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Trinity Hall's Traffic Impact a Concern

Founders of the all-girls school are from Rumson

Trinity Hall's Traffic Impact a Concern

More information about how Trinity Hall’s proposed permanent all-girls school will affect traffic on Chapel Hill Road is needed before Middletown Planning Board members can vote on the complex, they said Wednesday. 

Experts testified about plans for the 320 Chapel Hill Rd. campus, including its layout, expected occupancy and parking configuration. But it was the potential impact to Chapel Hill Road—and a traffic report Planning Board members felt was incomplete—that drew criticism.

“I think the abbreviated report you gave us doesn't give us adequate information,” said board member Kevin Settembrino in response to a document prepared by traffic engineer Mark Kataryniak, a witness for the applicant.

Board members expressed concerns that the school, which once completed is expected to have an enrollment of 400-450 students, will generate more pupil vehicle traffic than Kataryniak’s report anticipates.

“I knew right from the word ‘go’ when I read this that there was something wrong,” said board member Michael Ostrander, who added it is likely more than 15 percent of students—the number used in the report—will use personal transportation to school. “We need a realistic view of what traffic is going to be like in that area.”

Though the area’s zoning allows for expanded traffic, board attorney James Gorman said the safety impact of those additional vehicles can be examined. As such, Kataryniak agreed to reappear during the board’s next meeting on Feb. 19 with more data.

The school has been operating in a temporary location on Leonardville Road in Leonardo, and is poised to service as a female counterpart to the all-boys Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft.

Trinity Hall wants to split its land, allotting 37.75 acres for the development of the school. No current development is planned on the remaining 26.30 acres, according to the public notice.

The complex, which would be completed in phases, requires preliminary and final major site plan approval.

The applicant proposed widening the shoulders near the school’s proposed entrance off of Chapel Hill Road. That would allow vehicles room to pass on the right someone making a left-hand turn into the complex.

But the legality and safety of that configuration was a concern for the board, and members said they would like the applicant to consider the installation of turning lanes.

“There is a danger here. Passing on the right doesn’t cut it for me,” said member Carl Rathjen, who added speeding can be a problem on Chapel Hill Road.

Trinity Hall said that the school has adequate parking, including during sporting and other events, and agreed to ban overflow parking on Chapel Hill Road.

Nearby neighbors have taken issue with the school and its placement, and they came to the Wednesday night meeting, nearly filling Middletown’s courtroom. An online petition started by Jennifer Valencia states the school would impact “wetlands, protected birds, and other local wildlife including deer.”

“Building a school in this area, will not only be a disaster for the rural areas affected, but will also add congestion and traffic to Chapel Hill Road,” the petition reads.

Some residents at the meeting asked if the school’s potential impact on property values could be a reason for denial. Gorman responded that the board legally cannot take that into consideration when making its decision.

The applicant said that the plan meets township ordinance standards and requires no variances, though a few design waivers were requested. Fencing and additional trees would be installed to further shield the school from neighbors.

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