May 10, 2023

Pending Legislative Proposals to Be Applauded For Taking on Warehouse Sprawl

To the Editor:

We who live in New Jersey know the special role that “home rule” plays in our State. Home rule may be inefficient at times; but historically and still today, we New Jerseyans like our local police departments, our town halls, our local schools, our local planning boards. They may not be efficient, but in many ways they have come to define our state. 

In recent years, the proliferation of large warehouses in New Jersey has led some legislators and members of the public to ask: Is home rule still a workable legal rule? Does it make sense when a local planning board can take action that increases flood risk and traffic congestion for neighboring communities? Within the last year, the West Windsor Planning Board (consisting of nine unelected representatives) approved the then-largest pending warehouse application in the state, located on wetlands just across the street from the Quaker Bridge Mall. If approved, it would be on a site that is larger than a combined 70 municipalities. This according to the West Windsor mayor’s own press release, which accompanied the rezoning of the Clarksville Road site to permit warehouse construction. 

Pending legislative proposals, like Sen. Shirley Turner’s S3356, would codify a set of recommendations from the State Planning Commission which among other things would: 1. Require municipalities to notify neighboring communities that would be affected by pending warehouse proposals in advance of planning board approval; and 2. Require planning boards to undertake a detailed cost-benefit analysis to be shared with the public. Legislative fixes like these are a first step to encouraging regional planning around warehouses that can take up scores of acres of land (along Clarskville Road, in West Windsor, 115-120 acres).   

Our legislators need to hear from us on this important issue. And in upcoming local races, let’s ask our municipal leaders where they stand on the need for legislative reform. 

Tirza Wahrman
Stonelea Drive, West Windsor

Wahrman sits on the advisory board of Clean Water Action New Jersey; she is also an elected member of the Environmental Law Section of the New Jersey Bar Association. Her views are her own and do not represent the views of the Bar Association.

Brad Soltoff
Wallingford Drive, West Windsor

Lynne Azarchi
Lorrie Lane, West Windsor