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Warehouse Construction in NJ May Be Curtailed in Proposed Legislation

New Jersey State Senate subcommittees are currently considering a bill (S-3688) that aims to dramatically slow shipping and distribution warehouse construction across the State. Recently it seems that is the only thing that anyone has wanted to build in this state but some lawmakers believe that there may be such a thing as too many warehouses.

In the first three months of 2021, New Jersey, and particularly South Jersey, saw a substantial increase in the creation of warehouses. [1]. As the law in NJ stands today, the decision to approve or deny an application to build one of these massive warehouse spaces typically lies in the hands of the municipality in which the tract of land is located. As currently drafted, the new bill pro would extend the ability to participate in this decision-making process to neighboring or “adjoining” municipalities and, in some cases, the county. [2]. The idea being that these large buildings have a pretty wide impact.

If the plans for a new project, including shipping and distribution warehouses, require any “variance” from local zoning ordinances, the developer must make an application to the local zoning or planning board for approval of said variance(s). During the hearings at which these local boards consider variance applications, there is almost always a public comment period reserved for residents and other entities to voice their support or opposition for an application. While residents and other objectors from neighboring municipalities have always had the ability to testify during this time, the new Senate Bill seeks to amplify and codify their participation in the decision-making process for certain large warehouses. [2]. We would note by the way that we have seen some boards try to reduce participation from persons not residing in a host municipality.

One way S-3688 aims to accomplish this is by requiring any applicant for the new development of a “large warehouse” within 200 feet of an adjoining municipality to provide notice to that adjoining municipality. That adjoining municipality, within a certain time frame, may adopt a resolution of regional concern to be submitted to the host municipality. In certain instances, similar requirements would apply to the county planning board. Some critics of the bill say that it will curb job creation as collateral damage at a time when many places need job creation now more than ever. [2] Other critics raise concerns about the dilution of the local interests by taking so many others into account. [2]

But while many love these Amazon-era large structures, some believe they cause serious issues such as pollution, stormwater, and traffic problems. It will be interesting to see if this Legislation gains traction.

You can read the most recent version of this bill (as of the date of this article) here: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/S4000/3688_U1.PDF and you can track the progress of this bill as it makes its way through the NJ State Senate review process here: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp?BillNumber=S3688

Other Sources: [1] https://www.njspotlight.com/2021/05/warehouses-sprawl-northern-nj-central-nj-newmark-reports-greenfields/

[2] https://www.njspotlight.com/2021/05/warehouse-sprawl-senate-panel-advances-bill-adjacent-towns/

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