Seven fellow commissioners joined Lopez in voting against the store. The only commissioner voting in the affirmative was Board Chairman John Cardwell.
The vote brought tension, as Cardwell tried to convince the commissioners to approve the project since it conforms to requirements set by the Holland Tunnel Redevelopment plan, and by law cannot be denied.
After the meeting, Cardwell said because the application cannot legally be denied, the applicant could file a lawsuit against the Planning Board.
He said that his fellow commissioners "needed more training" in understanding their role as Planning Board commissioners.
The application was voted down 8-1.The board members who voted against the project were concerned that the store would generate increased traffic in an area that already experiences daily congestion.
Other concerns were Home Depot's lack of communication about the proposed store with residents who live near the tunnel, and that such a large construction project would overwhelm the current construction of the 12th and 14th Street viaducts near the tunnel.
The lawyer for Home Depot, Thomas O' Connor, said that he wasn't happy about the decision. He declined to comment on what the next move would be for Home Depot. Five-story building
Home Depot representatives made their second appearance in front of the Planning Board in a four-week period to present a preliminary site plan for flagship store on a 3.35-acre lot on 12th Street and Marin Boulevard. The 286,000 square-foot store would include a five-story, 50-foot building with 471 spaces of parking. Construction would have started later this year, with completion in early 2007. The hours of operation would be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Home Depot appeared in front of the Planning Board on Aug. 23, but their presentation was rescheduled for this past Tuesday's meeting since they couldn't provide a traffic impact study to the board.
It was expected that the application would be approved since the store would be located within the Holland Tunnel Redevelopment Plan. Not one of the more well-known city redevelopment plans, it was first adopted in 1958 and amended just twice, most recently in 1996.
The plan covers 12th Street to 14th Street and Henderson Street (Marin Boulevard) to Coles Street. The building's dimensions must conform to the dictates set by the specific street it is built on.
The proposed Home Depot would cover Henderson and Grove streets between 12th and 14th streets. According to the redevelopment plan, any building within that area cannot exceed six stories or 100 feet in height, which the proposed store complied with. Any application for a structure that is not seeking a variance from what is allowed within the plan cannot be denied.
Also, residents do not have to be contacted about a project if it complies with the redevelopment plan. On Tuesday, O'Connor brought an architect, a consulting engineer, and a traffic expert.
Traffic expert Michael Maris testified that most of the traffic coming to Home Depot would not be coming from New York, as residents feared, but from western New Jersey and other areas near Jersey City. O'Connor said that meetings were held with the city's traffic engineer, Joao D'Souza, in which D' Souza gave thumbs up for the project. O'Connor also said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the Holland Tunnel, gave approval for the project in a letter sent to Home Depot.
O'Connor said that he contacted Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop to facilitate a meeting with the community to inform them about their project. Fulop asked the board to deny the application, claiming that O' Connor never contacted him about the Home Depot, but Fulop said he would welcome an opportunity to talk with Home Depot representatives. This project has issues
But the assurances were not enough for the board or the residents opposed to a Home Depot near the Holland Tunnel.
Janice Monson, a resident of the city's Hamilton Park section that's situated about two blocks from the site, said that she and other residents didn't recall being informed by Home Depot of plans to build a store near the tunnel. Monson also said that the traffic expert for Home Depot downplayed the impact of traffic upon the neighborhoods near the tunnel. She claimed that traffic problems would abound if customers drove through residential areas instead of taking the NJ Turnpike or Highway 1/9 to reach Home Depot.
City Council President Mariano Vega advocated for an independent traffic study rather accepting the information provided by Home Depot.
Board members expressed a great deal of skepticism about this project. Board Commissioner Jeni Branum was the most critical, wondering how Home Depot could possibly choose a site that is one of the most vulnerable areas in the country regarding security in the aftermath of 9/11.
Branum also said she was not happy with Home Depot's failure to consult the community on this issue.