After months of discussion, a solution to stopping cut-through traffic through the Pine Brook neighborhood including Maple Avenue was approved on Oct. 9. But township officials may now have to consider blocking thru traffic in a nearby business' parking lot as a result in the future.
The Montville Township Committee approved creating a curbed island as a dead end on the street in place of the temporary barriers that currently stand. While the island is expected to cost around $5,000, cul-de-sac options the committee was previously considering would have cost between $76,067
Consideration of blocking thru traffic between Route 46 and Route 80 came after residents shared their concerns about speeding cars traveling through their neighborhood. The township committee voted to install temporary barriers on Maple Avenue in July until a permanent solution was reached.
Meanwhile, township committee members have been gathering input from residents, including some who have felt traffic has dramatically improved since the barriers were put in place and others who said they have seen a negative impact.
But at the Oct. 9 meeting, Maple Avenue resident Jason Jones told the committee members that since the the temporary barriers have been in place, some motorists have figured out a new way to still use the neighborhood as a cut-through.
"The people have realized that there is still access through 10 Maple Ave.," Jones said.
Two property owners, the owner of 10 Maple Ave. and 34 Maple Ave., were reached out to by township officials when the cul-de-sac was still being considered. Township Attorney Martin Murphy had advised committee members that the property owners' permission would be needed to move forward with that option, but at a meeting last month, Interim Township Engineer Mark Mantyla said permission would not be needed from the owners to move ahead with the curbed island, dead end option. Mantyla said Oct. 9 that the township has heard back from the owner of 10 Maple Ave., but that they want nothing to do with the project.
Murphy said the township does not need permission of the property owner to cut off access where Jones alleged motorists are driving through.
"The property owner does not have the right to the access that they want to have," Murphy said. "It's not a condemnation issue... That doesn't mean they won't turn around and try to litigate."
Murphy referenced case law from a situation similar to that of Montville's. Jones was also concerned that if a new business moves in to the vacant G.I. Auto site, more traffic will be created and even more motorists will use 10 Maple Ave. as a cut-through.
"It might just be a Band-Aid solution," Jones said. "I'm just afraid that we're going to be back to the same type of situation that we came to you with a year ago."
Committeeman Scott Gallopo recommended including blocking off the access through 10 Maple Ave. in the dead end project now.
"If we can curb that or block that with whatever means necessary and it's not going to quintuple the price, I would, from my standpoint, make that part of the project now, block that access and move on with this," he said.
But Mantyla later told the committee members that blocking 10 Maple Ave. would double the cost of the project. Committeemen Don Kostka and Jim Sandham said they felt the township should hold off on blocking traffic through 10 Maple Ave. until it becomes more of a concern.
"I don't have a problem with knocking 10 [Maple Ave.] off, but why make a move that's going to open us up for some legal issues if there's really nothing there?" Kostka said.
Sandham said he has even heard a few of the neighborhood's residents have been using 10 Maple Ave. for access. He said he did not think the township should worry about blocking that accessway yet.
"To me, I would not do anything up front," he said. "If we need to do something later on with 10 Maple [Ave.], we can."
Mayor Tim Braden said he agreed with Kostka and Sandham. After the curbed island dead end was approved, Mantyla said he would be looking to go out to bid on the project right away.