A bill just introduced in the New Jersey State Legislature could significantly slow the development of warehouse space even as demand soars nationwide. The bill, sponsored by State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, would amend the Municipal Land Use Law (N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1, et seq.) to require a town where a new warehouse development is pending to invite neighboring towns into the land use approval process — thereby extending what is already an onerous, time-consuming, and costly process by requiring an additional layer of approvals. Under the proposed legislation, a host municipality would be required to provide notice to each adjoining municipality whenever an application for a “retail warehouse” is filed and deemed complete and at least 30 days prior to the scheduled public hearing on the application. The bill defines “retail warehouse” as a facility designed for the storage of goods and materials with restricted access to the general public and does not include facilities that repackage or assemble products.
Under the proposed legislation, a neighboring municipality would then have the option, within 20 days after receipt of the notice from the host municipality, to adopt a resolution of “intermunicipal concern” and deliver it to the host municipality and the applicant. The resolution would then allow the neighboring municipality to have its concerns considered by a joint board with members equally representing the interests of each municipality. Prior to the joint board meeting and prior to the scheduled hearing on the application by the host municipality, the host municipality would be required to draft a “regional economic impact report” at the applicant’s expense. Preparation of the report would be mandatory—the protesting neighboring municipality would not be able to waive the requirement. The report would have to include:
(1) an assessment of the extent to which the proposed retail warehouse will capture a share of retail sales in the municipality, adjoining municipalities, or the county;
(2) an assessment of how the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse will affect the supply and demand for retail space in the municipality, and county;
(3) an assessment of how the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse will affect wages and benefits, community income levels, and the demand for employment in the municipality, adjoining municipalities, and the county;
(4) a projection of the costs of public services and public facilities resulting from the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse and the incidence of those costs;
(5) a projection of the public revenues resulting from the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse and the incidence of those revenues;
(6) an assessment of the effect that the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse will have on retail operations in the same or neighboring counties;
(7) an assessment of the effect that the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse will have on the ability of the municipality, adjoining municipalities, or the county to implement the goals contained in its respective master plan, including, but not limited to, local policies and standards that apply to land use patterns, traffic circulation, affordable housing, natural resources, including water supplies, open-space lands, noise problems, and safety risks; and
(8) an assessment of the effect that the construction and operation of the proposed retail warehouse will have on average total vehicle miles traveled by retail customers in the same or neighboring counties.
Following preparation of the report, the joint board would consider and decide whether the application for development can proceed before the appropriate land use board in the host municipality. In rendering such decision, the joint board would be required to determine whether the application can be granted “without substantial detriment to the general welfare of an adjoining municipality due to issues raised in a resolution of intermunicipal concern” and “without substantial impairment to the intent and purpose of the master plan or zoning ordinance of an adjoining municipality.” Once the municipal land use board finally renders its decision on the application, it would be required to adopt a resolution which must address each “area of municipal concern” raised by the neighboring municipality. It should be noted that the protesting adjoining municipality may withdraw its resolution at any time in the process if it reaches an accommodation with the host municipality or the applicant.
The decision of the joint board would be appealable, within 45 days of the decision, to a 15-member Intermunicipal Impact Advisory Board, created under the NJ Department of Community Affairs. The Intermunicipal Impact Advisory Board would create guidelines for what constitutes an intermunicipal concern. The guidelines would include all issues required in the regional economic impact report as well as general welfare concerns (traffic, noise, lights, odor, or environmental issues) and conflicts with the master plan or zoning ordinance of an adjoining municipality. The Intermunicipal Impact Advisory Board would also establish procedures for joint intermunicipal board hearings.