Proposal in Manalapan calls for warehouse, flex space on Route 33


MANALAPAN – An applicant is proposing to construct a building that would contain a warehouse and several smaller uses on Business Route 33 in Manalapan.

A development application submitted by Mercer Realty Partners was heard by members of the Planning Board on Feb. 24. No decision regarding the application was reached that evening.

The application was carried to the board’s March 10 meeting for scheduling purposes only. No testimony will be presented that evening. The date on which the public hearing will be continued will be announced at that time.

Mercer Realty Partners, LLC, is seeking preliminary and final major site plan approval for a commercial development at 51 Route 33, Manalapan. The applicant is represented by attorney Ronald L. Shimanowitz, of the firm Hutt and Shimanowitz, Woodbridge.

The location where the building is proposed is adjacent to the intersection of an exit ramp that connects the Route 33 freeway heading east to Business Route 33 heading east.

The property is in a Special Economic Development zone and the Route 33 Overlay Zone. The 26-acre tract is bordered on the north by Business Route 33 and on the south by the Route 33 freeway.

Access to the building is proposed from Business Route 33, with left turns and right turns in and out permitted at the driveway. There would not be any access to the site from the Route 33 freeway.

The applicant is seeking municipal approval to develop the property with flex space, landscaping, lighting, a septic system, a public water connection and storm water management facilities.

Board members and members of the public heard from John Kainer, a principal of the applicant, who said flex space is permitted in the zone in which it is being proposed. He said at present, there are no tenants for the building.

Kainer said regardless of the type of businesses that would eventually occupy the building, “No tenants will be permitted to abuse the building or the grounds. We intend to run this (site) as a Class A operation.”

Kainer said the building would have four spaces available: a warehouse of approximately 220,000 square feet, with an estimated 34 employees on each of two shifts (7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 3-11 p.m. Monday through Friday; and a possible half-day shift on Saturday); and three spaces of 2,675 square feet, with each tenant estimated to have five employees.

The types of tenants permitted would be a contractor’s offices and shops; wholesale trade establishments; and establishments for production, processing, assembly, manufacturing, compounding, preparation, cleaning, servicing, testing or repair of materials, goods or products, with certain restrictions.

When asked by one of the board’s professionals what type of business could occupy a 2,675-square-foot space, Kainer said examples might be a wood shop operated by an individual artisan, a printing company or a robotics company.

Testimony indicated the proposed warehouse would be storage space for products such as tile, flooring and paint that are eventually distributed to wholesalers and retailers, but not to individual end users.

Planner Daniel Bloch, of Colliers Engineering and Design, Red Bank, offered testimony regarding the proposed uses in the building and said, “I believe what we are proposing is consistent with the township’s definition of flex space and with Manalapan’s master plan. We are not proposing a distribution center or a fulfillment center.”

Bloch said a warehouse is primarily for the storage of materials as defined by Manalapan. He said a distribution center is not a permitted use in the zone where Mercer Realty Partners is proposing to construct the building.

During a discussion of flex space, Ron Cucchiaro, the board’s attorney, informed board members and members of the public that Manalapan’s ordinance does not state what flex space means, but lists certain criteria, and that if an applicant meets the criteria, then what is being proposed is flex space.

Jennifer Beahm, the board’s planner, said the Mercer Realty Partners application indicates the building would be 97% warehouse space and 3% for other uses, but noted that the township’s ordinance does not require a specific percentage breakdown for flex space.

The percentages relating to the building’s space were discussed at some length by Beahm and the applicant’s representatives.

At one point during the discussion, board member John Castronovo said, “It doesn’t feel right in my gut. It could be a small price (for the applicant to pay) to set aside 3% of the building’s total space, and not rent that space, and be in compliance with the flex space ordinance” and just operate a warehouse.

Engineer Renee Anstiss, also of Colliers Engineering and Design, testified about specific aspects of the site plan.

In her presentation, Anstiss said the site plan proposes 123 parking spaces where 77 parking spaces are required, plus 33 loading docks and 37 parking spaces for trailers. There will be full circulation for vehicles around the building.

Anstiss said berms with landscaping on top are proposed to be added on the Business Route 33 frontage and on a portion of the site along the Route 33 freeway. She said the proposed building is 49.27 feet in height where 50 feet is permitted.

At 10:30 p.m., testimony for the evening concluded. The next date for the Mercer Realty Partners application to be heard will be determined during the board’s March 10 meeting.