ALLENTOWN – Residents of Allentown and Upper Freehold Township spent more than an hour on the evening of March 2 expressing their concerns to municipal officials about an approved commercial development in neighboring Robbinsville.
In recent weeks, municipal officials in Robbinsville have approved the construction of warehouse distribution centers at the Mercer Corporate Park on Robbinsville-Allentown Road.
Robbinsville-Allentown Road is Church Street in Allentown. It is also designated as county Route 526.
The property in Robbinsville on which the warehouse distribution centers are proposed to be constructed backs up to a residential zone along Pondview Drive in Allentown.
Residents of Allentown and Upper Freehold Township are concerned about the volume of truck traffic the commercial development may bring to the area, among other concerns associated with a large project.
Mayor Thomas Fritts and members of the Borough Council listened to the residents’ comments and offered some information about efforts that are being made to mitigate the impact of the Mercer Corporate Park.
“There have been behind-the-scenes negotiations on this (project) for months. We have a land use attorney working on behalf of Allentown. The developer (of the Mercer Corporate Park) has no obligation to Allentown. His only obligation is to meet the legal standards (for development) in Robbinsville,” Fritts said.
The mayor said Allentown does not have much leverage in the situation, but he said, “we have many things we have negotiated behind the scenes that we are not at liberty to discuss (tonight). They are still being negotiated.
“Over the next 45 to 60 days, you will hear from our professionals that we have been able to gain some additional protections” regarding what is happening at Mercer Corporate Park.
“It has been a tireless battle with a municipality (Robbinsville) that owes us nothing except to meet (required) standards,” Fritts said.
The mayor told residents who were attending the remote meeting it was no surprise that the members of a Robbinsville board approved the project because the warehouse distribution center is what Robbinsville officials have zoned portions of their community to accommodate.
Residents had an opportunity to comment and those who addressed Fritts and the council members touched on several issues, including the Mercer Corporate Park in Robbinsville, a proposed warehouse in Upper Freehold Township, and ongoing issues with trucks that pass through Allentown every day on their way to and from an Amazon facility on Old York Road in Robbinsville.
Linda Pontell said, “The traffic of the 1980s is not the traffic of 2021. We must work with Monmouth County to come up with a better solution to these trucks.”
Jera Piper expressed concern that the development of the Mercer Corporate Park could impact Allentown’s water and said, “It’s a serious situation.”
Fritts reminded Piper the developer in Robbinsville “is only obligated to meet what is regulated.”
Joe Fiordaliso told borough officials he has “serious concerns about (these) proposed warehouses and the heavy truck traffic.” He said he worked on traffic issues in the administration of two governors and volunteered his assistance to Allentown officials as they continue to deal with the issue.
Susan Matson said she represents a new group that has formed in recent weeks, The Allentown Sustainability Coalition. Matson said she is specifically concerned with the environmental aspects of development and its impact on local endangered and threatened species.
No conclusions were reached during the council meeting.
Fritts said he will be meeting with Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners Director Thomas Arnone and Monmouth County Engineer Joseph Ettore to continue the discussion about truck traffic in Allentown.
The mayor reiterated his earlier statement that residents will hear more about the borough’s negotiations with the developer of the Mercer Corporate Park within 45 to 60 days.