NEW JERSEY – Acting in response to the rapid sprawl of warehouse construction across New Jersey, Senate President Steve Sweeney introduced legislation that gives municipalities impacted by the developments more control on their approval.
The bill would update the “Municipal Land Use Law” to require the notification of nearby communities that could suffer negative consequences of the large-scale projects and give them a voice in the approval process.
“New Jersey is proud to be known as the Garden State, but we are at risk of becoming the warehouse state,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland) said. “The rapid increase in the construction and operation of retail warehouses poses a threat to the preservation of farmland and open space. The impact of these large-scale projects extends to neighboring communities that can experience economic and environmental consequences that impact their quality of life.”
Under the bill, a municipality would be required to notify and provide a report to adjoining municipalities when an application is filed to build a retail warehouse, allowing the neighboring communities to adopt a resolution of “inter-municipal concern,” which would entitle them to have their concerns considered by a joint board with members representing each municipality. The report would include a regional economic impact analysis, paid for by the developer.
The construction and operation of these warehouses have an impact on land use, traffic, the environment, local economies, the fiscal wellbeing of municipal governments, and social equity in the region, Sweeney said. They can also have a negative impact on businesses and jobs in the area.
“We need to have safeguards in place that allow for reasonable controls before the projects are approved,” Sweeney said. “The host community and neighboring towns need to have a voice in the process and the ability to reject proposals that will cause them harm. The warehouses should be located where they make sense.”
The surge in warehouse construction is being fueled in large part by the growth in e-commerce and the distribution of products for home delivery. The bill would update zoning laws and state guidance to empower municipalities to control the placement of the warehouses.
The bill would create a 15-member “Intermunicipal Impact Advisory Board,” in the Department of Community Affairs to promulgate guidelines, hear appeals and render decisions.
Warren County Commissioner Director James Kern III sent a letter to Senator Sweeney stating, “I am writing to thank you for your recent announcement to introduce legislation pertaining to New Jersey’s warehouse sprawl. As you are likely aware, this is a significant challenge facing Warren County and our municipalities.”
“I strongly support the home-rule governing style New Jersey entitles, and as a former mayor I understand the benefit of having localized planning. Local jurisdictions know what is best for their communities, but when local leaders only focus on tax ratables and their immediate area, the bigger picture can be forgotten for the worse. “Silo” thinking and planning is too pervasive,” the letter said.
“This board will examine the text of the bill once it is published and likely offer support,” the letter statedSwee.