forward to internet days and all office around Parsippany or around suburban USA will never achieve 70 to 80% occupancy rate and future trend not looking promising. If I were you, I will start looking for another job because working for Belle Baby or Furman Fairy (aka RD Development or Chinese company) won't last too long. Parsippany approved on November 23rd 2010 Land assessment from almost $8 Million to $5 million and can't find record from $5 Million to now $2 Million. Page 17 : http://www.parsippany.net/web_content/acrobat/minutes/rmeeting112310.pdf
Nancy December 09, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Bellemead is the current owner of this land. They are probably entering into a triple lease. They have done this in the past. Bellemead owns the land and will lease it to RD and they will build on it and lease the building to Whole Foods and other retailers. I don't believe that Bellemead is selling the land. They are still in business under the Chubb Corporation.
Joan Callamezzo December 09, 2012 at 06:26 PM
@Robert The reason the property value has gone down is because there is no demand for office space in Parsippany. If the property owner could make money by building an office building, they would build an office building. As it stands now, most office building properties in Parsippany are assessed much lower than they were 10 years ago. And guess what? When office buildings are worth less, residents will pay more in property taxes to pick up the shortfall. That's the way it goes.
Joan Callamezzo December 09, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Parsippany is not giving any tax breaks to the have this property developed. Commercial property is assessed differently from residential property. An office building pays taxes based on the rent it is able to charge. RIght now, because of the many vacancies, office rental space is very cheap. If another office building is built on the site, that would only create more inventory and lower rents across town. If this property is eventually approved, the taxes it would generate would be much greater than any single office building could ever generate.
Tom December 10, 2012 at 05:21 AM
I support the idea! People are just to much, some of you have nothing to do.
Kenneth Kaplan December 10, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Your insults and false accusations have no place in this discussion I do not work for the developer and have no financial interest in this matter. Is Furman Fairy supposed to be some slur against homosexuals? Shame on you!
Kenneth Kaplan December 10, 2012 at 06:09 AM
John,revenues have increased, but not as fast as our town government squandered them. It seems the town is always involved in suits with township personnel: police officers, school officials, administrative oficials. Our local government is a mess.
Curt December 10, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Joan and Tom, If you lived in the area your opinions might be different. Any new revenue will just be squandered by our politicians, probably to keep up with the extra infrastructure needed for this project. Why the extra density building? Why three story buildings? Maybe if the developers were more reasonable, the residents would also be! Tom insulting people who care about there property values just belittles you
Parsippany Taxpayer December 10, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Realtors are like used car sales people... You sound so sensible from an overview but this is rotten and corrupt to the core. There is no reason to rezone this area and the only reason it is being considered is just like in the past there is some money changing hands and it is not benefiting the common residents of Parsippany. Go back to being a used car salesman as anyone with common sense knows this deal is corrupt and crooked to the core.
Parsippany Taxpayer December 10, 2012 at 08:17 PM
There is no way that office space values have dropped 75% since 2009. This is once again the township taking care of their buddies while raising everyone else's taxes.
Parsippany Taxpayer December 10, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Joan -- what school did you go to. You math doesn't add up. After the township picks up the bill for the new roads, crowding of schools, and the residents pick up the bill for additional lost time for traffic congestion and decreased home values those taxes wont even put a slight dent in that expense to the current residents. There is absolutely NO reason this should be approved for rezoning...
Sick of the trolls December 10, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Hey, RC, I'm sure you have proof to back that up, right? Your libelous comment there about the Township being corrupt and lowering the assessment on this land? I know you have documentation about that, right, and that's why you're afraid to post under your real name, because you think the corrupt Mayor is going to send his police goon squad after you so you use a pseudonym to release this outrageous news to the world for your own safety, not out of cowardice and shame. I'll just wait here until you can produce the evidence safely, I'm sure it will be a real eye opener.
Sick of the trolls December 10, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Now that's just not nice, RC. Used car salesmen are some of the nicest people I know, as are realtors. Are you bitter because you can't buy a car? Does somebody need a hug?
Kenneth Kaplan December 10, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Your desire to halt all development goes against rights guaranteed in the Constitution. People who own property have the right to develop it. Our laws allow certain restraints on that, through zoning and otherwise, but you have no right to stop others from using their property.
Robert December 11, 2012 at 10:44 PM
10 Waterview blvd about 18 acre - right next to "Gas station/Restaurants/Whole Foods/Target/Liquor store/Panera/StarBucks" property This guy is paying close to $12 million compare to BelleMead 23 acre $2 Million.. taxes are follows Year Owner Land Assessment 2012 MIREF WATERVIEW, LLC $11,925,300 2011 MIREF WATERVIEW, LLC $11,925,300 2010 MIREF WATERVIEW, LLC $13,925,300 2009 MIREF WATERVIEW, LLC $13,925,300 http://njtaxrecords.net/r/10-waterview-blvd-parsippany-morris-county-nj-property-tax-record-2232462

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