"We've always felt that we've been playing catch-up in parking," Joseph J. Salvia, manager of facilities area engineering for Merck, said in an interview after the hearing.
Merck has asked the board for relief from the section of the zoning code that requires parking lots to be set at least 175 feet from the property line.
Merck wants to build a new lot near Building 62, off Broad Street, that would start 110 feet from the line and build an expansion onto Lot F, off West Point Pike, that would start 75 feet from the line.
Charles B. Manula, senior project facilities engineer for Merck, told the board that Merck would construct 6-foot-high earthen berms that would be ''heavily landscaped" to shield the lots from sight.
"Our interpretation of this section of the zoning code is that the setbacks were designed to create an aesthetic buffer zone. We're willing to go the extra measure by creating the berm and putting in landscaping that exceeds what you require," Manula said.
Merck wants to build 550 parking spaces in the new lot and 554 in the Lot F expansion. They do not need permission from the board to build the lots, but they do in order to construct a section closer than allowed to the property lines. Salvia said that Merck had about 3,600 parking spaces now.
The 10 area residents at the meeting had some concerns about extra traffic
from the proposed expansion. Manula explained that Merck was looking at possible road improvements and traffic light installation to help the flow of traffic around the facility.
However, some of the residents believe that the expansion would create problems that deceleration lanes and signals would not solve.
"When I'm eating supper in my dining room, I'm not going to appreciate having the headlights of an extra 500 to 600 cars lighting up the room.
There are also safety problems with children waiting for their school bus," said Nancy Sherlock-Robson of West Point Pike.
The board will decide Tuesday whether to grant the variances. Board member Kenneth E. Kroberger said there were "a lot of neighbors with genuine concerns that need to be taken into consideration."