Proposed warehouse has residents reeling
This map illustrates the estimated proximity of the potential warehouse to both Old York Stables and Clifton Mill. (Graphic by Norine Longo.)
When some Bordentown residents heard about a new potential warehouse at the intersection of Georgetown Road and Old York Road, potential problems started running through their minds.
Issues between Robbinsville Township and the Amazon warehouse that is located there started to boil over at the start of the holiday season last November. Truck and employee traffic, stemming from an increased—and unapproved—number of trips to and from the warehouse, became unbearable for residents, causing gridlock that lasted for much of their mornings and evenings on what used to be a relatively quiet road.
Clifton Mill residents fear that may be in their future. Two months ago, Matrix Development Group—the same developer behind the Amazon space in Robbinsville—approached the township about building a warehouse on the farmland across from their development. They are not happy.
Don Tretola, who has lived in Clifton Mill for the last three years, first heard about the possible warehouse at an Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting in December. He serves on the committee.
“When I moved into Bordentown Township, that’s what appealed to me—the fact that we’re overlooking a farm, among other things,” he said. “It was just a really family-oriented neighborhood. The atmosphere was so uniquely different. The neighborhood feel reminded me of when I was growing up in Jersey City.”
And all of that, he said, will be jeopardized should the warehouse get built. Eighty percent of the property is preserved farmland, he said. The unpreserved section is where the warehouse could go.
He and other residents fear fumes and emissions stemming from truck traffic, as well as noise. He said that could all extend into late night and early morning hours if whatever business moves in is a 24/7 operation.
Tretola and other concerned citizens were able to express these issues at a meeting hosted by the township on Jan. 5. It spawned from a Facebook page, “Save the Farm by Clifton Mills,” that Tretola created. After traffic to the page started to gain momentum, he said, the township committee reached out to plan the meeting. A representative from Matrix was also in attendance.
Around 65 residents showed up to the meeting, and Tretola said the committee and the Matrix representative were helpful and receptive.
“But did it raise our comfort level? No,” he said.
The meeting helped answer their questions, like how big the space would be (600,000 sq. ft., 45 feet high), what company will occupy it (unknown as of the meeting) and where traffic would primarily flow (Old York Road down to Route 206), but Tretola said many of their concerns were left to fester.
Resident Frank Angelucci agreed. He still fears the potential traffic and the loss of farmland and open space—and how it could affect the township down the line.
“Part of the problem is that we live in an ‘I want it now’ society,” he said. “Who really thinks about the future?”
The process is still in its earliest stages, though. Brian Johnson, Bordentown Township’s director of community development, said Matrix hasn’t even filed an application with the township. A representative from Matrix could not confirm whether or not the company planned on moving forward with the application.
Committeeman Jim Cann said many residents are unaware that the property has been zoned for this purpose since at least 1990. When Matrix approached the township, Cann said government officials offered suggestions to Matrix, like building a berm to conceal the 45-foot building and restricting access to the warehouse from Georgetown Road.
Matrix is not required to heed the township’s proposals, though.
“That doesn’t mean that they’re going to do everything we say,” Cann said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to like everything they do. It simply means that we’re communicating, and that we’re offering things that might make them better.”
Residents have asked the township to use eminent domain to preserve the tract, but Cann said it is not a plausible option.
“First of all, we would have to come up with a reason,” he said. “While preservation sounds good to all the residents there, and to me as well, the court may not look at it that way simply because they’re in a zone that permits this and has permitted this use for well over 18 years. You have a property owner who has the right to do what he wants.”
But for Barbi-Ann Nurko, owner of Old York Stables, her business could be at stake.
“Horses are a fleeing animal,” she said. “If they get spooked, they can run through fences. That’s a big concern. God forbid a tractor trailer scares somebody while they were riding. [The developer] doesn’t seem to care too much.”
She inquired about this at the January meeting but didn’t walk away with any answers.
“They said they’d put up berms,” she said. “I don’t care what you put up. It’s a big building. The traffic is going to be a big problem, not just for me because of the liability, but the surrounding neighborhood, as well. I don’t understand it. It comes down to money and greed. Why can’t it be something else?”
She suggested that if the warehouse is built, there is a possibility that she could lose business.
What is now a quiet country road could become something much different—and much louder—and she said those are not ideal conditions for her horses or patrons.
“In numbers there is strength, and people have a tendency to listen when there are larger numbers,” he said. “It feels good, the unity of the neighbors. It’s that township pride. We feel that the committee folks should really listen to our concerns and address them. Hopefully, they can make a difference for us and say, ‘You know what? It’s a good idea, and maybe we should start looking for other locations.”
For starters, he would like to see the township or Matrix consider an alternate, more commercial location on Route 130 or Route 206, perhaps in a vacant space. He isn’t against a warehouse. In fact, he supports that kind of econimic growth. He just feels there is a more logical location for something like this, other than in the middle of farmland.
“Smart growth,” he added, would place the warehouse elsewhere.
“Ratables are important in any municipality,” he said. “It would be great to have Matrix. We welcome Matrix into Bordentown Township, if only they could take the time to research alternate properties. Send their scouts out, take a look. They’ll realize that it makes more economic sense for themselves. Not only that, it helps the economy because now it’s redevelopment. It’s reusing an existing property that’s been vacant. To me, that makes more sense.”
If the land must be developed, Nurko said, she would like to see a park, a senior citizen development or affordable housing units—“anything but a warehouse.” Of course, her wish is that it would remain farmland.
Angelucci would like to see some kind of park or sports fields.
“What is the best use of that land? That remains to be seen,” he said. “But putting a 600,000-sq.-ft. warehouse certainly is not, in my opinion. It’s like wearing a toolbelt with a wedding dress. It just doesn’t go. Our kids will thank us years from now if we protect our open space, rather than build on it.”