Warehouses may be a huge economic driver in New Jersey, but there is no shortage of roadblocks being put in the way of their development.
A bill up for discussion on Monday establishes a more burdensome review process for warehouse development. There are new ‘no-go’ zones in the Highlands. And residential rallies opposing warehouses are becoming a more familiar scene.
NJBIA Deputy Chief Government Affairs Officer Ray Cantor said New Jersey can strike a balance. But for the good of the economy, it’s important the state tries its best to fulfill its warehouse demand while it’s still red-hot
“We continue to support warehouse growth given its continued strong demand that shows there is a market need,” Cantor said. “These warehouses support our logistics economy and our ports. They provide jobs in the trades and longer-erm careers. We should not be quick to cut off one of New Jersey’s few economic drivers.
“That said, we also support sound planning on the state and local level so that warehouses are built in areas with the necessary infrastructure, near major highways, and with as little impact on communities as possible.”
Cantor says residential pushback to warehouse development has its roots in the past.
“Warehouses are just the latest flashpoint in New Jersey’s continual pushback against any development that is close to where people live,” he said. “In the 1980s it was suburban sprawl. In the 1990s, it was followed by office parks and shopping centers.
“The irony now is those suburbanites who built in the prior housing boom are buying more and more online, and we see shopping centers close as a result. So sometimes it a matter of fighting the warehouses that are needed to deliver the products they are purchasing.”
A 2022 report from global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield finds that the current vacancy rate for warehouse industrial space in New Jersey is less than 2%.
“This is proof positive that we are a logistics state, by virtue of being in the middle of large economic and highly populated regions,” Cantor said.
“What is needed are not efforts to stop warehouses, but for everyone to work together to ensure they are properly located near highway systems and otherwise developed to minimize impacts on surrounding communities.”
On Monday, bill S-3664 (Singleton, D-7) will be up for discussion only in the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
It calls for a municipality’s planning board to complete a special reexamination of its master plan and development regulations upon receiving a development application for a warehouse, and prior to considering the application.
Under the provisions of the bill, the municipality must also prepare and adopt a special reexamination report for the purpose of incorporating State Planning Commission’s guidelines, unless the master plan and development regulations were updated for that purpose within the previous 12 months.
If a municipality’s master plan and development regulations were not updated within the prior 12 months, the planning board would then need to consider the number and nature of variances that were granted in the prior 12 months, relating to the warehouse application for development.
Cantor said NJBIA is opposing the bill on two counts. The first of which is it would impact development projects that have already been submitted for review and that would normally be grandfathered from any rule changes.
“It is fundamentally unfair to subject these pending developments, that have been designed and planned to meet current zoning standards, to a new, and as yet unknown, set of requirements,” he said.
“The bill also offers no timeframe for how long this new process will take and when the development can proceed. This amounts to a moratorium on new warehouse development.”
Cantor also said the State Planning Commission’s guidance is general in nature and its provisions do not apply to all municipalities and projects.
“It would be problematic to require these guidelines be mandatory,” he said. “We would support a mandatory review of municipal zoning and planning requirements considering the commission’s guidance. But we should really be leaving it up to the municipality to incorporate all or none of the guidelines.”