The West Windsor Township Planning Board has approved a controversial application to build a 5.5 million square foot warehouse distribution center on Quakerbridge Road.
Six members – planning council vice-chairman Michael Karp and planning council members Sue Appelget, Anis Baig, Curtis Hoberman, city councilor Andrea Mandel and mayor Hermant Marathe – voted to approve the plan during a special meeting on June 29.
Planning Council members Simon Pankove and Allen Schectel voted “no”.
Maratha made a motion to approve the request after the last condition was read, seconded by Baig. Attendees shouted “boo” when each council member voted “yes” and clapped when the two “no” votes were cast.
Plaintiff Bridge Point WW LLC has requested preliminary and final major site plan approval for the warehouse distribution center at the site of the former American Cyanamid property. The 645-acre parcel sits across from the Quaker Bridge Mall, which is in Lawrence Township.
The parcel is bordered by Route 1, Quakerbridge Road and the Northeast Corridor rail lines. Its front on Quakerbridge Road extends to both sides of Clarksville Road. Bridge Point WW LLC will subdivide 539 acres of the aggregate parcel for seven warehouses. The rest will be developed in the future.
Schectel, which voted against its approval, said conditions attached to approvals are typically offered to improve an app. But from his perspective, “no matter how many conditions are proposed, they do not address the underlying issues noted by the Planning Board and the public,” he said.
“West Windsor is a family town that has always prided itself on its excellent schools and the children who attend them. The proposed project poses a threat to the safety of school children at Maurice Hawk Elementary School and West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School (which are on Clarksville Road),” he said.
Schectel pointed to increased truck traffic on Clarksville Road and the potential impact on schools and the neighborhood.
“School buses and parents drop off and pick up their children from primary school,” he said. “Some children walk to school and have to cross Clarksville Road.”
Schectel criticized the applicant’s traffic study, which it described as a “fairly traditional assessment” of an application that is not a traditional project. The traffic study did not take into account the specialized nature of the warehouses. Based on his own professional experience as a planner, truck traffic will likely occur throughout the day and evening, he said.
Bridge Point WW LLC Application
The warehouse distribution center will be developed in two phases. The first phase includes three warehouses, totaling three million square feet with a total of 461 loading docks and 507 trailer parking spaces. Parking is offered for 1,127 vehicles.
The second phase consists of four warehouses totaling 2.5 million square feet. There are 449 loading docks and 564 trailer parking spaces as well as parking for 1,074 vehicles.
Some of the total 2,2021 vehicle parking spaces are “banked” and will eventually be built, according to the applicant.
The request was met with stiff opposition from West Windsor residents, who voiced their disapproval during the public comment portion of the June 1 Planning Council meeting.
Residents were concerned that tractor-trailer trucks would use Clarksville Road to reach Princeton-Hightstown Road/Route 571 to reach the New Jersey Turnpike at East Windsor.
Opponents again showed their disapproval at the special meeting. Some carried signs – “Princeton Junction, not Warehouse Junction”, “No more warehouse in West Windsor”, “Stop the warehouses, stop the trucks” – while others wore T-shirts that read: “Save our hometown, stop the trucks. ”
The Planning Board spent more than three hours at the meeting reviewing a list of 82 conditions for approval of the application. The conditions related to the site plan; circulation, access, circulation and parking; noise; landscaping and conservation; the architecture of the building; signage; stormwater management; public services ; fire and emergency services and “other” terms.
The Planning Board has approved the application, but no warehouse construction can begin until the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) authorizes construction of a connection between a new road that will intersect the property in two and Route 1, council officials said.
The new road will be built through the warehouse distribution center from Quakerbridge Road opposite Avalon Way. It will cross Clarksville Road. The new route will stop before Route 1, as the NJDOT controls all access directly on Route 1.
Once the warehouses are built, tractor-trailer trucks will not be allowed to turn onto Clarksville Road from the new road through the warehouse distribution center. The new road will be designed to prevent trucks from turning onto Clarksville Road to reach Princeton-Hightstown Road/Route 571, pending Mercer County approval, council officials said.
Entrances will not be permitted on Clarksville Road at the Warehouse Fulfillment Center. Emergency entrances can be built for use by fire engines, police cars and ambulances.
Traffic reports will be prepared by the applicant for three years after the initial occupancy of the three Phase One warehouses. Traffic reports will include the full length of Clarksville Road, including intersections, from the property to Princeton-Hightstown Road/Route 571, council officials said.
Many attendees praised Pankove and Schectel, but criticized and chastised the Planning Council members who voted for the bid.
Jackie Alberts, who is a former councilor and member of the planning board, said ‘all the time I served, your primary concern was the people of West Windsor and its future’.
“Current members have failed to represent the long-term interests of residents,” she said. “The problem with land is that once it’s built, it no longer exists. The members of the Town Planning Council, with the exception of [Schectel]did not pay enough attention to the details of this massive project.
Another attendee said the members of the Planning Council were “not qualified” to serve, and that they would all be recalled and “out of here.” We need people to do the right thing.