What’s the problem with building a warehouse? Isn’t that a pretty passive use, especially compared to new homes?
Operation of a large-scale warehouse is anything but a passive use. It involves high volumes of car and truck traffic and associated noise, air pollution, road degradation, and dangers from 80,000-pound trucks that are difficult to stop. Imagine thousands of trucks a day, every day, taking every road available to get to these isolated warehouse locations.
Even one large-scale warehouse will transform our community into an industrial landscape. In truth, large-scale warehouses are a heavy industrial use.
How will the warehouses impact property values?
Oversized warehouses in residential areas most certainly will impact nearby property values. The extent of the impact will be based on how close the building is to residents, whether the operation is 24/7, whether they are able to operate without noise reduction, etc.
There also will be a general impact on all property values in town, given that heavy truck traffic will increase from all points to and from the warehouses; in essence, the roads will become saturated with truck traffic coming from every direction, as it is in Franklin Township now.
The very fact that it is certain to reduce property values speaks directly to whether these developments should be approved. If you want to build something that will negatively impact your neighbor's home value, you should not be allowed to build it -- period
Where are the proposed warehouses located? How big are they?
Currently there are six warehouse locations under consideration:
Harvard Way, 107,366 square feet, and 17 truck docks. This application was denied by the Planning Board but the town is being sued in court.
189/203 Homestead Road. There are two buildings proposed, one at 368,995 square feet and 60 truck docks, and 168,304 square feet with 30 truck docks. This is the largest of the applications and is being aggressively pursued by the applicant. These buildings will increase impervious cover by nearly one million square feet, just upstream of where flooding occurred on Amwell Road during Hurricane Ida and one person drowned in her car.
279 Homestead Road, 127,750 square feet with 23 truck docks. This application has many flaws, including that the property does not have any road frontage.
1170 Millstone Road, 114,440 square feet and 28 truck docks. This development is on hold while other applications are being pursued at the Planning Board.
303 Amwell Road, 80,000 square feet and 8 truck docks. The town has already determined that warehousing is not a permitted use on this property, so the applicant is proposing an “industrial building” that looks quite a bit like a warehouse.
Weston Road, 130,418 square feet and 20 truck docks. This development is directly across from the Hearthstone retirement community and on a narrow, winding road.
Didn’t the Hillsborough Township Committee change the zoning so no warehouses are allowed?
Yes! They recently passed two ordinances, removing warehouses as a permitted use in the TECD zone and in the Light Industrial and General Industrial districts. This means that anyone proposing a warehouse for these zones in Hillsborough would have to go to the board of adjustment for permission.
However, these ordinances don’t apply to the six existing warehouse applications. So it is still possible that these seven buildings would be approved, since the applications were submitted before these ordinances were adopted.
What kinds of hazards do warehouses pose to the neighborhood and Hillsborough at large?
The most significant hazard that warehouses pose is the large volume of truck traffic that will be generated. Heavy trucks emit high concentrations of dangerous air pollutants that include toxic chemicals and harmful particulates. Because of their size and long braking distances, they pose a much higher hazard for traffic accidents than autos, and more often those accidents result in fatalities.
Heavy trucks damage road surfaces, requiring millions of dollars in road repairs. They move slowly on narrow roads like Homestead and Weston, greatly increasing traffic congestion on these roads.
Truck operations at warehouses is noisy (think backup alarms 24/7).
Warehouse fires are common and difficult to extinguish, as Hillsborough discovered in February 2016, when a fire broke out in a So, 240,000 sq ft warehouse at the Veterans Industrial Park that burned for 3 straight days, involved 500,000 sq ft of warehouse space, torched trailers parked nearby, needed 93 responding fire companies, 500 firefighters, more than 200 emergency vehicles, and caused $50M in damage.
Simply put, warehouses are heavy industrial uses and should be located far from schools and residential areas, and close to interstate highways.
If you order from Amazon, you have no right to oppose warehouses, since you are benefiting from them, right?
The boom in warehouse building in New Jersey is not because our area orders from Amazon. In fact, there already is an Amazon fulfillment center in nearby Franklin Township, which has built more than 4.5 million square feet of warehouse space. The warehouse boom is because regional planners are making New Jersey into a logistics hub for the eastern US.
New Jersey is bearing the burden of rampant warehouse development so the eastern US can get their goods. We already have more than our fair share of warehouses within a few miles of our town. The developers want to make us pay for everyone else’s need for overnight packages.
Is this just another case of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)?
We are not opposed to warehouses just because they are nearby. We are opposed to any warehouse that is in the wrong location. The wrong location is far from interstate highways, near schools and residential neighborhoods, and near sensitive populations. They should be located near major highways and in heavy industrial areas.
What impact will these warehouses have on traffic in Hillsborough?
Dolan and Dean, the traffic consultant often hired by warehouse developers, provides remarkably low rates of truck traffic from the warehouses. For instance, they estimate that the two largest warehouses on Homestead Road will generate 10 truck trips in the peak hour in the morning and 15 in the evening. This rate is laughable, given the buildings have over 90 truck bays. Their estimate is based on an average of many types of warehouses, including long term storage facilities which generate nearly zero truck traffic. The warehouses proposed are likely to be high volume fulfillment centers which on average will generate many times that estimate.
Another note about truck generation rates. The traffic reports estimate average trip generation rates. If a warehouse is approved, with say 90 truck bays, nothing would stop the operator from maximizing the use of those bays and have many more trucks in a day. Given that it takes 30 minutes to unload a truck and 20 minutes to load, each bay could accommodate 8 trucks in a shift. For 90 truck bays, it could be as high as 1700 trips per day, assuming an 80% utilization rate. At 1700 truck trips a day, Hillsborough roads would be in gridlock.
Are there safety issues with warehouse traffic?
Trucks are typically loaded up to 80,000 pounds, so they are difficult to maneuver, especially on narrow roads, and have long stopping distances. Trucks have a much higher rate of accidents than cars, and the accidents are much more likely to result in serious injury or death. It is also common for trucks to park on side roads waiting for their turn at the facility. The roads near the proposed warehouses are ill suited to such giant obstacles.
Wouldn’t these warehouses bring new tax revenue to the town without increasing the burden on schools?
Warehouse facilities would indeed generate tax revenue for the town. However, their tax rate does not consider the high cost of maintaining roads used by 80,000-pound trucks. It is estimated that it costs $7.60 per year to maintain one mile of roadway per heavy truck.
Our estimate of the cost of road maintenance just for the Homestead Road facility would be in excess of $110,000 per year, based on this factor. This cost would overwhelm the Township's current road maintenance budget, all from this giant development.
Don’t these developers have the right to build on the land, since it is zoned for warehouses?
For now, the Weston Road and three Homestead Road buildings are in zones where warehouses are approved uses, given that their applications were filed before the zoning changed. However, any proposal has to meet many requirements in order to get approval to build. Each zone has a long list of standards that the plans have to meet. Even if all of these are met, the Planning Board has the ultimate say whether the development is appropriate for the zone, specific location and the town.
Having a permitted use doesn’t give applicants “the right” to build. It just means buildings like that might be approvable. Property rights are balanced with what is right and good for the neighborhood and the town. Just because you own your property doesn’t mean you can widen your driveway, for instance, without getting township approval.
What is your approach to fighting these warehouses? How can I help?
First, we are showing up at the Planning Board meetings, sending the signal to the Planning Board and the applicants that we care about our neighborhoods, and don’t believe these developments are right for the location. You are encouraged to find out when the next Planning Board hearing is for one of the applications and make your voice heard.
Second, we are reviewing the applications very carefully, challenging every variance and waiver request, and questioning traffic estimates, stormwater provisions, facility layout, etc. You are encouraged to read through the docket to understand exactly what is being proposed. Third, we are retaining experts and attorneys to help us challenge these applications. You can help by contributing to our group to help fund these efforts.