Clark Planning Board Approves PNC Bank for Corner of Westfield Avenue and Raritan Road
The application was unanimously approved after PNC offered modifications to address the board's traffic concerns.
The Clark Planning Board unanimously approved an application from PNC Bank to build a branch at the corner of Raritan Road and Westfield Avenue, where the 999 Raritan Road Clark Medical Building stands now.
The property will span two lots – the corner lot where the medical building is and the adjacent vacant lot next door on Raritan Road. The one-story building will be 3,683 square feet and the property will include 22 parking spaces, a lobby ATM, and a drive-thru with an ATM lane, a banking lane and a bypass lane.
Susan Golomb, PNC's director of retail development, explained that the bank will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The board heard testimony from three other witnesses for PNC at the Thursday night meeting – a project manager, a traffic expert and an architect.
The board was most concerned with traffic and safety at the two entrances to the bank, one on Raritan Road and one on Westfield Avenue.
John Harter, traffic engineer for PNC, suggested only right-turn-in and right-turn-out access at the Raritan Road entrance, but proposed no restrictions for the Westfield Avenue entrance. Harter added that the Westfield Avenue entrance would be moved several feet farther down Westfield Avenue than the one that presently exists to move it farther away from the busy intersection.
Board members were specifically concerned with cars making a left turn out of the Westfield Avenue entrance, especially during summer recreation or events at Arthur L. Johnson High School, when the street can become congested.
"When the Rec. program lets out forget about queue lanes queuing, it’s backed to the police department," said Clark Township Engineer Richard O'Connor. "I don't see the ability during what we view as peak hours – when the high school lets out or events at the high school or something at the Municipal Building – I can't see that being a safe turning movement. It’s potentially an unsafe movement and at the very least the board needs to give the police department the ability to maintain jurisdiction, so that if it becomes a problem during certain hours, police can sign it and restrict it for those hours."
Harter countered that restricting left turns out might send drivers wishing to head that way through the neighborhood to get back around to the intersection. Harter also said that there had been only one accident in the area of the intersection in the past two years and that that accident was due to a blatant driver error. Harter added that the current exit does allow left turns out.
PNC's attorney, James Lott, said the company would agree to allow police to keep jurisdiction and remove the left-turn-out in the future if they found it to be a problem.
Architect for the project, Steven Bitterman, explained that the building will be LEED Silver certified for energy efficiency and discussed the materials to be used on the exterior. After his testimony, Business Administrator John Laezza asked that the gray metal roof of the building be a darker color to have less contrast with the brick of the building. Lott said PNC would agree to working with the township on the color.
After about two and a half hours when all testimony was heard, board members voted unanimously to approve the application. (Members Robert Tarentino, James Zizza and Michael N. Kurzawski were absent from the meeting.)
A handful of residents were in attendance at the meeting, but none voiced objections to the project. Michael Saracino, who lives across the street on Raritan Road, expressed concerns about left turning into or out of the Raritan Road entrance and was glad to hear that there would be only right-in and right-out access.
Jonathan Stout, who lives at 89 Hutchinson Street and whose yard abuts the property, said PNC worked with him on one of his concerns and that he would like the project to be approved.
"I reviewed the plans in details and I fully support the plans," said Stout. "I'm actually very excited to have PNC Bank as a neighbor. I feel that the current tenant really hasn’t done a good job keeping his property up to par. Based on the conversations I've had with Mr. Lott and my review of the plans, I think it's going to be good for the town and good for me and my family, and I think it impacts me more than anyone else in the whole town."
On our Facebook page, several readers voiced objections to the project. Nicole Dudek wrote, "enough................not another bank even though it is MY bank."
Susan Ruegamer Moraghan agreed with Dudek, writing, "Especially on that corner. There are enough banks there already."
What do you think? Tell us in the comments.