By Jaimie Julia Winters
The council, concerned with long backups and pedestrian safety, is directing the planning board to revisit Lackawanna Plaza traffic plans that include left-hand turns in and out of a planned supermarket Grove Street egress.
On March 5, the council approved an ordinance prohibiting all left-hand turns in between Glenridge and Bloomfield avenues on Grove Street.
Concerned that developers Pinnacle and Hampshire Cos. will approach the county for approval to allow motorists going northbound on county-owned Grove Street to make a left-hand turn into a new parking lot entrance, Councilwoman Renée Baskerville put forth the ordinance. She wanted it on the record that Montclair is not in favor of such maneuvers on the street due to pedestrian safety.
The Lackawanna redevelopment plan received planning board approval on Feb. 11 after 16 hearings and over a year of testimony.
Plans, approved by the planning board, call for adding an entrance into the west lot on Grove Street about 25 feet from the intersection with Bloomfield Avenue. Site plans show two lanes for exiting onto Grove Street — for both left and right hand turn exits — and one lane as an entrance. Grove Street is a county road and developers said they have approached the county about the left hand entrance and to add striping for two lanes northbound on Grove Street.
No left-hand turns are, nor will be, allowed into the lot from vehicles traveling east on Bloomfield Avenue, as the painted island does not allow for cars to cross it.
Currently, the parking lot at Lackawanna Plaza is only accessible from a right-hand turn entrance on Bloomfield, about 25 feet west of Grove Street.
Planning board chair John Wynn said at the Feb. 11 meeting that a left-hand turn on Grove was better than on Bloomfield, which is also a county road.
Planning board member Carmel Loughman, speaking as a resident, told the council not allowing left-hand turns in and out of the lot would create traffic problems in other areas because motorists would be forced to go around “a very long block” using Greenwood and Glenridge avenues and cause backups on Glenridge Avenue — where the post office is situated and the supermarket’s loading dock will be located. Routing motorists through Glenridge, coupled with the developer’s plan to use a valet parking system, would cause backups there, she said.
Baskerville said the pedestrian safety committee, the traffic officer who sits on the committee, and Bike Walk Montclair were not in favor of left-hand turns from Grove Street. She contends that the groups and committees made their protests known.
“I am very disappointed that it didn’t get back to them [the planning board],” she said.
The council amended the ordinance to send it to the planning board, and also have the pedestrian safety committee, police and fire review it.
“Maybe they will come up with another alternative. Maybe it’s not bad for them to take a second look,” said Mayor Robert Jackson.
Councilman Rich McMahon said plans for traffic flow around the development need to be looked at “holistically” and he voted against the ordinance.
In a February 2018 letter to the planning board, the developer’s engineer admits driveway operations on both Bloomfield Avenue and on Grove Street may, during peak traffic times, experience queues. But, it concluded, “The provision for the new driveway on Grove Street enhances accessibility to and from the plaza and provides for multiple travel route options for patrons of the plaza that will dissipate traffic flow and minimize traffic impacts.“
The planning board was expected to memorialize the Lackawanna application resolution on March 11, but pushed it off as the board is still receiving comments, Wynn said.