Sayreville Residents Push Against Proposed Bus Depot in Planning Board Meeting, Citing Environmental and Traffic Concerns
The Sayreville Borough Planning Board recently addressed a proposal for the construction of a new bus transportation complex, igniting a debate over the project’s location and environmental implications. The proposed site, a seven-acre parcel of a 77-acre property on Cheesequake Road, raised concerns about traffic congestion, environmental impact, and the removal of hundreds of trees. The project, approved by the Department of Education and all the borough’s elected officials, was criticized by community members for a lack of transparency in the decision-making process and the absence of comprehensive traffic and environmental assessments.
The bus depot’s location was the primary point of contention. A presentation outlined plans for building layout, parking areas, and retention basins, necessitating the removal of approximately 350 to 400 trees. Though there are plans to replant 110 trees, community members expressed concern about the ecological impact and the potential traffic implications. The board acknowledged that a traffic study had not been conducted specifically for this project, raising questions about the potential strain on nearby roads.
During the discussion, Patrick Slia, the director of transportation, voiced his concerns about the increased bus traffic causing congestion. Richard Laban, the superintendent of schools, acknowledged the potential congestion but argued that the location was recommended by the former borough business administrator. The board’s chair, Barry Muller, emphasized focusing on the architectural and engineering aspects of the complex, while other members argued for consideration of the project’s alignment with the municipal master plan and land use goals.
The board also addressed the cost of the project, clarifying that it would be funded from the capital reserve, meaning no additional cost to taxpayers. Despite this assurance, the lack of sidewalks along Cheesequake Road, the potential safety hazards, and the project’s possible noise and environmental impact remained contentious issues.
In relation to the master plan, the board debated whether the $9.5 million bus depot could be considered a cost-effective expansion of educational facilities and how it would promote an improved visual environment or preserve natural systems. The absence of thorough reviews of the plans and decisions made without community involvement were also criticized, emphasizing the importance of transparency and adherence to statutes.
Community members voiced their concerns about the proposed complex’s impact. Residents called for a more suitable location that doesn’t require cutting down more trees and raised concerns about increased traffic, potential safety hazards due to the proposed bus depot, and changes in the water table, infrastructure damage, and flooding. Councilman Christian Onuoha responded to the residents, stating that the council is willing to revisit the issue.
The board also touched on the disconnect between what is right and what is required, emphasizing that they can only advise, comment, and question, but not make final decisions. The board’s role in negotiating lease terms was also discussed, pointing to the Department of Education and the council as the entities to address concerns directly.
Members of the board expressed their concerns about the project. Herve Blemur raised environmental sensitivity issues and suggested considering alternative locations. Christian Onuoha mentioned the requirement for the project to come before the planning board earlier. Another member, E. Pabon, supported the bus depot, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing children’s education.
Planning Board Officials:
Herve Blemur, Anthony Sposato, Christian Onuoha (Councilperson), Barry Muller (Chair), Sean Bolton, Dan Buchanan (Vice Chair), Alexis Pawlowski, James Allegre Jr., Beth Magnani (Board Secretary)