The growing footprint of warehouses in New Jersey — which is hardly alone in adding massive amounts of logistics space — has spurred the introduction of legislation that could slow its growth.
Most significantly, the sponsor of the legislation introduced this week is state Sen. Stephen Sweeney. He is the Democratic majority leader of the New Jersey Senate, giving him more influence to drive a piece of legislation to approval. Sweeney is arguably the state’s second most powerful politician after Gov. Phil Murphy.
“The construction and operation of a retail warehouse within a municipality may have land use, traffic, environmental, economic, fiscal and social equity effects that extend beyond the boundaries of the municipality and immediate region in which the retail warehouse is being proposed,” according to the wording of the legislation.
The legislation doesn’t specifically aim to reduce construction of new warehouse space. But it would give neighboring communities to the municipality where the warehouse would be located a role in the land use review.
“It is essential to require municipalities to take into account the potential effects of approving the construction and operation of a retail warehouse on neighboring municipalities and appropriate for the Legislature to place certain preconditions for the approval of such developments,” the legislation adds.
Under the bill, any application to build a retail warehouse would kick off a requirement that a study would need to be conducted for adjoining municipalities. The legislation has multiple requirements on disclosure to not just municipalities but individual property owners.
What might come after that, according to the legislation, is a “resolution of intermunicipal concern” that would take those concerns to a joint board “with members representing the interest of each municipality.”
The municipality and the adjoining areas would each have one seat on the panel.
One thing the intermunicipal board wouldn’t have: veto power. It could not vote to stop the development of the warehouse. The report to be produced by the board will have “findings of fact and conclusions” and “areas of accommodation shall be noted in the resolution.” But the law does not spell out where the report can be used to force a change in the project.
That New Jersey is an obvious location for warehouses was highlighted in a story on the Sweeney bill in CoStar News, which covers commercial real estate. Citing data from real estate services firm JLL, it said central New Jersey, where most of the warehouse construction has gone on, has access to almost a third of the U.S. population in 24 hours. It is also close to the port of Newark-Elizabeth.
The CoStar News story quoted the commercial real estate trade group NAIOP NJ., which also describes it as the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. The group’s CEO sent an email to CoStar News that said the legislation “seems to reflect the fact that New Jersey is both a logistics powerhouse state and also a home rule state.” Home rule grants significant amount of power to each of the state’s more than 500 municipalities.
State Sen. Troy Singleton has signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill. Singleton represents part of Burlington County, New Jersey’s largest county, stretching from the Delaware River to the bays off the Atlantic Ocean. It also features the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 295 passing through.
“In many cases, our open space has been haphazardly developed without consideration of the impact it will have on neighboring municipalities,” Singleton said in a statement on his co-sponsorship. “As a result, surrounding towns are left grappling with increased traffic, congestion and tractor-trailers on their local roadways.”