A traffic expert told the Planning Board on Tuesday that his count of how many vehicles actually were parked during the main Friday service at two other mosques in New Jersey indicates that the proposed mosque in Liberty Corner would need a maximum of 70 spots — not the 110 advised by board professional last month.
The board's members did not seem convinced and scheduled the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge's traffic engineer to return on April 25 with further information, additional details on certain points in the report and an additional vehicle count for a mosque in South Brunswick.
The applicant's original number of parking spaces was 50 for the proposed 4,200-square-foot mosque at 124 Church St. in the Liberty Corner section of Bernards Township.
Henry Ney, the traffic engineer testifying on behaf of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, said he had commissioned three counts of vehicles parked at mosques in Franklin Township, and in Toms River. Afterward, he suggested that space for 20 additional spots might be "banked" along with the original 50 proposed spots, and only developed if actually needed in Liberty Corner.
Township professionals suggested in January that a mosque would need more parking spots than an average church since more vehicles arrive driven by one or two worshippers at Friday afternoon services.
The count was 62 this past month at a mosque in Franklin Township, a much larger building overall but with a prayer size just somewhat bigger than what Ney said would be the maximum prayer space size in the proposed mosque in Bernards Township, according to the traffic engineer. That mosque has 120 paved spaces at a 30,000 square foot building with a full-floor school, he said.
He said counts at the Toms River mosque, with 19 paved spaces and a large field he said is used for parking there, came in at 93 and 82 at two separate Friday afternoon services. Experts for the proposed mosque said that would be the week's main worship service, to be held between about noon and 2 p.m.
Ney said that the prayer space within the studied mosques was similar to the maximum amount of space that the board had previously suggested. However, one of the points of disagreement last night was whether worshippers could fit into a gallery hall between the proposed 1,600-square-foot prayer hall and a multi-purpose room that Ney said would add up to just a little over 2,000 square feet in the proposed Liberty Corner mosque.
Planning Board member Kevin Orr said he recalled the multi-purpose room as being larger, and also asked why the gallery connecting the prayer hall and multi-purpose room couldn't be used for the overflow of worshippers.
Vincent Bisogno, attorney for the Islamic Society, said that previous witnesses had "clearly" told the board that the gallery hall would not be used by worshippers and that worship services likely would be held only in the prayer hall.
Board members and Jonathan Drill, attorney for the board, repeatedly asked Ney to specify how he reached his calculations for the number of parking spots he thought would be advisory.
Board members also asked for clarification of the formulas used in a report they said they received only before the meeting on Tuesday evening.
Bisogno also said he would bring certified transcripts from previous hearings on the proposal — which started late last summer — to the April 25 meeting.
After the meeting, Ney said he had been asked only to pick up traffic counts at three out-of-state mosques, but thought that studyinging those within New Jersey that also would have no other parking nearby would provide the most accurate picture.