Welcome, Allentown, New Jersey!


[Updated 6/11.] Rockefeller Group, inconvenienced enough in DeKalb to shake the Midwest topsoil off its shoes and head back toward the coasts, wants to develop some 320 acres for logistics enterprises along the New Jersey Turnpike in the vicinity of Allentown, NJ, a plan comparable to their failed warehouse mega-project on 343 acres on the southern edge of DeKalb.

In this earlier article at citybarbs, I described what has already happened to Cranbury and East Brunswick–which are only about 15 miles from Allentown–when mega-logistics came to their area. They must mean to develop logistics along the entire Turnpike, exit by exit (Cranbury is Exit 8A, Allentown is Exit 7A).

You will also notice, if you follow the link, that residents of Allentown have commented there. Another Allentonian phoned me, having come across an old letter to the editor. They have apparently put together quite a team of Internet Research Commandos (IRCs) already. Good for them.

Here’s a site devoted to NJ sprawl issues. An article there entitled “Environmental group pans warehouse project” may be of particular interest to this case. And another one, “New Jersey is running out of open land it can build on,” makes clear the importance of smart land-use decisions.

GREENWICH TOWNSHIP, N.J. – New Jersey, far more densely populated than any other state – more crowded than Japan or India, for that matter – is on course for another distinction: it will be the first state, land-use experts say, to exhaust its supply of land available for development.

The prospect of running out of open space to build on, a phenomenon that planners call buildout, is at the heart of Gov. James E. McGreevey’s well-publicized campaign against sprawl. In poll after poll, voters in this most suburban of states say they hate what they see, and elected officials on all levels have taken note.

Roughly two million of New Jersey’s five million acres are developed, and a little over one million are protected by various levels of government. The state has promised to acquire or preserve enough land, including farmland, to bring the number of protected acres to two million by 2009. Some of the rest is unsuitable for development, leaving less than a million acres to be fought over. Since those estimates were made a few years ago, some of those acres have surely been developed.

The pace of suburban development is a powerful issue in many other states after a 10-year onslaught of building, but the political and economic tensions are especially raw here, where more people are scrambling over less open space. Builders accuse the governor of thwarting the American dream, environmentalists say builders will kill agriculture, and many towns try to avoid the costs of growth, like developing infrastructure and building schools, by zoning out housing that would bring in children.

The pattern in New Jersey is the very definition of sprawl: land consumption is increasing faster than the population is growing. As in other parts of the country, land is consumed three to four times faster than the population grows. “We’re taking bigger bites with each wave of development,” said Barbara Lawrence, the director of New Jersey Future, a land-use planning organization.

With the distinction of being the first state expected to build out, it’s clear that the rest of the country should pay close attention to land use in New Jersey.

Update 6/11. More links:
An editorial entitled, “Warehouseville, N.J.–watch out for trucks” describes the changes to South Brunswick since the arrival of mega-logistics:

I don’t remember anyone from surrounding communities being consulted before South Brunswick’s zoning changes allowed the boom in warehouse construction. And as a consequence, South Bruns-wick has damaged the quality of life, not only of its own citizens who live in the eastern portion of the community, but also the lives of residents in East Brunswick, Monroe, Jamesburg and anyone else who travels the Route 130, Route 535 and Route 522 corridors…In a perfect world, the members of the South Brunswick Planning Board, the Zoning Board and the entire council would be forced to buy homes in the eastern portion of the township and live in those homes.

They’d be forced to listen to a fleet of 18-wheelers rattling their kitchen windows every morning, forced to patch the cracks in their foundations caused by vibrations, forced to dodge trucks speeding 60 mph on Deans Rhode Hall Road, forced to follow dozens of those trucks down Route 522 on the way to work every morning, and follow them home at night. They’d be forced to wait for hours on Route 522 as yet another big rig becomes stuck under the small railroad bridge near Jamesburg and has to be painstakingly extricated before it can slowly back up for a quarter-mile or so where there’s room to turn around. They’d be forced to live with the consequences of their actions.

This may also become the reality for Allentown, a town of about two thousand people who are celebrating its 300th anniversary this year. Allentown is the community that would have to live with the real-life consequences of the decisions of the Upper Freehold Township Planning Board, while the more distant Upper Freeholders enjoy the fruits of turning rural lands into a $1.2 million “tax ratable,” as they call it out there. If the mega-warehouse project at Exit 7A is approved, it is Allentown that will have to spend $1 million on a hook-and-ladder truck tall enough that their volunteer fire fighters can reach the top of a 46-foot-high warehouse, beef up their police force from its current staff of 5.5 officers, and rebuild the lake bridge to support truck traffic.