WOOLWICH TWP. — The Woolwich TownshipJoint Land Use Board met on Aug. 3 to continue their public hearing on the application from Oldman’s Creek Holding LLC to construct a large warehouse on Auburn Road and Oldman’s Creek Road. No action again was taken on the application.
The warehouse would be built in close proximity to General Charles Harker School and several residential properties. The initial plan for the warehouse was submitted prior to the township’s rezoning of the piece from light industry/office to residential. The acreage in question is currently the location of US Drop Forge, an industrial company which has been in operation there since 1967.
This was the second meeting on the issue to allow residents to speak of their concerns. Due to the proposed location of the warehouse, residents are concerned about the health of employees and students at the school, traffic disruptions caused by trucks, noise and light pollution, and the potential impact on the local environment.
The warehouse is planned to be 854,450 square feet with 75 loading docks, 482 passenger vehicle parking spaces, and 166 trailer parking spaces. There is no official client for the warehouse space at this time.
The first of the residents, Jessica Beauer, was represented by her lawyer Jeff Brennan. Brennan argued that the board should dismiss the developer’s proposal based on wording in the law that meant the warehouse in its current slated location would have to be refiled due to the new zoning. The board rejected this argument for its legal reasoning and felt that dismissal on such a basis would give the developers reason to sue the township.
Speaking privately after the meeting, Eileen Healey, a teacher at Harker Elementary and the president of the Swedesboro Woolwich Education Association stated, “I’ve had my own children go through all the schools in the district. I’m at Harker, the president of the SWEA as well, so this is critical to us. I know for a lot of these people it’s just the deal, but this impacts us wherever.”
Another resident who wished to remain anonymous said after the meeting, “Adding in the traffic of trucks and the delay of the buses and all that is going to be impossible. It’s going to affect the school because they’re going to have to change the times when they let kids out.”
The testimony of representatives from Oldman’s Creek Holdings LLC tried to rebut the concerns and arguments of residents. Keith Ottis, an engineer representing Oldman’s Creek Holding stated, “It is my professional opinion that access to the site from Auburn Road is designed so as to interfere as little as possible with the traffic flow on Auburn Road,” adding that the site is in accordance with county standards.
When the board asked if the developer could assure that shift changes would not occur at the same time as school drop off and pick up times, the developer’s representative was not able to answer that.
The developer also stated that trucks at the facility would not be idling or moving on the property long enough to create adverse environmental or health effects, and claimed the barriers around the facility would prevent or reduce noise and light pollution.
Because a decision has not been made, another meeting will be held in the fall. “We have to follow due process to make sure that we clearly understand the facts,” said Woolwich Township Mayor Craig Frederick. “We don’t want to rush to a decision. We want to make sure we make the right decision off of the facts that we are presented with.”
By Karen E. Viereck and Abigail Twiford