Noticed all the new warehouses everywhere? NJ is doing something about it
TRENTON – New Jersey has formally adopted new guidance addressing the proliferation of warehouses around the state. The next question is whether anyone will follow it.
After months of debate, resulting in a few changes, the State Planning Commission last week voted unanimously to approve guidance for the siting of warehouses in New Jersey. But its members stressed the document provides suggestions for towns to follow but isn’t mandatory.
Donna Rendeiro, executive director of the state Office of Planning Advocacy, encouraged people to talk to lawmakers if they want more, for this is as far as they can go.
“The commission does not have authority to regulate or legislate, nor tell a local jurisdiction how to develop their community,” Rendeiro said. “Rather this is guidance. It’s there for those communities who are looking for that guidance and technical assistance.”
State Planning Commission Chairman Thomas Wright says the intention is to create jobs and support communities while moving goods as efficiently and sustainably as possible, reducing the carbon footprint and any negative local impacts.
“I do think that the goal here is to try and create the best logistics and warehouse industry in the nation,” said Wright, the president and chief executive officer of the Regional Plan Association.
Nearly one in eight jobs in the state are in the wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing sector, but John Vidulich of West Windsor, where residents are fighting a warehouse proposal, said he thought officials weren’t thinking about the issue correctly.
“We are not the logistics state, which people have said three or four or five times in this session,” said Vidulich. “We are the Garden State.”
Guidance called 'laughable'
Sarah Hare of the Hope Township Environmental Commission isn’t optimistic that towns will use the guidance to help their planning, zoning and application reviews, without incentives and proactive efforts by the state.
“The whole idea that township officials will automatically just look at this guidance and decide to follow it is kind of laughable to me,” Hare said.
Julia Somers, executive director of the Highlands Coalition, said those incentives could include having the state pay for the legal defense of towns that are sued after using the state’s model ordinance.
“That will be a tremendous resource for communities to not get bullied, which is what happens quite often, that towns are intimidated by well-heeled developers,” Somers said. “And certainly the logistics industry is doing pretty well these days.”
Everyone wants their Amazon package delivered
Matt Blake, a senior area planner in the state Office of Planning Advocacy, said that based on input received at an Aug. 3 meeting, substantive and extensive revisions were made to four of the 13 sections of the guidance document: the executive summary, types of warehouses, municipal considerations and best practices.
State Planning Commission member Stephen Santolo, executive vice president and general counsel for Woodmont Properties, pushed for changes he said make the plan more balanced to permit responsible growth.
He said everyone wants their Amazon package to arrive the next morning – but doesn’t want trucks or a warehouse anywhere near them.
“And I’d hate for this document to be used as a sword for people who just don’t want it in their backyard,” Santolo said. “And I’m very hopeful that it doesn’t take on that direction.”