Senate Committee Approves Sweeney-Singleton Bill to Counter Warehouse Sprawl

Measure Would Vest Counties with Authority to Approve or Reject Contested Building Projects

 

Trenton – A Senate committee today approved legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Troy Singleton that would give municipalities impacted by the rapid surge of warehouse construction developments more control on the approval process.

The bill, S-3688, would update the “Municipal Land Use Law” to require the notification of nearby communities that could suffer negative consequences of the large-scale projects and give them a voice in the approval process. The measure would authorize county planning boards to approve or deny contested construction proposals.

“Warehouse sprawl has become a real threat to the quality of life in communities throughout the state,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “The rapid surge in the construction of large-sized warehouses has a regional impact that crosses municipal boundaries to neighboring towns. They should have a voice in the approval process.”

The construction and operation of these warehouses can have severe economic consequences, forcing local businesses to close their doors with a resulting loss of jobs and economic activity in downtown communities, Senator Sweeney noted. The warehouse jobs usually pay less and do not provide employee benefits.

“New Jersey has quickly become a major player in the logistics sector due to our ideal regional location and expansive transportation infrastructure. At the same time, as e-commerce has grown exponentially, so has the number of warehouses across the state,” said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “In many cases, our open space has been haphazardly developed without consideration of the impact it will have on neighboring municipalities. As a result, surrounding towns are left grappling with increased traffic and tractor-trailers on their local roadways. This legislation would allow these communities to voice their concerns when neighboring towns are considering the construction of warehouses. This will not only protect our natural resources, but will also protect the quality of life for the families living in these towns.”

Under the bill, a municipality would be required to notify adjoining towns with a “notice of regional impact” when an application is filed to build a retail warehouse, allowing the neighboring communities to adopt a resolution of “regional concerns,” which would entitle them to have their objections addressed by the host community and proposed developer.

If the concerns are not resolved, the proposal would go to the county planning board, which would be empowered to reject or approve the application. Appeals could be made to the State Planning Commission. The state commission would also be responsible for considering proposed developments that impact municipalities that cross county lines.

The host community would be required to prepare a “regional economic and land use impact report,” paid for by the developer, before the hearings by the county planning boards or the State Planning Commission.

“County government is in the best position to judge the regional impact of these large-scale projects,” said Senator Sweeney. “They have the perspective and the planning resources to make decisions in the best interests of the communities in the region.”

The bill was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with a vote of 8-2-2.

“Thousands of New Jersey’s undeveloped greenfield acres will be gone forever without a regional approach like this legislation provides. We need to consider the big picture as we make permanent decisions in a market that may be behaving speculatively because of pandemic-driven consumer behavior,” said Micah Rasmussen, Director, The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics of Rider University. “Senate President Sweeney understands the impacts of industrial warehouses do not stop at the municipal border. This bill will prevent impacted citizens of a neighboring community from being ignored. Regional impacts require a regional approach.”