Noise Ordinance Amendments Adopted By Township Council

SUPPORTIVE WORDSAttorney Howard Cohen, representing the Canal Walk Homeowners’ Association, speaks to the Township Council at its June 13 meeting.

Amendments to the Township’s Noise Ordinance which restrict the time that industrial-related loading and unloading operations, as well as the use of vehicles with backup beepers, can be used on properties that abut Scenic Corridors which are adjacent to residential developments was approved on second reading June 13 by the Township Council.

The amendments apply to properties that abut Scenic Corridors which in turn abut properties in residential zones.

The township’s Scenic Corridors are zoning overlay areas that come with development restrictions above those imposed by a parcel’s underlying zoning.

Township Councilman Carl Wright (D-Ward 4) cast the lone “no” vote on the measure.

Under the ordinance amendments, the type of loading and unloading operations common with warehouses would be prohibited on properties abutting Scenic Corridors from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays and from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekends.

The operation of vehicles which use backup beepers would be prohibited during the same hours.

Fences and gates would have to be installed and used to prohibit those vehicles from a property during the relevant hours, according to the proposed ordinance.

Public comment was overwhelmingly supportive of the measure, although there were some dissenting voices in the audience.

One of those dissenters was an attorney representing the developer of B9 Schoolhouse Road, a two-warehouse project targeted for a parcel at Schoolhouse and Mettlers roads. The project has come under intense opposition by residents of Canal Walk and, most recently, Summerfields at Franklin.

The attorney, John LeDuca, told the Council that it was obvious to his client that the ordinance amendments were targeted to the B9 development, as they affect operations normally associated with a warehouse.

LeDuca said that while the ordinance relies on state law that empowers towns to regulate noise, the amendments “make no reference to noise, they make reference to use, they make reference to activities. They prohibit a use, they do not prohibit a certain sound level.”

“This is not a noise restriction; this is a restriction on use,” he said.

Also, LeDuca said, the hours that the amendments restrict the use of trucks would essential force their use during rush hour.

He asked that the Council consider expanding the hours that trucks can be used on the affected properties to 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., to get them out of weekday rush hours.

The lone resident who spoke against the measure, Michael Hampton, said the issue is more about inconvenience than anything else.

“Seventy five thousand people live in the town,” he said. “This inconveniences about 100 people.”

“I would wager a bet with anyone in this room that there are more people in this town that one, do not know about this ordinance, two, do not care about this ordinance within where it currently exists,” Hampton said.

The ordinance amendments, he said, would create a precedent “because if you say now that the noise pollution of this warehouse is the reason to change the operating hours, what happens where the old Kmart is? What happens along (Route) 27 that borders Hamilton Street and Franklin Boulevard, where there’s tons of other properties that are currently up for sale?”

Hampton charged that the Council was adopting the amendments as a political move. The Mayor and At-Large Council seats are up for grabs this November.

“I’m assuming you’re going to pass it because it’s an election year, and the seniors determine who is going to become the next mayor of this town, a good business decision would be to pass it,” he said. “I’m just saying at least be honest about the reason we’re doing it because it affects your voting demographic.”

Two attorneys who represent Canal Walk residents spoke in favor of the amendments.

Howard Cohen, who represents the Canal Walk Homeowners’ Association, told teh Council that the Association supports the amendments because “its restrictions on noise and hours of operation cover mitigation sought by the association in respect to the proposed warehouse development now pending before the Planning Board.”

Michael Gan, who represents a group of Canal Walk residents know as the Citizens Warehouse Action Group, said his group supports the amendments because “we believe it is a great step to protecting the residents from the noise impacts that can come from these operations and to promote the health and safety of Franklin Township residents from intrusive noises at odd hours that really shouldn’t occur.”

Also, Gan said, the amendments support “the purpose of the scenic corridor, to protect the farmlands, fields and woodlands of the scenic corridor.”

Canal Walk resident Marlon Kwan took issue with LeDuca’s assertion that the amendments are targeting the proposed B9 project.

“This ordinance is not targeted specifically to B9,” he said. “The residents of the neighborhood that the scenic corridor is in, already have noise problems.”

Another Canal Walk resident, Nancy Beirne, said that if the warehouses are built, “I’ll never be able to open up the window without the noise of trucks. I won’t be able to sleep without the noise of trucks in my backyard.”

The proposed ordinance amendments are the latest move by the Council to corral what some critics see as the rampant over-development of warehouses in the township.

Earlier this year, the Council passed an ordinance that effectively bans all new warehouse development in Franklin. That ordinance is currently the subject of a number of lawsuits from developers.

In other action, the Council amended its contract with township attorney Lou Rainone’s firm, increasing its limit to $370,000 from $270,000. The reason, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said, was to deal with the lawsuits filed against the Township.

Wright said that he opposed the amendments because “I have residents on Churchill Avenue, and I have warehouses on Veronica Avenue. Churchill Avenue is directly behind Veronica. The warehouses are so close you could spit at them. I understand the plight of those over at Canal Walk … I understand the noise that could come out. But as a rule … it affects everybody so it will go around town. Sometimes we have to watch that. It’s very important to watch it.”

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