Maplewood Township Committee members struck a compromise between residents of 44th Street and their neighbors on Tuesday night and decided to amend an ordinance that would have made the street one way in perpetuity.
Ordinance 2792-15 would have designated 44th Street as a one-way street with traffic flowing from east to west permanently. Instead the ordinance was amended to sunset by August 1, 2017.
44th Street connects Jacoby Street with Chancellor Avenue near Maplewood’s border with Irvington. A proposed Wawa convenience store and gas station could open in the area in about 16-18 months.
While 44th Street residents in attendance overwhelmingly wanted the ordinance approved, a number of residents from the nearby neighborhood complained about what they felt would be limited access to Springfield Avenue with the one-way designation, coupled with changes on Jacoby Street to limit speeding and traffic there.
Township Committee members were anxious to see continued quality of life improvements on 44th Street, but also were unsure of what impacts the proposed Wawa convenience store development would have on traffic flow in the area.
Committeeman Marlon K. Brownlee said that he was “a bit reluctant to make the change more permanent until we have the data.” In addition to data from last fall, Brownlee said he’s also like to see data for other seasons as well as for the “new variable — the Wawa.”
“I want it to work because of the impact on quality of life for 44th street residents,” said Brownlee, “but I want to take into account the impact on the surrounding area as we’ve heard.”
Mayor Vic DeLuca suggested sunsetting the ordinance on August 1, 2017, although he said he was inclined to make the one-way designation permanent.
“I think that by not making it permanent, we’re doing a disservice to all the work we’ve done down there and to the people on 44th Street,” said DeLuca. “We’ve heard tonight that it has fundamentally changed life on 44th Street. It was a forgotten street. It was dark. There was dumping. People who lived there thought we didn’t care. I respect the concerns that others have, but they don’t live on 44th and their property values are not tied into the welfare of that particular street.”
DeLuca said that the data from the 60-day pilot in late 2014 was compelling, with traffic speeds reduced from 23-24 mph to 16 mph and car trips down from over 1,200 to under 800.
“I’ve gone door to door and clearly people feel better about their block.” However, DeLuca noted that he was in the minority on the Township Committee and thus proposed to sunset the change. DeLuca said that, by August 2017, the Township Committee should have 6-8 months of data on the impact of the Wawa. “Pushing it out for two years allows us to meet the needs of the 44th street folks, respect the concerns of others and measure the impact of Wawa,” said DeLuca.
Browlee concurred, “I would be in favor of that. I want to make this work. I also do want to respect the needs of adjacent areas as well.”
The amendment passed by a vote of 5-0.