MONTGOMERY: Planning Board expected to take action on proposed Country Club Meadows application

By Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
MONTGOMERY — The developer of the proposed Country Club Meadows single-family-home subdivision and the proposed Belle Mead Plaza strip shopping center will find out next week whether the Planning Board approves its application.
The Planning Board expects to take action on the application, submitted by Country Club Meadows LLC, when it meets Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the courtroom at the Municipal Building. The board was unable to take action at its Oct. 19 meeting.
Much of the discussion at last week’s meeting focused on the compatibility of cars and fire engines on Covert Drive. The Belle Mead Plaza shopping center — which 31,000 square feet of retail space and 28 affordable rental apartments on the second floor — will have a driveway entrance on Covert Drive, which also provides access to the firehouse at Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1.
The applicant has proposed widening Covert Drive from its present 25 feet to 28 feet. The applicant’s traffic engineer, Joseph Staigar, told the Planning Board that there would be “ample room” for cars to pull over to allow a fire engine to pass by.
But Matthew Fedun, a volunteer firefighter and former fire chief at Montgomery Township Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1, expressed concern about the ability of cars and fire trucks to successfully share Covert Drive in an emergency. He pointed out that the fire trucks are significantly wider than cars.
The fire company’s tower truck is 124 inches wide, to include the rearview mirrors, Mr. Fedun said. A Ford Taurus is 85 inches wide, including the rearview mirrors; a Honda Accord is 73 inches wide; and a Ford Expedition, which is a full-size SUV, is 92 inches wide to include the rearview mirrors, according to the manufacturers’ respective websites.
Mr. Fedun told the Planning Board that the average volunteer uses the firehouse 20 to 25 times per month, between responding to calls for service, training, and meetings. The volunteer firefighters work closely with the Police Department and the Montgomery Township Emergency Medical Service, he said.
The volunteers have responded to more than 200 calls so far this year, Mr. Fedun said. Last year, the firefighters responded to 250 calls, and in 2013 they went out on 273 calls. He said that with the anticipated development, the number of calls would increase.
Mr. Fedun said Montgomery Township has never maintained Covert Drive. The volunteer firefighters plow the street. A 1996 letter from former Montgomery Township Engineer Kent Scully to the Somerset County engineer indicated that the township is building Covert Road to provide access to the new firehouse, but it “will not be a dedicated public road.”
Traffic engineer Hal Simoff, who represents the fire company, suggested that the driveway entrance to the proposed Belle Mead Plaza should be located on Belle Mead-Griggstown Road. It should be aligned opposite a driveway that would provide access to another proposed shopping center on the north side of Belle Mead-Griggstown Road, he said. 