Joseph Pagano, Director of Produce for Inserra Shop Rite, testified as a factual witness on behalf of Hekemian at Thursday's special meeting of the Zoning Board devoted entirely to the hearing of the proposed development of the United Water property.
Why did Hekemian call a produce manager as a witness? The people sitting in the audience are still scratching their heads trying to figure that out.
Attorney for the applicant, Antimo "Andy" DelVecchio spent an hour establishing Pagano as an expert in the produce/refrigeration aspect of Inserra's Shop Rite, New Milford which is one of the stores that Pagano oversees. However, DelVecchio objected at almost every turn when the public attempted to question Pagano about traffic, parking, and emergency service calls to Shop Rite because it was outside of the scope of his expertise.
As one member of SOD exclaimed out loud, "What a tremendous waste of our time and resources."
There was one moment in the testimony that Zoning Board attorney Scott Sproviero intervened with indignation. With regard to underground parking at Inserra's Bayonne and Fairlawn Shop Rites, Pagano said that it is not a parking plan that they favor because people do not like to go underground and the cart conveyor can pose a danger.
Sproviero interjected,"I'm approaching being offended because when it was the only game in town, it was fabulous. Now, not so much."
Sproviero was referring to Inserra's original plan for renovating and expanding the current Shop Rite on its present site that was approved by the New Milford Planning Board. During that hearing before the Zoning Board, underground parking was hailed as being great. Sproviero asked how it is that their position changed so dramatically.
Pagano replied that unlike Bayonne and Fair Lawn, New Milford is an upscale community that needs this type of parking structure (outdoor). According to Pagano, the earlier application before the Planning Board gave Inserra no other choice than to consider below ground parking.
"Now we have options," Pagano said.
However, out of all the witnesses that Hekemian has had testify thus far, Pagano was the first one to go on record acknowledging that the area of the proposed development floods. When asked about flooding in the area of the proposed Shop Rite, he said that he was at the Lodi Shop Rite during a flood, "This (New Milford) flooding will be no way worse than the Lodi flooding."
Pagano did testify that there would be approximately 34 trucks visiting the new Shop Rite per day.These trucks include trailer deliveries, garbage, recycling and vans that take food donations from Shop Rite.
At one point during his testimony, Pagano asked out loud, "Why am I here?" followed by his response, "Because I would do anything Mr. Inserra asks."