In case you hadn’t noticed, warehouse development has become a focal point in town in the last few months. This was prompted by an application to build a large warehousing project on Route 322 on our border with Woolwich Township, approaching the NJ Turnpike Exit. This project was approved in Woolwich in mid-2021 but was denied approval by the Harrison Township Joint Land Use Board at a meeting on Dec. 15, 2022. The future of that project will likely be decided in the courts.
This application in Harrison Township ignited a broader conversation concerning warehousing projects in our community. The looming question is whether we should ban warehouses from being built in the few areas where the zoning has permitted it for many years? In a vacuum, I believe everyone would answer, “no warehousing” to that question. Personally, I don’t want any of the warehouses already being built in our region, as you head west on Route 322 approaching the Commodore Barry Bridge.
Nevertheless, none of us can change how the retail marketplace has evolved in the last decade. The purchasing habits of the masses have caused the brick-and-mortar retail world to retract, with shopping malls everywhere being repurposed. Therefore, municipalities need to face the reality that we cannot anticipate tax revenue from large-scale retail or office complex projects for the foreseeable future. And elected leadership must understand that a decision to zone-out warehousing as a revenue option would place a significant tax burden on the shoulders of our residents moving forward.
Our Township Committee has stated that we are considering that path and we would take the steps to change the zoning in these areas once the fiscal implications were identified and made public. That internal evaluation process is underway, and we expect to publish those details in the next couple of weeks. At that point, we will seek as much public input as possible since any decisions we make will affect the taxes for every household in town.
Simply put, we will illustrate the impact on your residential property tax bill over the next several years should we decide to eliminate the zoning that currently allows warehousing in certain designated areas. We will put this information out on all our communication platforms and allow four to six weeks for our residents to digest it and ask questions through email, text message, or attending public meetings. Your input is needed and appreciated, so let us know your thoughts once we roll out the details.