SAYREVILLE – Amid concerns from residents and disagreements between borough officials, the Sayreville Borough Council has adopted an ordinance that will allow for the construction of 1.8 million square feet of warehouse space near Main Street.
The ordinance was adopted by the council on June 24 in a 5-1 vote. Council members Kevin Dalina, Damon Enriquez, Victoria Kilpatrick, Dave McGill and Mary Novak voted “yes” on a motion to adopt. Council President Daniel Buchanan voted “no”.
The ordinance will, among other changes, permit the use of self-storage facilities in the waterfront redevelopment area, providing that the facility is in a multi-story format and offers climate-controlled storage options. No more than three of these facilities are permitted in the redevelopment area.
The council’s action is focused on the Fulton Redevelopment Area, an approximately 158-acre vacant area in the central portion of the borough, south of Main Street and north of the Conrail Railroad Raritan River Line. The area is owned by Lorraine Munnia Mocco, according to a redevelopment plan prepared by Heyer, Gruel & Associates.
The adoption was made against the recommendation of the Sayreville Planning Board, whose members found that the redevelopment plan was not consistent with the borough’s Master Plan and was not willing to amend the Master Plan to make it consistent. However, the Borough Council has the statutory right to not follow the recommendation of the Planning Board, according to Borough Attorney Michael DuPont.
According to the redevelopment plan, the area has been subject to land use applications and litigation, with the primary issue being whether residential development is permitted on the property. Susan Gruel, the borough’s planner, said the area’s existing zoning results in approximately 600,000 square feet of warehouse space and 207 residential homes.
The proposed redevelopment plan for the area will provide for approximately 1.8 million square feet of warehouse space and prohibit any residential uses on the site, according to Gruel.
Although increasing the warehouse space, borough officials found that the new plan was more beneficial to Sayreville because it removed the residential uses. Without the residential uses, they reasoned that the borough would gain revenue without experiencing any tax increases or further burden on the Sayreville School District that would be caused by the residential use bringing in more school-age children.
While the redevelopment plan for the warehouse space received support for potentially generating revenue and jobs, residents also voiced concerns with the potential negative impacts it may have on safety, lighting, property values and traffic. The truck traffic potentially generated by the warehouse space on the surrounding area, including Main Street, was a particular concern for residents.
Prior to voting “no”, Buchanan reasoned that if the ordinance was denied, the developer would potentially meet with borough officials for further negotiations and create an ordinance that would generate less concerns.
“Twenty-plus years ago, the owners of Fulton Landing wanted to put a golf course and senior housing on that property and it was shot down,” Buchanan said. “Then they came back and they wanted housing and warehousing. That was shot down and overturned by the judges. He’s now coming back to us, looking for three warehouses. He’s coming to us looking to amend that agreement. I think that if we turn this down, he’s not going to want to go to court and get the judgement on the housing. He’d rather work with us on a better plan for what he wants over there.
“We’re in a horrible situation not because of anything this council did, but because of planning and court decisions,” he continued. “None of us up here want to be making this decision right now. But I think if we can bring him back to the table, he’s going to be willing and we can put [amendments] in this ordinance and make it a better ordinance. It’s going to help our tax base getting businesses in there by not bringing in kids to our schools. It’s a ratable, it’s going to bring taxes with less expenses. That’s what towns look for. That’s what we look for.
“I don’t agree with the area that it’s going in; however, he’s coming to us and I believe that if we say no to this ordinance, we’ll bring him back, tighten it up and get it better. He’s not going to want to go forward with that lawsuit because that’s not what he wants. He does not want the houses and the smaller warehouses. He wants the larger warehouses and we can get a better product,” Buchanan said.
Kilpatrick, however, stated that she did not want to risk the possibility of a new plan not coming before the council and the previous plan with the 207 residential homes being approved if the council denied the ordinance.
“I would like to think like you, Danny, that he really doesn’t want to build those things and that he’ll turn around and abandon that, but I’m nervous,” Kilpatrick said. “I don’t trust the developer. I never have. And I don’t want to roll that dice. I know some are going to try to argue [the previous plan’s] not going to impact the school, but I work there and I’ve been there my whole life. It’s going to impact the school, which is already bursting. Five hundred twenty students right now are coming into the middle school from the fifth grade class alone right now. That’s how much one class is. Two hundred and seven four-bedroom homes, I can’t take that risk.
“If anyone in here thinks that’s not going to impact our schools, it is,” she continued. “It’s going to impact our schools beyond belief, it’s going to impact our taxes beyond belief. I’m not typically a gambling person and I don’t think I want to start now.”
Kilpatrick said she also felt the borough could still get a better plan after the ordinance was adopted through the Sayreville Economic Redevelopment Agency (SERA) and the Planning Board.
“I think we still have a chance of [getting a better plan] if we use our agency and hold them accountable between SERA and the Planning Board,” she said.