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Planning Board Begins Discussion Of Proposed Warehouse Ordinance Amendments

Township Planning Director Mark Healey described the proposed zoning changes that would effectively ban new warehouses in the township.

Planning Board members didn’t have a lot to say about proposed ordinance amendments that would effectively ban new warehouses in every zoning in the township.

The Board considered the amendments during a special Master Plan review meeting on January 11. The Planning Board must, by law, review and approve any proposed amendments to the township’s Master Plan.

Mark Healey, the township’s Planning Director, led the discussion. Healey went over the various aspects of the proposed amendments, which would remove warehouses as conditional uses in the township’s Business and Industry zone.

In h his report, Healey noted that since 2018, here have been more than two dozen applications for new or expanded warehouses, totaling several million square feet.

“This exponential growth in warehouse development is anticipated to create significant impacts to the quality of life in Franklin Township including but not limited to traffic impacts related to the capacity of the Township’s roadway network to handle the significant increase in truck traffic and additional negative impacts to sensitive land uses including noise and air pollution,” Healey said in his report.

Healey said that the Business and Industry zone is comprised of about 4.8 square miles, a total which would not change with the exclusion of warehouses.

“While future warehouse development would be prohibited, properties in the B-I zone could still be developed with a one or more of the various other uses permitted in the B-I zone including: general and professional office; laboratory; banquet facility; hotel; data center; light manufacturing; self-storage facility; and indoor recreation,” Healey said in his report.

Current warehouses would be grandfathered under the ordinance amendments, but owners of existing warehouses to wanted to expand that use would have to get Zoning Board of Adjustment approval, he said.

“Applicants still have the opportunity if they choose to go before the Zoning Board of a use variance for a new warehouse,” Healey told the Board.

Charls Brown, the Board’s vice-chairman, asked Healey if 4.8 square miles is too large a total to be in the Business and Industry Zone.

“That’s a question that is somewhat hard to answer, what percentage of a town should be zoned industrial,” Healey said. “I don’t know whether there’s necessarily a standard.”

The Township’s 4.8 square miles “would be about 10 percent of the township,” he said. “I think that could probably vary significantly town to town, based on various factors.”

“I don’t know if there’s any planning standard that says how much area should be,” Healey said. “I think it’s for every town to make that decision.”

Developers would still be able to go before the Zoning Board for a use variance if they wished to build a warehouse, Healey said.

The Board will hold a public hearing on the amendments at its January 18 meeting, when it will also vote on recommending the changes to the Township Council.

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