Developer Hints At Lawsuit Over Warehouse Ordinance

Mark Healey, the township’s Director of Planning, discusses the proposed warehouse ordinance at a recent Planning Board meeting. (File photo).

A lawsuit could be in the offing if the Township Council, as expected, adopts on July 19 an ordinance that will limit where future warehouses can be built within Franklin.

Michael Mandelbaum, manager of 5 Belmont Associates, objected to the proposed ordinance in a July 14 letter to the Council.

5 Belmont Associates owns property at 125 Belmont Drive, which holds a 57,000-square-foot data center.

“Belmont objects to and requests that the Council does not enact the Proposed Ordinance,” Mandelbaum writes in the letter.

When asked if Belmont would sue over the ordinance, the company’s attorney, Neal Herstik, wrote, “If the Council adopts the resolution, all options are on the table.”

The proposed ordinance, which is being fast-tracked by the Council and the township Planning Board, was created in the wake of opposition to a proposed warehouse abutting the Canal Walk senior residential development.

Residents of Canal Walk have attended several Council meetings speaking out against the warehouse – even though the Council has no say on the application’s fate – and, most recently, in favor of the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance would change warehouses from a permitted use to a conditional permitted use in the Business and Industry zone, and would prohibit the construction of warehouses on land within 500 feet of a residential zone.

The warehouses would also have to be able to be connected to public water and sewer.

The proposed ordinance also takes aim at future warehouses through the rezoning of some prime parcels.

A 60-acre parcel that does not permit warehouses, but does permit large-scale commercial development would be rezoned from Research, Office and Laboratory to RR#, which is residential with 3-acre minimum lots.

A 10- to 20-acre portion of land along Mettlers Road – near Central Jersey College Prep Charter School – is proposed to be rezoned from ROL to Agricultural, to make them consistent with the zoning of surrounding properties, said Mark Healey, the township’s Director of Planning.

Properties along Elizabeth Avenue, south of New Brunswick Road would be rezoned from Business and Industry to the R-40 zone, a residential zone that required 40,000-square-foot lots.

The ordinance is seen as a first step in mitigating the effects of a steep rise in the number of warehouses built in and planned for the township.

In his letter, Mandelbaum told the council that the proposed ordinance’s “Draconian limitations will prohibit growth, eliminate hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of dollars in potential ratables, reduce existing property values, and increase property taxes for all other residents and taxpayers in Franklin.”

Mandelbaum said the ordinance could intentionally prevent “$500 million to $1 billion of new real estate ratables” in the township.

“The math is easy: each 500,000 square foot warehouse will bring in a new ratable of approximately $125 million,” Mandelbaum said in his letter.

There are seven warehouse projects under construction as of April, the total square footage of which is 1,509,874 square feet, according to data supplied by the Township.

The township has seen 27 applications for warehouses since 2018, with eight applications pending, according to Mark Healey, the township’s Director of Planning.

Healey said the total square footage of those eight pending applications is 1,173,763 square feet.

The square footage of all 27 applications since 2018, Healey said, is 6,128,452.

Township officials have been contacted for comment for this story.

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as new information is acquired.

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