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Warehouse application met with opposition in West Windsor

An application for a proposed warehouse and distribution center on Quakerbridge Road in West Windsor has been met with opposition.

The West Windsor Township Planning Board has scheduled a special meeting at the end of the month to deliberate and vote on the application.

The Planning Board listened to four hours of public comment on Bridge Point West Windsor LLC’s proposed 5.5 million-square-foot warehouse and distribution center at a meeting on June 1 – the fourth in a series of public hearings on the application. The site is on the West Windsor Township-Lawrence Township border.

More than 100 people attended the meeting. Attendees who could not find chairs or who chose to stand up were lined up against the rear and side wall of the West Windsor Senior Center meeting room.

The meeting became heated at times, including an exchange between an attendee and Planning Board Chairman Gene O’Brien. Residents clapped their hands after some attendees spoke and stamped their feet to show disapproval for the application.

Approximately 40 people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. Only one person spoke in favor of the application. A couple of people called for a public referendum on it; however, development applications are not subject to a popular vote, according to officials.

Lynda Benedetto, who is the manager of the Quaker Bridge Mall on the opposite side of Quakerbridge Road in Lawrence Township, said mall owner Simon Properties Inc. is concerned that the view across the street would be unsightly.

Benedetto also raised questions about traffic and suggested truckers’ GPS directions may take them off Route 1 North to Grovers Mill Road in Lawrence – opposite Clarksville Road in West Windsor – to the warehouse and distribution center. The additional truck traffic could “devalue” the mall property, she said.

Several residents said truck traffic on Clarksville Road would destroy the safety and the character of the Maurice Hawk Elementary School. Truck drivers may use Clarksville Road to reach the Princeton-Hightstown Road/Route 571 to get to the New Jersey Turnpike in East Windsor Township, they said.

Warren Mitlak said Clarksville Road, between North Post Road and the Princeton-Hightstown Road, is the “heart of West Windsor Township.” That’s where parades and other celebrations are held, he said.

The Maurice Hawk Elementary School and West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South are on Clarksville Road, Mitlak said. The West Windsor Township Municipal Complex is on the corner of North Post Road and Clarksville Road.

“This project will put a dagger through the heart of this town. I don’t think it will be good for residents or for businesses. It will reduce the quality of life. People are only now beginning to think about the consequences of this project,” Mitlak said.

Bruce Perrine, who was the only speaker to support the proposed warehouse and distribution center, said it would not be a burden tax-wise.

“It will not cost money for a new school or to hire more police and firefighters,” he said. “It will be a benefit to the taxpayers. We need to look at the positives. It will create jobs and revenue. I have watched (the town grow). All the farms have been developed. This is not a gigantic development where you can’t move around in town (because of increased traffic).”

Jeff Shore, along with other speakers, pointed to other uses permitted in the PCD zone, which include research, testing, analytical and product development laboratories and pilot plant facilities; offices; limited manufacturing; breweries; conference centers; and health clubs and fitness centers.

Shore, who moved to West Windsor Township from Brooklyn, N.Y. last year, said the warehouse and distribution center “is not what we want for West Windsor.”

“I think I speak for all of us. I want you to vote against this application,” Shore said.

Benjamin Finkelstein told the Planning Board that “it seems like the residents want a voice, and our voice is pretty clear. To what extent are you taking into account what we said? Can any part of this be put to a referendum?”

“This is not a referendum-type situation,” said attorney Christopher DeGrezia, who represents the applicant, in his response to the public.

“The question of use has been determined by the township’s zoning ordinance, and it is not fair to ask the Planning Board to hold a referendum.”

During the public portion, residents were only allowed to speak once for three minutes, which caused dissent among the public members at the meeting.

Planning Board Attorney Gerald Muller said it is “a procedural matter and the chairman makes the [public portion] decision.”

Citing the late hour of 11:45 p.m., O’Brien announced that the public hearing would be continued to a special meeting June 29. The Planning Board members will deliberate on the application and reach a decision at that meeting, he said, adding no more public comment would be taken.

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