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Township To Study Ways To Mitigate Effects Of Warehouse Boom

Mayor Phil Kramer said the Township is looking at ways that warehouses can be reined in in Franklin. (File photo).

Township officials are studying ways to limit the effects the warehouse boom is having on Franklin, Mayor Phil Kramer said at the June 14 Township Council meeting.

The Mayor’s announcement came after the Council heard about an hour’s worth of complaints about and pleas from Canal Walk residents to do something to stop a proposed warehouse, targeted for property near their development.

The Council action comes against a backdrop of more than 1 million square feet of warehouse space having been approved in the past year or so.

Destruction of natural environment, air and noise pollution caused by large trucks., and the use of local roads by those trucks top the list of grievances residents have against warehouses.

Kramer said that while any action the Township takes to mitigate future damage by warehouses, it probably would have no effect on the Canal Walk situation. That’s because, Kramer and township attorney Lou Rainone explained, the developer has already submitted an application for the project to the Planning Board, and the process that could result in its approval has already begun.

“I’ve begun work on coming up with a plan on how to minimize warehouse impact in Franklin,” Kramer said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, don’t know if all the members here will approve, but we are working on that.”

“This is a creature that was born many years ago, but really has blossomed in the last couple of years, and … we need to get ahold of it,” Kramer said. “From hearing from Council tonight, I think there’s going to be a commitment to do it.”

Kramer was referring to comments made by Council members during their “Council report” portion. Many of the Council members expressed support for the Canal Walk residents, and frustration over their inability to do much about their situation.

“My heart is aching,” Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) said. “As a retired senior, people should not have to be concerned about air quality, about traffic congestion, about environmental issues, about health concerns and sprawl, especially if you move to an area like that.”

“I’ve dedicated 19 years on this council to improving quality of life here in Franklin township,” she said. “I’m concerned about the quality of life for everybody in the township.”

“I just feel so ill-equipped and inadequate sitting here and listening to what is taking place right now, and how we’re not able to address this issue,” she said. “I just want the Canal Walk residents to know that your voices were heard. And in the future, we need to do better.”

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) suggested that there could be things the Council could do “to create an environment where we are 100 percent committed to the welfare of our residents, and not anybody or anything else.”

Vassanella said the Council’s land use sub-committee “will diligently go through and try to make any recommendations to Council that try to give us a little bit more control over quality of life. I don’t think this issue is going away anytime soon.”

“The chase for ratables should not chase residents away,” he said.

Council member Ed Potosnak said that in some respects, the warehouse boom is a self-inflicted wound.

“Warehouses are being proposed in many places that are changing a lot of communities,” he said. “We all are ordering more online, and we wonder, how do we get all those things to our house? How do we get those things in 24 hours from the time I click ‘buy now,’ to our doorstep? That happens in a warehouse.”

“When we talk about the concerns about the sprawl we are having, we have to remember that we are changing our lifestyles,” he said.

“It’s something that I’m really concerned about, because if you have one or two warehouses in the right place, then OK,” Potosnak said. “And then they start to take up the whole town, and we rename the towns Franklin Warehouseville or something, and that’s something nobody wants to see.”

Canal Walk residents told the Council that a warehouse will adversely affect their quality of life, due mainly to the large trucks that will rumble to and from it.

Some pointed out that the township’s current crop of warehouses – including Amazon’s – are spurring 18-wheelers to illegally park on township roads, such as Randolph Road.

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said that he had witnessed the illegal parking, and the use of inappropriate roads by tractor trailers, and that he had spoken to Public Safety Director Quovella Maeweather about it.

Vornlocker said he told Maeweather that she should dispatch the Franklin Township Police Department’s Traffic Safety Bureau to the area to search for the illegally parked trucks.

“I also instructed her to have someone from the Community Relations Bureau to visit Amazon and tell them they need to accommodate their trucks on their site and not on the public road,” Vornlocker said.

In response to another Canal Walk resident who suggested the Township impose weight restrictions on Mettlers Road, Vornlocker said the Council was preparing to do just that later in the evening through an ordinance introduction.

Canal Walk resident Steven Brant suggested that a buffer larger than 200 feet between a warehouse and residences would help the situation.

Brant noted that the developer will have to show their project will not “unduly harm” wildlife or the environment.

“Do we not count as much as wildlife?” he asked.

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