Township Council Takes Steps To Limit Warehouse Sprawl

Mark Healey, the township’s Director of Planning, explains the proposed warehouse ordinance at the June 28 Council meeting.

Spurred by residents of Canal Walk who are opposed to a proposed warehouse abutting their community, the Township Council on June 28 introduced new zoning requirements for future warehouse projects.

The new regulations would increase the distance between a residential property and a property targeted for a warehouse, and would change the zoning of some parcels to prevent warehouses from being built on them.

As with all zoning-related ordinances, this one will have to undergo a review by the Planning Board before the Council can hold a public hearing and final vote. That final vote is anticipate for a September Council meeting.

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.

Healey said there are several other components of the ordinance that address issues such as setbacks, buffering and building height.

Healey said the ordinance is a “first step” in dealing with the issue of warehouse sprawl. He said the Planning Board should review it in the upcoming weeks, after which it will return to the Council for a final vote.

“After that, after this ordinance is adopted, if it is adopted, the Planning Board will be asked to review this even further,” he said. “There may be additional tweaks to it that can better address this issue.”

While this ordinance would have an impact in future warehouse applications, it will not affect one currently in the pipeline, located next to the Canal Walk development.

A group of about 50 Canal Walk residents attended the June 28 meeting – as they had the June 14 meeting – to express their opposition to the proposal.

Mayor Phil Kramer, Vince Dominach, the town ship’s economic development director and Councilmembers Sheepa Uddin and Ram Anbarasan also attended a Q&A at Canal Walk several weeks ago, where they heard the residents’ initial complaints.

Dominach said that those complaints spurred the Council into action.

“I feel your pain,” Kramer told them. Kramer said the group could still try to defeat the proposal, “but you should put your efforts to making in not as bad.”

“The developer is open-minded,” he said.

Healey said there are ways to “improve” the proposed warehouse application.

“We are looking at ways to address these issues” he said. “If there’s a way to shift the building away from Mettlers and Schoolhouse … preserve some of the existing trees …”

“We are looking at ways to modify this site plan to mitigate the issues as much as possible,” he said.

An associated complaint with the warehouses is the heavy truck traffic they attract.

The Council also introduced on June 28 an ordinance that would ban vehicles weighing more than 4 tons from using the municipally owned portions of Weston and Weston Canal roads, from the Causeway to Elizabeth Road.

That followed final adoption of a ban of vehicles weighing more than 4 tons from all of Mettlers Road.

“We’re seeing how we can prevent more of this spread to places we don’t want it,” Kramer said.

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