UPPER FREEHOLD – An application that proposes the construction of a warehouse on farmland on Route 524 in Upper Freehold Township is being met with concern as a result of its potential negative impact on the community.
Representatives of NP Freehold Industrial, LLC, appeared before the Upper Freehold Township Zoning Board of Adjustment on March 15 to seek approval for a warehouse at the site of Westhaven Farm, Route 524. Attorney Marc Policastro represented the applicant before the board.
No decision was made on the application by the board members that evening and the public hearing regarding the plan is scheduled to continue on April 19.
Representatives of NP Freehold Industrial (NorthPoint Development) are seeking a use variance from the zoning board so they may construct the building. A warehouse is not a permitted use in the Research, Office and Manufacturing (ROM) zone in which it is being proposed.
According to the applicant’s representatives, the 566,840-square-foot building would be constructed on a 117-acre lot.
The applicant is also seeking variances from local municipal standards that would permit the building to be 50 feet tall (the maximum permitted height in the ROM zone is 35 feet) and to provide 337 parking spaces (667 parking spaces are required).
A significant concern that was expressed by members of the zoning board during the meeting was that the application does not specify a user for the building.
“In my experience, we have never approved an application where we do not know the use,” said James Waskovich, the board’s chairman.
Policastro said in his experience, it is not unusual for the specific use of a structure to not be determined in the application.
Craig Wilde, the development manager of NorthPoint Development, said the Missouri-based company investigates areas in which to build speculative warehouses. The Westhaven Farm property was identified as a site for a potential warehouse, he said, because of its proximity to populated areas in northern New Jersey.
Wilde testified that no specific user is pursuing the proposed facility, but he said NorthPoint Development typically does business with companies on the Fortune 500 list. He said only one user is anticipated for the building, although he acknowledged that more than one user could occupy the space.
Engineer Josh Seewald, representing the applicant, testified that NorthPoint Development did not anticipate a distributor using the warehouse.
Nevertheless, the board’s planner, Jennifer Beahm, cautioned the applicant that without providing specific information, it would be difficult for its representatives to demonstrate how the building would not cause a negative impact that would outweigh the positive aspects of permitting the facility to be constructed.
“A lot of things here are based on expectations,” Beahm said. “There is no information on employees, shifts and cars coming out. It is going to be extremely hard to overcome the negative criteria” associated with requesting a variance.
During the meeting, which was conducted in a remote manner during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, residents of Upper Freehold Township, Allentown and Millstone Township expressed concern about the building’s potential impact on their way of life.
Many residents who addressed the zoning board and the applicant spoke about the possible truck traffic that could be generated by a building of this size and said the area is ill-suited for a large volume of vehicles.
Resident Sean Milczeski, who identified himself as a truck driver, said there is no rest area nearby to accommodate trucks. He said trucks would all leave the site the same way, take up parking spaces in nearby locations with food and/or restroom facilities, and park on the side of local roads if the driver needs to rest.
He said a convenience store in the vicinity has effectively become a truck stop.
“We don’t have an area set up for trucks and they are going to be everywhere,” Milczeski said.
In response, Seewald said the property would have 130 trailer spaces for truck drivers to stay in and he said the drivers would be permitted to use the building’s restroom facilities. The building may have a lunch and/or break room for the drivers.
Some residents who are objecting to the NorthPoint Development application are represented by attorney Michele Donato. She did not present her case on March 15 because the applicant has not concluded its presentation. The objecting parties will be permitted to present their case after the applicant concludes its presentation.