By Jaimie Julia Winters
The debate over no left-hand turns from Grove Street into the future Lidl parking lot is back in the hands of the Montclair council.
Planning board members voted not to recommend the ordinance introduced on March 5 by the council prohibiting all left-hand turns on Grove Street between Bloomfield and Glenridge avenues. Council members cited long backups and pedestrian safety as their reasoning behind the ordinance.
Traffic consultant Mike Dannemiller of NV5 told the planning board on March 25 that his firm does not recommend the ordinance, and instead opted for a wait-and-see approach.
“Don’t do it,” he said. “If there is a crash history or an observation queuing or gridlock, at that time, reconsider.”
Plans call for county-owned Grove Street to be restriped for four lanes in both directions, with two being dedicated left-hand lanes and two being through lanes. Dannemiller said the conflict for motorists making a left-hand turn into the parking lot could be the queuing of vehicles in the southbound lane. But when that happens motorists should not block the “box” indicating the left-hand turn.
He added there would room for seven vehicles in the northbound, left-hand turn lane, but predicted the queue would typically be one car.
No left-hand turns are currently allowed, nor will they be, into the parking lot across the street from the future Lidl lot, currently home to a TD Bank and the future site of 365 housing units, said Dannemiller.
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 lot, Councilwoman Renée Baskerville put forth the ordinance in February. She wanted it on the record that Montclair is not in favor of such maneuvers on the street due to pedestrian safety.
After the meeting, Baskerville said the town had recently met with county officials who indicated they would back the council’s prohibiting of left-hand turns.
“Although I understand the point on convenience, we feel this is the safest plan,” she said, indicating she will still lobby her fellow council members to back the no-left hand turn ordinance.
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.
Developers said they have approached the county about the left-hand entrance.
No left-hand turns are, nor will be, allowed into the lot from vehicles traveling east on Bloomfield Avenue.
The planning board still has to memorialize the Lackawanna application resolution.