Will NJ Legislature Bill Overhaul Local Oversight Over Warehouse Development?

 Will NJ Legislature Bill Overhaul Local Oversight Over Warehouse Development?

A bill currently under consideration by the New Jersey Legislature would change how municipalities regulate the development of large warehouses...

A bill currently under consideration by the New Jersey Legislature would change how municipalities regulate the development of large warehouses. Under Senate Bill 3688, New Jersey would adopt a regional approach when considering applications for the development of large warehouses and give neighboring municipalities the opportunity to weigh in on the project.

Key Provisions of Senate Bill 3688

Senate Bill 3688 provides that whenever an applicant files an application for development of a large warehouse, the administrative officer of a host municipality must deliver to the clerk of each adjoining municipality a notice of regional impact, which would include a copy of the complete application for development. A “large warehouse” is defined as a large facility meeting guideline requirements as promulgated by the State Planning Commission (the “Commission”), and designed predominantly for receiving and storing goods and materials before they are sold, used, or redistributed. Meanwhile, “host municipality” means the municipality where the application for development of a large warehouse has been filed. 

Notice of Regional Impact

Delivery of the notice of regional impact would be made as soon as practicable after the application for development is deemed complete and would suspend any otherwise applicable time requirement. Once an application for development has been received by the clerk of each adjoining municipality, any time provision applicable to the application for development would be suspended until after receiving a final decision, not subject to appeal, regarding the regional impact of the application for development from the county planning board (board) or a decision of the Commission. The governing body of an adjoining municipality, within 20 days after receipt of notice, may adopt a resolution of regional concerns and deliver a copy of the resolution to the administrative officer and to the applicant.  

Consideration by Board or Commission

If the host municipality receives a large warehouse development application and does not share a border with a county border, the administrative officer would notify the board and each adjoining municipality of the need for a regional impact hearing before the board. If the host municipality receives a large warehouse development application and does share a border with a county border, the administrative officer would notify the commission and each adjoining municipality of the need for a regional impact hearing before the Commission.

The county planning board or Commission would only render a decision to allow the application for development of a large warehouse to be considered by the host municipality upon the board’s determination that the applicant has made an affirmative showing that approval of the application for development may be granted:

  • Without substantial detriment to the general welfare of an adjoining municipality or the overall region;
  • Without substantial detriment to the economic and fiscal impact of an adjoining municipality or the overall region; and
  • Without substantial impairment to the intent and purpose of the master plan or zoning ordinance of an adjoining municipality.

Under the bill, an adjoining municipality which is aggrieved by a decision of a county planning board may submit an appeal in writing within 45 days of the board’s final decision to the Commission.

Regional Economic and Land Use Impact Report

Under Senate Bill 3688, prior to consideration of an application for development for a large warehouse by a board or the Commission, the host municipality would prepare and make available a regional economic and land use impact report.  The preparation of a regional economic and land use impact report would not be waived, and would be completed and distributed no later than the date on which a hearing of a board or the commission is scheduled to consider an application for a large warehouse development. A regional economic and land use impact report would include, but not be limited to, each of the following:

  • An assessment of the extent to which the proposed large warehouse will capture a share of retail sales;
  • An assessment of how the proposed large warehouse will affect the supply and demand for retail space;
  • An assessment of how the proposed large warehouse will affect wages and benefits, community income levels, and the demand for employment;
  • A projection of the costs of public services and public facilities resulting from the construction and operation of the proposed large warehouse and the incidence of those costs;
  • A projection of the public revenues resulting from the proposed large warehouse and the incidence of those revenues;
  • An assessment of the effect that the construction and operation of the proposed large warehouse will have on other retail operations;
  • An assessment of the effect that the proposed large warehouse will have on the ability of the municipality, adjoining municipalities, or the county to implement the goals in its respective master plan; and
  • An assessment of the effect that the proposed large warehouse will have on average total vehicle miles traveled by retail customers.

After it’s prepared, the regional economic and land use impact report would be delivered to the board or the Commission, as applicable, and would be made available to any adjoining municipality, upon request.

Duties of the Commission

Senate Bill 3688 provides that the Commission would have the following duties with respect to large warehouse development applications:

  • To promulgate and publish guidelines for determining what constitutes a large warehouse and what constitutes a regional concern for an adjoining municipality, with regard to the development of a large warehouse in an adjoining municipality.  Regional concerns would consist of: a) the general welfare of an adjoining municipality, as impacted by traffic, noise, lights, odor, or environmental issues; b) conflicts with the master plan or zoning ordinance of an adjoining municipality; and c) issues required to be included in a regional economic and land use impact report.
  • To conduct regional impact hearings and render decisions regarding development approvals for host municipalities that share a border with a county border, upon receiving a notification in accordance with the bill.
  • To receive and hear appeals and render decisions regarding host municipality development approvals of large warehouses, upon an appeal filed in accordance with the provisions of the bill.

The legislation provides that the Commission would render a decision to allow or disallow the application for development of a large warehouse to be considered by the host municipality within 45 days of a hearing. 

Updating Master Plans

Under the legislation, a host municipality upon receiving an application for a large warehouse development, and prior to approving such an application, would notify the planning board of the need to update the master plan, unless the master plan was updated within the prior 12 months.  If a host municipality’s master plan was not updated within the prior 12 months, the planning board of the host municipality would update the land use and development proposal aspects of the host municipality’s master plan in order to consider the number and nature of variances that were granted in the prior 12 months 

Senate Bill 3688 further provides that if a municipality that has approved a large warehouse development project has not performed a municipal-wide revaluation or municipal-wide reassessment of all real property in the municipality within the 60 months immediately preceding the approval of the large warehouse development project, the municipality would perform such a municipal-wide revaluation or municipal-wide reassessment of real property within the municipality not later than the 24th month next following that approval.

What’s Next?

After the legislation failed to advance out of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, it was amended and approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. The bill, as amended, is discussed above.

According to the bill’s sponsors, they are open to additional changes proposed by stakeholders, including municipalities, developers, environmental groups, and citizens. “The Senate President and I, as sponsors of this legislation, do not believe that this will be the last conversation on this particular bill,” Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee chairman Troy Singleton said. “I do believe, though, this is an important step in the conversation around regional economic development.” He added: “If we continue to just chase dollars from community to community, we are harming our state by not having the forethought to think through a real regional planning exercise so that we can move our state forward, not just one particular town against another.”

For more information about the proposed warehouse development legislation or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group at 201-896-4100.

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