Recently, NJ Spotlight News held a roundtable on the aftermath of a boom in warehouse construction that is taking place in New Jersey as transportation logistics companies battle for space to store the rapidly growing volume of goods ordered online. These projects increase local tax revenues and create jobs, but also increase truck traffic, occupy open space and have sparked strong opposition in some communities.
As part of the discussion, we invited our audience to ask questions to our discussion team. We selected a few of the many that were received and sent them to the participants for consideration. Here are excerpts from some of their answers.
Q: Are city builders building warehouses to build new roads or improve roads to mitigate the impact of the traffic they create?
Municipalities are limited in what off-site improvements they may require from warehouse developers, including improvements to roads and other infrastructure. The requirement to study traffic both before construction and after the warehouse is put into operation is a realistic and important tool to ensure that any increase in traffic expected and implemented by the new warehouse can be properly taken into account. – Michael F. Serra, executive director of the League of Municipalities of New Jersey
Q: To what extent is the county and / or state involved in vetoing or curbing the development of warehouses approved by the township if they have concerns about the impact on transportation?
County and state transportation departments may weigh on the roads under their jurisdiction. – Kim Gaddy, NNational Director of Environmental Justice, Clean Water Action; Deputy Chairman of the NJDEP Advisory Board on Environmental Justice
Question: BWhat is the role of the state planning process in the location of new warehouses? Maybe it’s time to update the 2001 National Plan and include these issues?
There is currently no formal role. As part of the National Plan or a separate nationwide warehouse plan, the State Planning Commission and its staff in the Planning Advocacy Office are well positioned to take a regional perspective on appropriate locations for large warehouses that will generate significant volumes of truck traffic. The update of the State Plan may include standards for the development of storage facilities in terms of direct access to the road network, proximity to rail freight, preventing the movement of trucks from neighborhoods (especially in congested settlements) and preventing the consumption of productive agricultural land. The state could then use these criteria to determine the most suitable sites for warehouse development. Such a process would be difficult, if not impossible, for individual municipalities to do on their own. – Peter Kasabah, CEO of New Jersey Future
Q: Do counties have the authority to reject warehouse applications if county roads are affected?
Yes, but only depending on the level of service. Districts have demanded developers improve roadsides, add turn lanes and improve driveways for facilities that stand on county roads. – Michael G. McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of NAIOP NJ
Q: It seems that zoning options are limited for cities facing courts. What can be changed to help cities?
The State Law on Municipal Land Use (MLUL) provides rules for municipal zoning and consideration of building applications. MLUL provisions along with recent court decisions may make it more difficult for municipalities to make the changes to their zoning needed to meet specific needs. Often these restrictions mean that municipalities lack flexibility or they are unable to respond quickly enough to make changes to local land use laws. – Michael F. Sera
Q: What will it take for any company wishing to do warehousing in New Jersey to (at least) (1) locate its facilities near major interchanges on the highway (to reduce impact on local communities) and (2) use only sustainable , electric electric tractors for their trucks?
The first point can be made through state law or municipal ordinances. Meanwhile, the Office of Planning Advocacy could develop guidelines to be used to guide other State Department actions and to create model local ordinances. For example, the New Jersey Department of Transportation may refuse to improve roads more than a specified distance from a nearby interchange or intersection with the U.S. Highway System and may make such improvements dependent on access that does not affect residential areas. As for the second point, the adoption of New Jersey’s Advanced Clean Truck rules in late 2021 will require that from 2025, the percentage of medium and heavy zero-emission trucks grows. trucks are the first in the corridors that currently have poorer air quality. – Peter Kasabach
Question: What is your opinion about Mansfield’s decision in Burlington County to remove warehouses as an authorized use until a thorough study of existing impacts is conducted?
Given the speed with which warehouse development has changed the landscape in Mansfield, this seems like a reasonable answer. Ultimately, the municipality must change its zoning or create overhead criteria for warehouse development. – Peter Kasabach
Question: Whose responsibility is it to ensure that vacancies in warehouses are not available only to those who own a car? What are the responsibilities of warehouse developers for financing investments and transit services, bicycle and pedestrian vehicles to ensure equal access to these jobs?
No requirement to provide affordable transportation. Transfer services are usually expensive and predatory, and there are no options other than paying. Given the lack of affordable housing in more remote warehouse locations, most low-paid workers are relocating. The cost of transportation per day varies, but $ 40 a day back and forth is big money for a low-paid worker. It is even more difficult to find reliable transport with variable hours of change. – Kim Gaddy
Q: We often hear warehouse developers claim that warehouses in your city will reduce property taxes. True or false?
Tax cuts are the city’s decision. Warehouse development has the least impact on utilities and the greatest net benefit to the city. In many areas, their creation is responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites. Warehouse developers pay COAH (affordable housing) fees of (typically) 2.5% of the appraised value, which is millions of dollars for most projects. PILOT agreements (payment instead of taxes) also allow townships to direct property tax revenues as they see fit, rather than sending the majority to school districts and counties as they would have to with ad valorem taxes. The developer cannot control whether the municipality uses tax revenues from development to increase costs or to reduce taxes. – Michael G. McGuinness
Q: In Salem County, warehouses are seizing farmland. There is no available / rental property for warehouse workers in the county. How can Salem County sustain this growth with a small population and no public transportation for potential warehouse workers?
Perhaps the question should be why they are building a facility in a place where labor and appropriate housing are so limited. The developer of the warehouse builds without restrictions, burdening society with the production of drugs. – Kim Gaddy