29 July, 1987
Two Sites for Firehouse To Be Reviewed Thursday
The Planning Board will consider two different locations for a new firehouse in the vicinity of Valley Road and Witherspoon Street Thursday.
An informal concept review of the two sites is on the agenda for a special meeting of the board, which meets at 7:30 in the Valley Road building meeting room. Continuation of the concept review of the proposed development on the Etti Farm is first on the agenda. followed by consideration of the firehouse location.
The relocation of the Chambers Street Firehouse to a site in the Township as recommended in the Shand Report has been a top priority for Township Committee for the past year. The Valley Road/ Witherspoon intersection is considered a good location because of its accessibility and because a firehouse could be built on property owned either by the municipality or by the board of education.
Township Committee has also been considering constructing a new municipal complex to include expanded facilities for the police department and the Township administrative offices. A Facilities Committee was created to plan for these multiple municipal needs, and the architectural firm of Short and Ford was hired to assist in the planning.
Present Proposal. The architect and the committee are proposing that a new three-story building be constructed in place of the present police headquarters and its adjacent parking lot. This building would combine the Township office, the police station and court under one roof, and space would also be provided for board of education offices, according to plans on file at the Planning Board.
Underground parking for 160 cars would be provided below the building, which would be angled to fit the site. The proposal includes two alternative sites for the new firehouse.
The first puts the new firehouse and parking in the triangle behind the existing public works garage. Terhune Road would be closed off at that point in order to create a large enough building area.
The second places the firehouse on what is now the visitor parking area for the Valley Road building. The use of this area will require approval of the board of education, which owns the building. Under both alternatives, the single municipal building/police station remains on Valley Road. However, the Planning Board will only be considering the proposed firehouse locations at its meeting Thursday.
According to comments by Professional Planner Duggan Kimball in a memo to the Planning Board, the smallness and narrowness of the space behind the public works garage raises concerns as to whether there is enough space to design and site the facility properly there. Garmen Associates, the Township’s traffic consultants, has reviewed the proposal and questions whether there is adequate room for the 75-foot apron it recommends.
Furthermore, an entrance and exit is shown to Route 206, which is not desirable. If the Terhune Road access to Route 206 is closed, Garmen Associates recommends that a traffic light be installed at the in-tersection of Route 206 and Valley Road, and that a turning lane be provided on Route 206 for northbound vehicles turning on Route 206.
Locating the firehouse on the Valley Road building visitor parking area “would be a good fit from a site design point of view,” according to Mr. Kim-ball. The proposed building would be complementary to the scale and character of the ex-isting neighborhood, and it would screen the Board of Education school bus parking and outside storage area.
The main problem with this alternative is the elimination of the visitor parking area. A new parking lot is shown replacing the grassy area along the Valley Road side of the building. Mr. Kimball notes that if the municipal offices are relocated to a new facility, reuse of the existing building as business, professional or corporate office space “will likely overwhelm the current parking capacity.