By Penny Otte
When I moved to Upper Freehold Township, it was a lifelong dream. When I was in my 20’s, before Interstate 195 existed, I was taking a drive through Roosevelt and the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area when all of a sudden the woods opened up to open farmland.
Immediately, I was at an intersection with the most pastoral scene I have ever seen; a beautiful line of colonial houses, neatly bordered by white picket fences, surrounded by perfectly manicured farmland.
That is why when the opportunity came to purchase a house on Cox’s Corner, I jumped at the opportunity to save this house, and this corner, from the chopping block of modern development.
Upper Freehold Township is unique, it is one of the last holdouts in Monmouth County of rural beauty, and the reason why our residents fight so hard to keep it that way.
Now, NP Freehold Industrial, LLC, (NorthPoint Development) is proposing to construct a 566,840-square-foot building on Westhaven Farm on Route 524 in Upper Freehold Township.
NorthPoint Development is seeking a use variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment because a warehouse is not a permitted use in the Research, Office and Manufacturing (ROM) zone in which it is being proposed.
NorthPoint Development 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).
The public hearing regarding the plan is scheduled to continue on April 19.
A 50-foot-tall behemoth of a building and an increase by the thousands of daily car traffic down our little curvy road is not part of that beauty.
Here are some of the reasons why this application should not be approved.
• Merino Hill is on the national historic sites register, as well as Ye Old Robbins Burying Place which is going to be designated as a national historic site. Merino Hill is within 1 mile of Westhaven Farm and was owned by a U.S. senator in the 1800s;
• Cox’s Corner was to be granted historic village status and was recommended as such to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and by the Monmouth County Historical Society. It is within a quarter-mile of Westhaven Farm. Cox’s Corner was settled in the 1600s and the houses there were built at the turn of the 19th century, including my house which was constructed in 1806. The area was settled by Quakers and in fact within a half-mile of the intersection lies the East Branch Friends Burying Ground;
• Cox’s Corner and Westhaven Farm is part of the historic farmlands byway of Upper Freehold Township and is a scenic drive frequented by cyclists, motorcycle touring groups and car tours.
• Westhaven Farm has had migratory waterfowl use its land for many years. Snow Geese are migratory birds and this area is one of the few areas in the country where they winter. A study should be done to determine the impact on such migration and wintering
grounds in Upper Freehold Township, specifically the Ashby Creek watershed area of Upper Freehold Township;
• Bald eagles use the Westhaven Farm area and fields as hunting grounds, and have been observed in this area; juvenile and adult eagles. They are considered birds of high concern as their numbers are still low in this township and the habitat needs to be maintained. A study of the impact of warehouse noise and loss of habitat would need to be made in order to ascertain that the warehouse has no impact on this sensitive wildlife;
• In addition, red fox are found in this area and are also wildlife which have declined due to a loss of habitat in this area. A study should be done;
• Assunpink Wildlife Management Area is just 2 miles from the proposed warehouse site. What impact will the noise, groundwater disturbance, light pollution and air pollution have on the wildlife population there?
In addition, there are grave concerns about traffic as a result of the proposed warehouse. A slapdash traffic study was performed by NorthPoint Development in September 2020 during the height of coronavirus lockdown.
It seems the developer’s lawyers also put a slapdash study of the wetlands around the proposed development site on the table. A more detailed study needs to be done to study the impact on the surrounding indigenous and migratory wildlife.
When I drive to northern New Jersey and see the sprawl, I am thankful for where I live and the beauty I see every day.
When I see the number of abandoned warehouses with forlorn looking “For Sale” signs in Monroe Township and Cranbury, I know a good idea on paper will only result in crumbling sprawl later on down the road.
The developer who is currently before our zoning board cannot even pin down one committed company to move into its proposed warehouse in Upper Freehold Township.
The proposal to develop beautiful Westhaven Farm into a warehouse site should not happen. It is as if the applicant’s planners took out a map of the area and found a spot close to Interstate 195 and threw an application into our zoning board. All they looked at was a map and bingo, they sent in an application.
Our zoning board does not allow buildings higher than 35 feet and it does not allow warehouses in this section of the community. We believe any zoning variance will not create ratables in our township, but will create havoc.
Penny Otte is a resident of Upper Freehold Township.