Of Grease Traps and Dumpsters

[The next Planning Board meeting is Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 8PM in Town Hall.   The applicant requested a postponement at the January meeting and recently filed a modified plan.   This page provides a top-down, from-the-beginning overview of the topic that was first introduced in September.   A good place to start for the current status is with the gateway design refresher page.]

In early September, 2016 Mayor DeLuca proposed granting an easement to the Clarus Maplewood project to allow dumpsters to be placed in the public parking area behind Village Coffee.  He explained that he had brokered an agreement between a local resident and the developer for a 4,000 square foot restaurant.  The resolution was approved 4-1, and included a requirement that Planning Board approval be obtained before an easement could be officially granted.

Subsequently the developer submitted a Planning Board application for several changes to the site.  A summary of the initial application and initial on-line discussion of the Mayor’s proposal are available.

The proposal requires careful review because it utilizes public space in the area of the new “Village Gateway” which has been designed to enhance aesthetics and pedestrian flow north-south and east-west near the NY transit tunnel.   Read more about the Gateway design goal here.


On-Line Materials

October 2016:  Application not heard; carried to November to continue a hearing on separate matter.

November 2016:   Approximately 1 hour hearing.  Testimony by site engineer, questions by public, questions by Board.

December 2016: Approximately 1 hour hearing. Testimony by restaurant owner, questions by members of public and Board; comments by members of public;  motion to vote.  Tabled.

January, 2017:  Several hours before meeting, applicant requested that the discussion be moved the the February 14th Planning Board meeting.

February, 2017:  Scheduled for 8PM, Town Hall

The initial hearing took place in November; at that meeting nine dumpsters were proposed to be housed in a 18’x25′ brick structure located near the sidewalk along the railroad tracks. The proposal also included an in-ground grease interceptor (“grease trap”) next to the pedestrian cross walk and NJT transit tunnel entrance.   The grease trap would be maintained via two manholes located in the driveway at the rear of the new building.

Roadway Grease Interceptor

In-ground grease interceptor service

Grease Traps come in many configurations, for use indoors and outdoors.  This design, with two manholes, appears to be the type shown on the Planning Board submissions.  On-line product literature estimate that they hold 500 to 1000 pounds of grease.  Placement next to the new  cross-walk will jeopardize the Village Gateway that has been a design feature up to this point.  

Masonry “Bunker” to Hold Seven Dumpsters


This appears to be the type of dumpster proposed–there would be seven of these, servicing the Clarus restaurant and the Village Coffee building, but located nearly 100 feet south of Clarus Maplewood.  Logistics around loading and unloading these has been discussed in general terms.  Issues related to cleanliness, odors, transport of waste from the building, and long-term maintenance have not been adequately resolved.  Alternatives have not been discussed.  More worrisome is that the testimony has been very weak, failing to include the views of experts familiar with trash management approaches in densely organized areas.


The proposal overall presents several aesthetic and practical issues, and more importantly is counter to agreements and requirements long settled during 2015 negotiations:

  • The developer was engaged with the understanding that the Township wanted a plan that would include a new “bypass” road behind the building to allow for pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular access.   The proposed changes interfere with traffic and re-claims the new bypass as a service alley.
  • The Redevelopment Plan called for an enhanced “Gateway” to improve the pedestrian experience surrounding use of the NJT tunnel.   This plan interferes with that goal and impacts the Gateway experience for pedestrians moving both east-west through the tunnel as well as north-south between Baker Street and Ricalton Square (on the “bypass”).
  • The developer, as part of their October, 2015 approval, agreed to manage all waste internal to the structure;  no outdoor dumpsters were to be used.
  • The proposed use will be the among the largest commercial operations in the Village, serving 150 or more.¹  The impact of its waste operations will be substantially greater than that of any other business using the public parking areas.
  • The proposal as it stands is a detriment to future improvements in the public areas.  If the new structure is allowed to handle waste and grease in this manner now, it will be difficult to alter that in the future.  It will also open the door to that use for others, possibly precluding improvements to the public parking area in general.
  • Parking itself is an additional question–we are learning more about that.   It appears that restaurants of this size need 50-70 spaces, as “rule-of-thumb” design.  The plan approved in 2015 required the developer to provide 10 spaces to support a 4,000 square foot business, apparently not foreseeing the possibly of a business such as a full-service restaurant.   This by itself will be a significant accommodation by residents and local businesses on behalf of the new project.

Taken together, the situation also raises policy and planning concerns that we discussed in an earlier post.

The next Planning Board hearing is Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 8PM in Town Hall.   The applicant must be told to present proposals that manage operational needs within the planned building, consistent with the approval granted in 2015.   The Planning Board has the authority to make that request, and the Mayor can as well because he has been instrumental in bringing this proposal together.   For more on the policy and planning side of all this, see a recently published op-ed on the subject.

[Search #StopTheGreasePlease on Facebook for community discussion]

¹The restaurant owner estimated seating to be 150 when appearing at the Maplewood Village Alliance board meeting in October.  The proposal will include a bar area also.

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This site chronicles the five year public process leading to the construction of Clarus Maplewood.   We recently re-arranged it to provide easier access chronologically and by topic area.  Check out the changes here or use our tag cloud and search features.

tags: #stopthegreaseplease#Clarus#VillageGateway#Mayor Deluca#PlanningBoard