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Piscataway community members challenge Zoning Board variance approval of giant warehouse development in residential zone

Warehouse development is a controversial arena in the State of New Jersey. The most densely populated state in the country has little open and natural space to spare, yet that very population’s online purchases necessitate more and more facilities for product storage and distribution. The industry, which was already growing thanks to services such as Amazon Prime, was turbocharged by the pandemic, pushing the State’s supply chain and distribution capacity to its limits.

Yet, the fate of one recently approved, 900,000 square foot warehouse development is in question due to a lawsuit filed against its developer, M&M Realty Partners and Piscataway’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. Private residents and two community groups in Piscataway argue that the Zoning Board’s approval of the development was arbitrary and capricious, and seek an order from the New Jersey Superior County, Middlesex County, voiding the Board resolution approving the development.

The approval of this particularly large building, which would accommodate 60 truck bays, was alleged to be particularly egregious given its location in a RR-1 Zone, a rural/residential zoning permitting one residential dwelling per acre. Such an application requires “special reasons” justifying a D-1 variance under the Municipal Land Use Law (“MLUL”) at N.J.S.A 40:55D-70(d).

Opponents in court claim that the warehouse application is a far cry from the permitted uses in that zone. Moreover, the plaintiffs cite public health issues associated with the site, such as a significant increase in noxious diesel emissions. This, they say, is particularly concerning, since an Elementary School is located next to the proposed development. Indeed, several plaintiffs have children attending the school.

Warehouse development in New Jersey will undoubtedly continue be a hotly contested issue for years to come. The Court’s ultimate decision in the Piscataway case may offer some insight into future challenges to warehouse applications throughout the State.

Both residents concerned about their health and open space, as well as local businesses attempting to compete against tech giants like Amazon, will have a stake in these challenges. Noteworthy as well is the fact that some municipalities are taking a second look at their zoning laws with the apparent hope of limiting the number of these structures in their municipalities.

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