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Cul-de-sac May Be Scrapped Over Fear of Legal Issues

Township committee now considering another option for Maple Avenue as officials express concern over potential litigation from property owners.

The issue of constructing a cul-de-sac on Maple Avenue, in Pine Brook, has not reached a dead end, but it has still not been resolved either.

Montville Township Committee members were presented with a new design option for blocking the road to thru traffic between Route 46 and Route 80 Tuesday night. The new option includes construction of a curbed, landscaped island on the road, as oppose to the cul-de-sac options that have been discussed at the last few meetings.

The cost of the island, including providing full access to the driveway at 34 Maple Ave., is about $9,300, according to Assistant Township Engineer Mark Mantyla. The most recent cul-de-sac option the township committee considered was about $76,067 and the first two cul-de-sac options the township committee considered were As for the effect on traffic, Township Administrator Victor Canning said they are virtually the same.

"They both accomplish the same thing," he said. "They do not let traffic flow freely through Maple Avenue as a cut-through, possibly to get through the factory, the office complexes or to get on to Route 80."

Canning said he and Mantyla began working on an island option after consistent attempts to reach the owners of properties at 10 Maple Ave. and 34 Maple Ave., who would need to consent because their properties would be affected, failed. Borough Attorney Martin Murphy said even since the last meeting on Sept. 11, he had tried to reach out to the property owners but had not heard back.

"Mark and I have been going back and forth. Obviously, we were concerned, mainly, that we were not getting any kind of response from the property owners," Canning said. "This can become a very long, drawn out matter that could take more than a year to be resolved."

Canning said that ultimately, the township could force the hands of the property owners through eminent domain, but that he was concerned that could be followed up by litigation filed by the owners.

"We don't need to get caught up in all kinds of legal issues and compensation settlements and ingresses and egreesses of private property owners. By doing this, we alleviate all of that and we can solve the problem of traffic flowing," Canning said.

Committeeman Scott Gallopo noted the significantly lower cost of the new proposal and how it would impact traffic.

"It effectively accomplishes the same thing that we have right now with the temporary barriers," he said.

Resident Dan Pagano was pleased with the lower cost and thanked the committee members for considering cheaper options.

"If you're looking for ways to save me, as a taxpayer, money, I thank you. I applaud you," Pagano said.

But not everyone was pleased with the new proposal. Herb and Marie Eggers, who have been in communication with township employees throughout the process of considering different designs, as their property is one of the most affected by the project, questioned why the committee was now considering another design plan. Herb Eggers said the township committee seemed to be in agreement with the design plan presented at the Sept. 11 meeting and was unsure why other plans were being developed.

"I would think that it would be up to our town employees to follow the direction of the township committee, not to consider other proposals," he said.

Mayor Tim Braden noted that the prior plan was not voted on, although committee members were mostly in favor of it, and said research was still requested of the township employees. Eggers said so much time has been spent on consideration of the project, and specifically his property, but that the committee was now considering a plan that would negatively affect him.

"Now we're talking about saving substantial amounts of money just by dead-ending my street and ruining my property," he said.

Braden seemed to be in favor of the new plan and said it appears it would solve many of the problems, including the potential need for eminent domain, that would be unsolved by a traditional cul-de-sac. He asked that the conversation be carried until the next meeting so that more residents of the neighborhood have the opportunity to participate.

A drawing of the new plan can be seen here.

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