Impassioned Burlington Township residents object to the proposed warehouse bordering their backyards
Tensions ran high at the Wednesday, May 24 public information session as residents squared off with representatives from DCT Industrial Operating over the proposed redevelopment of McCollister’s property.
The atmosphere was charged at a Wednesday, May 24 public information session concerning the redevelopment of McCollister’s Transportation Group property, as representatives from DCT Industrial Operating and their design team at Maser Consulting P.A. felt the heat from impassioned residents.
The property, located on Route 130 and Neck Road, is the proposed site of a warehouse, and the residents whose homes border the property voiced their objections during the standing-room-only presentation at the Burlington Township municipal building.
Fred Ferraro, vice president of development and construction at DCT, said DCT is the contract purchasers of McCollister’s property, and it is going through the approval process with the Burlington Township planning and zoning boards. He said the township suggested holding a public information session to DCT, and it was more than willing to do so.
Township administrator Walter Corter said the site was zoned an industrial location, and as such, a warehouse could have been built there at any time, but instead, the space was leased by McCollister’s for farming. He said over the years, developers built homes adjacent to the property. Corter said some developers were forthright and informative in telling their buyers that a warehouse may be built nearby, but other developers were not.
“I understand how residents feel,” Corter said. “They thought they were buying a house backing up to a farm.”
Lori Mihalik was one of several residents in attendance concerned about the warehouse’s potential impact on property values. She said she and others were told their houses were built on premium lots.
“We paid more money because of the farm and no houses behind us, and now that’s no longer going to be a factor,” Mihalik said.
As of yet, DCT does not have an occupant for the warehouse in mind, but if the approval process progresses as planned, it is looking to start construction on the site in the fall. The redevelopment process would take approximately 12 to 18 months with around 180 trucks entering and exiting the facility on any given day, Ferraro said.
Julia Algeo, senior principal at Maser Consulting P.A., said the plan is to create a six- to eight-foot berm along Neck Road with as much of the wooded area behind residents’ homes as possible being preserved. Along the southern side of the property bordering Red Fox Street, Foxchase Drive and Hackemore Street, the berm will be 10 feet with an eight-foot fence. She said the berm and the fence would terminate at the retention basin on the eastern side of the property closer to Route 130.
“We’re trying to maintain as much of that existing vegetation behind the homes as possible so that there’s less of a visual change that you would wind up seeing,” Algeo said.
Residents peppered the presenters with questions with some, such as Kris Alzheimer, becoming increasingly aggravated as the information session wore on.
“Why would you build [a warehouse] right in the middle of a residential neighborhood?” Alzheimer asked, which was followed by a round of applause.
Denis Germano, planning board solicitor, responded to questions from residents who were wondering whether the zoning of the property could be changed. He said that under the law, the zoning in effect on the date an application is filed is the zoning that must stay in place. For that reason, the owner of this property has a right to build an industrial facility according to its current zoning.
“The zoning has been in place for 25 years,” Germano said.
Resident Errol Garner questioned why the public had never received a notice about the proposed redevelopment. Township engineer Scott Hatfield said the township is not required to send notices for applications filed because approvals are granted at open public hearings, which anyone is free to attend.
Garner also questioned how DCT’s construction will address the groundhog population in the area, which has proved troublesome in the past. He said any construction would surely chase groundhogs onto residents’ properties.
“We are bothered by pests — groundhogs — hundreds of them,” Garner said. “You build that mound it’s going to be hotel groundhog.”
Ferraro said they would look into the rodent situation before the planning board meeting where DCT’s application is up for approval.
Residents also questioned what impact the construction would have on their quality of life, with questions about lighting, hours of operation and road use coming up. Ferraro said during the construction process, trucks would only enter and exit the site using the Route 130 entrance. Hatfield said construction hours at the site are limited to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
After listening to residents’ concerns, Ferraro agreed to provide more specific information at the public hearing about the proposed hours of operation and use of lights during the construction period. Germano said the board can create conditions of approval that would address some of the residents’ construction concerns to ensure DCT’s construction complies with township standards.
The open public hearing to approve DCT’s redevelopment application is scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 8 at the Burlington Township municipal building.