by ETHAN POWERS
Residents of Woodbridge Village have seen Transit Road evolve into a highway with heavy traffic and dense development, and they’re letting their voices be heard that Bevilacqua Development’s latest project will only exacerbate an issue that they say is threatening their way of life.
At the Planning Board’s May 15 meeting, Bevilacqua requested concept plan approval and a recommendation for a special exemption use permit for a proposed retail/restaurant plaza at 6031 Transit Road. The approximately 9,000-square-foot plaza would be built on the site of the former Buggy Wash, between
Buffalo Pharmacy and a NOCO gas station.
“We’ve approached NOCO on the future driveway connection. They’re aware of our development,” said Jonathan Bevilacqua on the prospect of connecting the NOCO gas station property with his proposed retail plaza. “We put that on a note on the drawing, that we’re willing to provide a future dimension if at some point they’re willing to allow our parcels to connect.”
Bevilacqua added that the rear of the property had been redesigned on the updated site plan.
“We’ve revised the rear of the building to provide for a second front, if you will, which will serve primarily as an access point for the customers parking in the rear of the building,” he said.
The same project was the subject of both skepticism and inquiry at a Planning Board meeting in March as the board showed concern over the site’s entrance and exit points, drawing particular attention to the project’s proposed drive-thru lane, which does not have enough space on the allotted parcel and actually encroaches onto the adjacent property.
Board member Timothy Pazda specifically cited what he saw as an overabundance of parking spaces and suggested eliminating the back row of spaces as a way to make room for the drive-thru lane. At the May 15 meeting, Pazda reiterated this advice and suggested that the project as a whole was, in his mind, an example of “overdevelopment.”
Bevilacqua told the board that he could file a deed to move the drive-thru onto the 6031 Transit Road parcel.
“It’s really just a simple legal description and filing a deed in the clerk’s office. That entity would now own the dedicated drive-thru lane,” he said.
Board President Robert Sackett noted that he did not see the issues of other board members as major concerns that should hinder the progress of the development.
“I know there’s diversity of opinion on the board when it comes to this subject,” he said. “I think the site plan functions well. I see no violation of any existing code or legal agreement, so I have no problem with it.”
“I’d like to see some sort of traffic control sign that indicates who should yield to the through traffic from the drive-thru lane,” added board member Stephen Dale.
At the meeting in March, several residents of Woodbridge Village took to the podium during the public comment portion to denounce the proposed plaza and expressed noise issues and traffic problems as primary reasons to oppose any new drive-thrus. The theme and the message continued at the May 15 meeting.
“My main concern is Transit Road. There’s one turning lane on Transit. I’ve been a resident of Woodbridge Village since 2002, and it gets harder and harder all the time to take a left turn out of there. I just don’t see how there’s not going to be a traffic problem,” said Chris Hamm, a resident of Whitegate Crossing.
Hamm expressed concern regarding the development’s proximity to his property line and the negative ramifications that could result from having a drive-thru installed so close to his home — an encroachment that he believes the Planning Board members would take issue with if it were their property.
“The deck of my house is probably 100 yards from where this drive-thru will be. I don’t want to be sitting out there at any time of the day and hearing people putting in their orders,” said Hamm. “We’re staring at this gray cinderblock back wall that I guarantee none of you would have approved had you lived there.”
The Planning Board voted to grant concept plan approval and the recommendation for a special exemption use permit, with the exception of Pazda, who voted “no.”