By Anne Levin
A project that would bring nine warehouses of 5.5 million square feet to a 650-acre parcel bordering U.S. Route 1, Clarksville Road, and Quakerbridge Road in West Windsor, the former home of American Cyanamid, has many residents registering strong opposition.
A discussion of the development by the West Windsor Township Planning Board, followed by a vote, is scheduled for its in-person meeting on June 29. The issue was last considered by the Planning Board on June 1.
Traffic congestion and environmental issues are among the concerns of those urging that the development be scrapped. West Windsor Township Mayor Hemant Marathe said the former, in particular, will be addressed at the meeting.
“I have talked to a lot of people in town, and I understand their concerns,” he said. “Traffic is the main concern. We fully understand that, and the Planning Board is going to impose conditions so that not as many trucks can be on Clarksville Road.”
The Planning Board gave preliminary approval to a plan by the developer, Atlantic Realty, in December 2020. Since then, residents have charged that ongoing discussions of the issue have not been open to the public.
“Everything was by Zoom, but the Planning Board of West Windsor did not provide a Zoom link to the public,” said township resident Tirza Wahrman, who ran against Marathe last November. “My perspective is that a decision was made that a Zoom link was not required for the Planning Board, which is in stark contrast to how other township entities run. The whole thing was done under cover of night.”
Marathe said the process has been transparent. “We are 100 percent in person: Live, taped, and put on YouTube,” he said.
Opposition to the project is not limited to West Windsor residents. The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the public advocacy group MoveOn have posted their concerns on social media. “This project brings with it potential for severe congestion on Route 1 and area roads, increased air pollution, and other problems,” wrote Princeton resident Kip Cherry, the Central Jersey conservation chair for the Sierra Club, on its website. “Insufficient information has been provided about the anticipated traffic increase or stormwater flow, which is critical in light of climate change.”
A recent MoveOn posting urging people to sign a petition said the project would be more than five times the size of Quaker Bridge Mall. “Implore the West Windsor Planning Board to vote no to the Bridge Point 8 project,” it reads. “There is plenty of vacant warehouse space in New Jersey. Why waste resources building more?” The post continues, “Show up with your signs and metaphorical torches and pitchforks! Let them know this is BAD for New Jersey!”
On June 17, a letter to the Planning Board from an attorney for one of the residents said that a recently released “draft Warehouse Siting Guidance” issued by the New Jersey State Planning Commission, to help local government develop land use plans, mentions factors with which the township does not comply. These include health impacts from diesel truck emissions, negative impacts on residential areas and retail corridors, and the need for municipalities to seek comments from affected nearby communities. The letter urges the planners to reschedule the vote and reconsider the application.
Marathe said the project would provide two major advantages for the township. “The developer will pay full taxes on any construction that happens on the property,” he said. “He can’t ask for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) or special tax treatment. The developer can’t sue the township to rezone the property for residential development.”
He added that with approval from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, Mercer County “can impose weight limits on Clarksville Road and that will take care of the main concern for the majority of residents.”
The Wednesday, June 29 hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at 271 Clarksville Road.
“The record is closed, but people will be permitted to hear the deliberations of the Planning Board,” said Wahrman. “We have implored them to take a pause and let the state planning commission guide us.”