More than a decade after residents near Duquesne Boulevard and surrounding streets were unsuccessful in preventing a Wendy’s fast food restaurant from opening, there is a new battle to fight.
This time, neighborhood residents are planning to oppose the construction of a Wawa store and gas station, plus a Panera Bread restaurant that has been proposed for at 535 and 545 Route 70, located off the highway’s eastbound lanes across the street from the PC Richard electronics store. It would be located on what is presently a wooded plot of land just south of Duquesne Boulevard.
The project was proposed in November and heard by the township’s Board of Adjustment shortly after, however testimony on the application was extensive and unable to be completed during one meeting. The board is next scheduled to take up the matter at its Feb. 1 meeting. In order for the project to move forward, the board must grant the developer a use variance since convenience stores, gas station and restaurants are normally not permitted in the “split” office-residential zone.
Since the project was first heard by the board late last year, considerable opposition has grown among neighbors, one of whom recently spoke to Shorebeat on the matter. The resident did not wish to be identified publicly.
“The traffic at the intersection of Route 70 and Duquesne is already horrendous and dangerous, and this is one of three main exits out of our neighborhood,” the resident, who is help leading opposition, said. “Also, residents think that Route 70 would probably have to be redesigned in order to accommodate three lanes, which would make traffic on it unstable for all who travel it, not just those in Lake Riviera.”
Other concerns include “excess noise, light, traffic, and fumes from gas, garbage,” the resident said, plus the idling of engines since there will be truck parking spaces at the Wawa. Residents have said the proximity to the Wawa could endanger property values and bring transients to the area, elevating crime concerns. In a 2008 article from a Monmouth County newspaper, an appraiser testified that a Wawa proposed for Eatontown could reduce property values by as much as 10-15 percent.
According to testimony from the Nov. 9 Board of Adjustment meeting, the development would include a 125 space parking area. Representatives from the developer said the state Department of Transportation would likely demand a third lane be built directly in front of the new shopping center. Plans currently call for a 6-foot sound wall to be installed around the drive-through area and a 50-foot buffer with evergreen trees encircling the site.
The neighbors also believe the project would have a negative environmental impact if gas were to spill from the filling station at the site.
The residents have started an online petition to oppose the project which has attracted 120 signatures thus far. Mayor John Ducey said he could not comment on the proposal since it is pending before a township board, but encouraged residents to address the board with their concerns at the upcoming meeting.
“If the residents want to be heard, they should go there and make sure their voices are heard by the board,” Ducey said.
The meeting will take place Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex.