State Reports Seeks To Guide Warehouse Development in New Jersey

With demand for sprawling e-commerce warehouses growing, New Jersey’s State Planning Commission has released a series of documents outlining best practices for cities examining warehouse proposals.

July 7, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Worker packs boxes in an Amazon warehouse

Frederic Legrand - COMEO / Amazon warehouse

Writing on, Tom Gilbert, Co-Executive Director of New Jersey Conservation, highlights a set of guidance documents released by the State Planning Commission that informs towns about the impact of warehouse sprawl to give them important context for making decisions about warehouse proposals in their areas.

As Gilbert writes, “New Jersey is a ‘home rule’ state, so most decisions affecting land-use are made at the local level. Our state also has a history of statewide and regional planning, which is often needed to address challenges that municipalities can’t deal with on their own.”

According to the commission’s report, “With its strategic geographic position, skilled workforce, major consumer markets, and robust transportation infrastructure that serves the entire Northeast, New Jersey is an ideal location for the warehousing and goods movement industries.” Some towns are tempted by the jobs, tax revenue, and other benefits warehouses can bring. “But many other towns – often bolstered by vehement citizen opposition – are concerned that warehouse development will lead to the loss of prime farmland, truck traffic, noise, dust, air pollution and potential flooding that would irreparably harm the quality of life in their communities.”

The guidance documents “provide a detailed checklist of factors for towns to consider when developing or updating their master plans and zoning ordinances.” Some key points include:

  • “Towns should update and refine their regulations to ensure that they accurately assess their ability to handle truck traffic and related impacts.”
  • “Zoning should be very specific, not broad.”
  • “While warehouses aren’t covered in the state’s Environmental Justice Law, municipalities should take into account the impacts of air pollution on overburdened communities.”

For Gilbert, these documents are a useful first step, but “More tools will be needed to fix this problem, such as model ordinances, multi-municipal planning, and carrots or sticks from the state to align warehouse development with the guidance.”

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