WOOLWICH TWP. – Tensions were high at the Woolwich Township committee meeting on Feb. 21, as several members of the Woolwich community arrived to voice their displeasure at various ordinances regarding re-zoning and amendments to the township’s master plan.
The ordinances in question ranged from rezoning several lots to be residential, establishing a “corridor commercial district” of various pieces of commercial land, and amending the definition of the zoning term “light industrial” for it to no longer include warehouses.
One of the first issues brought to the township committee regarded buffer zones between potential lots for warehouses and the environmental landscape. Specifically, residents addressed potential buffers or conservation zones to keep warehouses away from wetlands within Woolwich Township.
“The DEP (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection) requires a 300-foot buffer,” Mayor Craig Frederick said, referring to how close a warehouse can be placed to a waterway within New Jersey. “So, the state would trump anything that the local town has, so these are the requirements warehouses will have to comply with.”
Environmental concerns continued to be raised by various residents as they addressed the farmlands and green spaces that they stated brought their families to Woolwich originally. Several residents also stated that they would rather have these landscapes than have development anywhere along Route 322.
“The 322 Corridor has been slated for commercial development for at least the 20 years that I’ve lived here,” said Deputy Mayor Dennis Callahan. “The reality is that without rateables, without development along 322, this township will die… I think we would all love to live in a garden, but the reality is that Exit 2 is the last undeveloped exit on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
Although many residents fear the potential development and an abundance of warehouses, the township committee assured those in attendance that the ordinances up for a second reading were the committee’s attempt to curb what could be an overwhelming amount of industrial warehouses entering the community.
“You’ll notice that, for the most part, what we’re trying to do with tonight’s ordinances is reduce as a whole where warehouses can and cannot go,” Frederick said. “So you’ll see the definitions of LIO (light industrial office) or CC (corridor commercial) or CCE (corridor commercial east) is essentially not allowing warehouses to come into bigger areas.”
Following the second reading and public hearing of each ordinance, all were passed unanimously by the township committee.
“When you come in as an elected official, you’re handed what was already decided and you have predictions of what the future is going to look like,” Committeeman Michael Nocentino said. “I don’t want a single warehouse in Woolwich Township, but we’re sitting on a $20,000,000 sewer and multiple committees made decisions that landed us with something we couldn’t pay for. So that everyone won’t be broke and so our taxes won’t go through the roof, something has to be done.”
Several resolutions were passed during the meeting as well. These included a refund of overpaid taxes, an increase of annual sick time to ten days for Woolwich Township personnel, and the hiring of an electrical inspector/subcode official within the township.
By Berry Andres