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Mosque Parking, Traffic Calculations Questioned

Traffic consultant due to return at special Bernards Planning Board meeting on Nov. 28.

A traffic consultant representing the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, on Thursday faced questions about the validity of his calculations on traffic and adequate parking at the facility.

The consultant, Henry J. Ney, is scheduled to return at a continuation of the public hearing on the proposed mosque at a special Planning Board meeting set for 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Ney, speaking about a plan that calls for 50 parking spaces to accommodate services and activities within the proposed 4,200-square-foot mosque, said that in conducting his traffic study he at least doubled what would be the anticipated number of vehicles for some activities.

Ney said he based his calculations on the plan's estimates of a maximum of 150 worshippers at one time attending the primary Friday weekly service at 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., a time he said would not even come close to interfering with traffic generated by the dismissal of students from the nearby Liberty Corner Elementary School.

Ney added that Somerset County already has given its seal of approval to the proposed traffic plan, which would have cars heading to the center entering and exiting to Church Street via a loop driveway.

But while Ney said he based his estimates for traffic on generally accepted averages for churches and other public gatherings — with an anticipated three persons arriving per car — questions from the board and public centered on whether fewer passengers would be in each vehicle arriving at mosque services.

Upon questioning, Ney said he had spent some time observing traffic heading to a much larger mosque already located in Holmdel, and said he had seen most cars arriving for Friday services there carrying one or two occupants per vehicle.

During public questions, resident Lori Caratzola, as had others, asked whether the basis of three occupants per vehicle in the traffic study had assumed that on average parents and a child might be attending a church or other house of worship.

Ney said that the estimate is based on average vehicle occupancy for any place with public gatherings.

In that case, Caratzola said, the destination likely would be a location where people would be coming together, rather than attendees primarily arriving from work in the middle of the day.

As board members and residents continued to ask whether the traffic patterns for a mosque would be different than any other house of worship — a permitted use in the residential zone where the property is located — Vincent Bisogno, attorney for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, objected to the relevance of the questions.

"I think the board is concerned about whether there will be sufficient parking for those attending," said Planning Board Attorney Jonathan Drill.

The Planning Board's attorney, Frank Banisch, said he had calculated that the occupancy for the proposed prayer service area for the mosque, given the size of prayer mats, would be 168, rather than 150, which would call for at least six more required parking spaces, even on the estimated basis of three occupants per vehicle.

If the numbers at the Friday prayer service are higher than anticipated, Ali Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society, a township resident and former member of the Township Committee, said that a second service could potentially be added prior to the 1 p.m. service.

Other board members said that minutes from a prior meeting said that Chaudry had suggested that a second service could be added after the first service — which could potentially bring more traffic into the area when the Liberty Corner School was dismissing students — but Chaudry maintained that he would not have made that suggestion.

In a mosque, "Friday prayer service is never after 2 p.m.," Bisogno said, conveying information from Chaudry.

Although numbers probably would be much smaller, Ney also said his traffic report had factored in 25 — and even 50 cars — for worshippers expected to attend sunrise services and a small Sunday school.

But others at the meeting asked whether weddings and other events at the mosque potentially could bring in larger numbers of people at the proposed 4,200-square-foot structure.

Ney said he had performed his study in early December 2011, and had calculated that the mosque's construction would have no impact on local traffic. He said that the estimated 50 vehicles at the mosque's busiest time of the week — the Friday service — would not add up to sufficient traffic to have studied whether it would add to stacking of cars at a recently installed four-way stop at Church Street and Somerville Road.

Ney was asked to provide additional information, including the basis for his traffic calculations prior to the Nov. 28 special meeting. Public questions on his testimony are expected to continue on that date.

Lori October 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
They are not concerned about the parking spaces as there are tons available a few yards away at Harry Dunham Park, as well as a lovely walking path. It's a public park, so no regulations on who parks there. How convenient.
LC October 28, 2012 at 04:10 PM
It may be true that's what they're planning, but I think that in order to comply with the ordinance, they have to demonstrate they will have enough off-street parking. THAT is why Chaudry is clearly minimizing projected attendance. I truly hope the planning board is meticulous, because if this thin is approved with 50-56 parking spots, they will be parking in the park and our tax dollars will be paying for police to protect them as they walk to the mosque. Visit any nearby mosque and you will see hundreds in attendance on Friday afternoons. Once they build it - they will do whatever they want. Currently, they flagrantly ignore fire codes during their Friday prayers at the community center.
Linda October 28, 2012 at 06:50 PM
The Community Center has a maximum capacity of 50 per fire code. Our town officials should "stop by" some Friday to do a head count. Chaudry is definitely downplaying attendance.
LC October 28, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I reported it and they don't care. The Fire Official's reply: "We don't selectively enforce the fire code." Nice, huh? Also - "someone" ripped the fire code capacity sign off the wall at the Community Center.
Linda October 28, 2012 at 07:30 PM
"Selective Enforcement" is complete nonsense! It seems safety is now taking a backseat to political correctness. They (the fire officials) selectively enforced the fire code at Gotta Dance a few years back and made them change times for enrollment, class turnovers, etc.
LC October 28, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Yep. I kid you not. She said to me: "If I go there, I will have to go to St. James on Christmas Eve and empty the building." That's what we're dealing with in this town - Chaudry knows how to work it. Remember - he learned all the ins and outs while on various boards.
RGMKT October 29, 2012 at 12:23 PM
We would like to attend the next hearing - is this held in the administration building on 1 Collyer Lane? Also, when is the next hearing?
LC October 29, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Yes - that's where it is. The date is Wednesday, November 28th at 7:30pm. Any changes would be on the town's website, or even here on the Patch.
RGMKT October 29, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Thanks LC - we will be there
LC October 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Good! Please spread the word to neighbors, too. All township residents should be concerned and show it by attending these meetings. The reason ISBR is able to do this is that we have a zoning ordinance that says a house of worship may build in a residential zone as long as the lot is 3 acres. This means there are many other sites in town that could fall victim to such misuse of land. Of course, keep in mind this has been on the books for 20 years but ISBR is the only group to try to inappropriately force themselves upon residential neighbors.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 03:58 PM
And like you have already pointed out... Chaudry misused his knowledge as a previous mayor to "work the system". The land purchase was done under a private name, not as a non-residential "business". Anyone who lives near this intersection knows how dangerous the traffic already is at the corner of Liberty Corner & Somerville Rds. That is why a 4 way stop has recently been added with plans for a traffic signal. Now our Township is going to allow a huge influx in traffic? What are they thinking? Is anyone considering SAFETY? There is an elementary school and firehouse right across the street from the ISBR site!
Joe November 12, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Hi Linda. Did you write this article? If so, thanks for the information. I did not realize Chaundry was a previous mayor.
skai February 07, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Please remember one thing once the mosque is allowed to be build,then the area will slowly be islamized the area and the indigenous will be forced to move out. That is what muslims do all over the country.
skai February 07, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Please see www.thereligionofpeace.com and www.compassdirect.org

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