Developers are building warehouses all over New Jersey, but some residents are fighting back
With the rise of online shopping, New Jersey has seen a massive boom in warehouse construction. This is mostly due to the state’s location near ports and major markets.
New Jersey already ranks third in the nation behind Los Angeles and the Chicago area in the number of warehouses. Now, that growth is sparking concern over rural areas being paved over.
West Haven Farm in Upper Freehold is a beautiful classic New Jersey farm with 100 acres of soybeans, flowers and vegetables. There is a century-old farmhouse and weathered 150-year-old barns. The drive past it on County Road 524 is a vista of old-school New Jersey.
It is also apparently a good place to build a 500-square-foot, 50-foot-tall warehouse, according to a Missouri-based developer. The developer has offered the five heirs of the farm a lot of money as long as they get approval to build a distribution center. It is sparking backlash from residents who are determined to fight it at the local zoning board meeting.
“We don’t have any of the infrastructure for any industrial development that as a developer you would want. We don’t have any local police, we don’t have any sewerage treatment,” says Micah Rasmussen, with the group No Warehouse on 524 Coalition.
Rasmussen is a longtime New Jersey political player and town resident. He heads the opposition effort to the warehouse.
“They couldn’t pick a worse spot if they tried,” he says.
This is a story that is playing out all over New Jersey amid an explosion of warehouses and distribution centers to feed the demand of online shopping.
A few miles away in Robbinsville, one can see what opponents of the warehouse fear – a landscape transformed into miles of warehouses. Just down the road in Jackson Township, there is a site where a builder is putting up a 1 million-square-foot warehouse.
“I think statewide - I’ve talked to people in Warren County, I’ve talked to people in South Jersey. The pressures are enormous. And if we don’t start winning some of these, the number of acres of open space that are going to be gone in a flash is going to be through the roof,” says Rasmussen.
Opponents say that local New Jersey zoning boards each consider proposals from developers without any consideration that there are many more happening in adjacent towns.
“It’s an amplification of issues that have confronted New Jersey ever since World War II when mass suburbanization began,” says Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy Dean James Hughes.
The owners of the West Have Farm declined to be interviewed for this story, citing the pending sale. One of the five family members still works at the farm, but is set to retire. The offer from the developers is far larger than the kind of money the family would get from preservation programs.
That Upper Freehold Township proposal remains the subject of ongoing hearings at the township zoning board, which much grant several variances before the project and sale of the farm can go through.