Booming warehouse construction warrants more local, county oversight, says South Jersey lawmaker

Booming warehouse construction warrants more local, county oversight, says South Jersey lawmaker

Beth Sawyer

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer says she is seeking cooperation from legislative leaders to address her community’s concerns over the continued construction of warehouses in South Jersey. Speaking at an Assembly hearing this week, she urged members from both sides of the aisle to work with her to advance her bill ensuring local and county officials, and residents, have a voice in the warehouse development process.

“Warehouse construction decisions really need to stay at the local and county level, because they know their communities best. Building massive complexes with no regard to residential concerns, including the safety, traffic and environmental impacts is irresponsible,” Sawyer (R-Gloucester) said.

Sawyer’s bill (A4475) requires county planning boards anticipating the construction of large warehouses to conduct an impact assessment to protect residents and municipalities from adverse outcomes associated with the development. The county planning board is also required to notify all property owners who are within 1,000 feet of the proposed project and hold a public hearing.

“I’m all for smart economic growth, but when a proposed 2.1 million-square-foot warehouse with a marijuana grow house runs through residential neighborhoods and backs up to a daycare, there’s a problem,” Sawyer said.

The controversial warehouse project Sawyer cited would spread across 160 acres of farmland in Harrison and Woolwich townships along Route 322. Residents worry the development will bring traffic, noise and pollution to their communities.

“We need to achieve a balance that supports farmland preservation, jobs and community concerns,” Sawyer added.

She pointed to the industrial park in Logan Township as an example of a complex that doesn’t interfere with homeowners and offers businesses an ideal location. A Burlington Coat Factory warehouse and Wawa are slated to open in the park.

“Gloucester and Salem counties are traditional farming communities that have added dozens of warehouses in just the last two years and the demand doesn’t seem to be letting up,” Sawyer said. “New Jersey needs to be more strategic about industrial construction so we aren’t left with giant vacant eyesores.”

Due to a growing e-commerce market and New Jersey’s proximity to major highways, airports and ports, the number of warehouses in the state has grown exponentially.

“There must be better local oversight and careful coordination between counties and municipalities, because we can’t lose land to developers who do not add any value to our communities,” she said.

Sawyer’s bill has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.