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Brick Denies Wawa, Panera New Access Driveway to Local Streets Following Outcry

The real estate corporation that owns a shopping plaza housing a Wawa convenience store and gas station, plus a Panera Bread restaurant, will not be able to build a driveway that funnels traffic into and out of a busy intersection.

Paramount Realty, the Lakewood-based company that owns the Wawa and Panera at 535 Route 70, at the corner of the highway and Duquesne Boulevard, was turned down for the new driveway in an 8-1 vote by the township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday night following an outcry from residents and pushback from township officials as to the safety of the driveway placement.

The driveway was originally proposed in 2018 when the entirety of the development project was under consideration by the board. While the Wawa and Panera sites were approved, the driveway was not. Less than a year later, Paramount – which owns the shopping center – filed an application with the board to build the driveway, saying their tenants were demanding an access and egress point from the local neighborhood in addition to the highway. In order to persuade officials, Paramount hired a traffic consultant who argued additional access would create a safer traffic pattern by alleviating the number of vehicles that would have to travel on the highway to access the businesses. Paramount’s attorney, John Jackson, and several professional consultants also argued that the local community would benefit by having easier access to a popular business – a point rejected by many residents who came to multiple meetings to object to the driveway.


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The proposed driveway would have been located on the north side of the property, routing traffic in and out of the plaza yards away from the busy “tri-intersection” of Route 70, North Lake Shore Drive and Duquesne Boulevard, which routinely sees traffic backups as a result of an existing traffic light. The residents said the driveway would exacerbate traffic issues, create the opportunity for more accidents to occur, and increase vehicular traffic on local streets in Lake Riviera.

The Wawa-Panera Bread plaza, Route 70 and Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J., Sept. 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Wawa-Panera Bread plaza, Route 70 and Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J., Sept. 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Wawa-Panera Bread plaza, Route 70 and Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J., Sept. 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Wawa-Panera Bread plaza, Route 70 and Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J., Sept. 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

When Paramount returned to the board earlier this summer seeking approval for the driveway, their representatives asked that the driveway serve as both an entrance and exit. That proposal was later reduced to an “entrance only” driveway, but on Wednesday night, Jackson said his clients were insisting on a two-way drive. After pushback from the board, Jackson said he spoke to his clients by phone and they authorized him to request an entrance only driveway as an alternative.

The driveway proposal – regardless of limitations – saw opposition from neighbors and scrutiny from board members.

“People are going to make a right, go to the first street and make a U-turn,” said board member Mike Jamnik. “People are going to do that – if they see an exit they will take it. I think the main concern of the neighborhood is just that – bringing more traffic in to the area.”

Residents decried Paramount for “taking another bite of the apple” after the driveway was denied in 2018 following a similar outcry from neighbors.

“This is a back-door attempt to circumvent the original decision,” said resident Diane Dowlen. I believe this was your plan from the outset. I believe Wawa and Panera are not making their expected numbers and now our quality of life is being callously dismissed.”

The Wawa-Panera Bread plaza, Route 70 and Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J., Sept. 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Wawa-Panera Bread plaza, Route 70 and Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J., Sept. 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Duquesne Boulevard, Brick, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Jackson, for his part, said Paramount funded the completion of a third lane on Route 70 to make the site safer and more accessible, and allowing the driveway would comport with Brick Township’s planning philosophy of encouraging traffic to move between shopping areas without multiple turns onto and off of highways.

“We have a busy intersection in a commercial corridor of the township, and we have a proposal that will make a better use of the roadways,” said Jackson. “The circumstances have changed here. Route 70 and Duquesne have become busier. We added a third lane to Route 70 which was a substantial improvement and a major traffic alleviation. That has benefited everyone. Now we’re looking at ways to fine-tune the intersection.”

Jackson’s consultants testified that they were planning to engage with the state Department of Transportation to seek retiming of the traffic light. Residents, however, remained steadfast in their opposition to the proposal.

“The day one concern was always about traffic entering the street – whether it was ingress or egress, it didn’t matter,” said resident Henry Murray. “There is entirely too much traffic on that street as it is – the glass is full.”

“They don’t care about our neighborhood,” he continued. “They just care about the next five or ten people who are going to pull into Wawa.”

Route 70, Brick, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Route 70, Brick, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The board voted 8-1 to deny Paramount’s application. Board member Brian Formica cast the lone vote in favor of the proposal.

The board took a separate vote on an application by Paramount to subdivide the Wawa-Panera property into two individual lots (from one single lot housing both businesses) for the purposes of administrative issues, mail and utilities. The subdivision does not change the footprint of the overall property, nor does it have a connection with the driveway proposal, Jackson confirmed. On that matter, the board voted 8-1 to approve the subdivision. Board member Eileen Della Volle cast the sole dissenting vote.


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