Even before the pandemic began, warehouse construction was rapidly accelerating in many parts of New Jersey. That's because the state is well situated and has become a major transportation corridor for the entire Northeast, with one of the largest seaports in the nation, and easy access to multiple rail lines and interstate highways.

But with ongoing COVID concerns, the warehouse industry is booming like never before, and new questions are being raised about how to ensure it doesn’t spiral out of control.

Pete Kasabach, the executive director of New Jersey Future, says the trend is positive in many respects because it’s creating jobs and giving cash-strapped municipalities the opportunity to attract new revenue that can help to hold the line on taxes. But the flip side is the location of these new warehouses can sometimes be a problem.

“These warehouses if they’re placed poorly, they end up taking up open space, they take farmland, you end up with trucks criss-crossing through communities, noise pollution, air pollution,” he said.

Kasabach said to avoid these problems towns need to revisit their land-use plans and zoning and to figure out where it makes the most sense to have these warehouses so that “logistics companies are closer to major infrastructure, roads and rail, but the trucks don’t have to come through the community and don’t have to use up open space.”

He said the state planning office can play a positive roll in addressing this issue by creating guidance for communities “as to where they should be looking to zone and place and encourage these warehouses.”

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Mike Cerra, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said the decision making should stay with the towns but having the state offer some guidance could be helpful “as to these developments, what works best, some best case examples.”

“At the end of the day, those who live in the communities and are directly impacted really need to have the final say," he said.

Some planning groups have suggested the state planning office or county or regional commissions should be empowered to control where warehouses are.

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