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Williamstown Warehouse and Housing Proposed on Sicklerville Rd. Planning Meeting Nov 29

Williamstown Warehouse and Housing Proposed on Sicklerville Rd. Planning Meeting Nov 29
Reading Time: 10 minutes

A 235,350 sq ft warehouse is being proposed in Williamstown (Monroe) on Sicklerville Rd. The project also includes the development of 39 new single lot family homes.

A Monroe Township Planning Board review meeting is scheduled for November 29th at 6:30 pm at the Municipal Courtroom.

The development is planned on a mostly undeveloped area next to the Chelsea Farms neighborhood where Mink Lane comes off of Sicklerville Road.

The town has designated this area as the Mink Lane Redevelopment area.

The warehouse portion would sit along (and be visible from) Sicklerville Rd, but its angled positioning would have it also running along with that first straight section of Mink Lane as it comes off Sicklerville Rd.

The new home component is southeast of the planned warehouse in a wooded area that on three sides is bordered by; Mink Lane, Zielke’s Greenhouses, and Schoolhouse Road. Access into the new housing development would be via what is essentially an extended Frederick Street, coming in from the neighborhood on the West.

Homes have been proposed for this same lot in years past but were not developed.

A 235,000 sq ft warehouse project and 39 homes are proposed for Williamstown NJ. The Planning Board Meeting is Nov 29th,

The project plan also calls for the developer to build a new $850,000 utility pump station to replace an older one which would not have been able to handle the additional usage needs for the warehouse and new homes. The new pump station would be turned over to the town’s MUA.

The developer estimates the warehouse will bring 157 new jobs to Monroe Twp, and the taxes on the warehouse will be approximately half a million dollars.

All that being said, some residents are not happy with the plans for the development, and the way the passing of associated ordinances have been communicated within the town. More on that below. (Facebook)

While a tenant for the building has not been named, commentary in the Town’s meeting minutes indicate there is a tenant eagerly awaiting the warehouse development.

The Mink Lane Redevelopment area has been targeted by developers for over 40 years yet nothing has come of it despite being less than a mile (in a straight run) to an Atlantic City Expressway exit.

Sicklerville Road Warehouse and 39 Homes Meeting Minutes

The project is being proposed by Monroe Development Associates, LLC.

They are owned by Brahin properties who have significant commercial holdings in the Delaware Valley including the Brooklawn Shopping Center and Mantua’s Tollhouse Shopping Center. The principle at Brahin is also a partner in Millville’s Motorsports park.

In February of this year a representative of Monroe Development Associates spoke before the township’s Ordinance Committee. It appears this was when the zoning for the properties was being changed to support the new projects.

Monroe Township Municipal Building

From the February 2022 meeting minutes the project was described as (direct meeting minute commentary):

Monroe Development Associates, LLC, Redevelopment Attorney, Mike Malinsky addressed Council and the Mayor to present and explain the Mink Lane Redevelopment Plan.

He explained that they are looking to construct a 235,350 square foot last mile delivery distribution and warehouse along with constructing 39 single-family homes.

The proposed warehouse will be located on what is currently known as Lots 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the tax map and the proposed 39 single-family homes will be located on what is currently known as Lot 11 of the tax map.

Mr. Malinsky explained, with this development, there is also a pump station located on Frederick Street that has outlived its’ useful life, it is over fifty years old and was originally built as a temporary pump station.

They are proposing to construct a new pump station on Lot 11 which will allow for several benefits; it will not only service both the single-family homes and the warehouse, but it will also service the existing development that the Frederick Street pump station currently services and allow for additional residential and commercial development in that area.

As part of the redevelopment agreement, Monroe Development Associates, LLC will be incurring the cost of moving the water and sewer lines from the existing pump station to the proposed pump station.

They anticipate with this proposed project, it will not only bring approximately 157 new jobs to Monroe Township but it will also serve as a commercial ratable with the approximate value of $514,145.61.

Mr. Malinsky advised, they are looking for Council to approve the Resolution and Ordinance that is on this evening’s Agenda, which will adopt and approve the Redevelopment Agreement and the Redevelopment Plan which will allow the project to move forward.

Cncl. Falcone asked what the value of the pump station will be, to which Mr. Malinsky advised it will be approximately $850,000, which will be turned over to the Monroe Municipal Utilities Authority upon completion.

Cncl. McKinney asked if the old pump station would be decommissioned, to which Mr. Malinsky confirmed and explained their agreement with the MMUA regarding the pump station.

Cncl. Pres. Wolfe questioned the phases of the project, asking which phase will be done first, to which Mr. Malinsky explained, it is their intent to work on both phases simultaneously.

A discussion followed regarding the Redevelopment Plan and the changes that were made and why they were made.

Cncl. Pres. Wolfe asked if there is an urgency to have the Resolution and Ordinance approved this evening as opposed to discussing both and then presenting them for approval at the next scheduled Council meeting. Mr. Malinsky explained that the end user for the warehouse has been pressuring them to move on the project and get this project up and running as quickly as possible.

Prior to this, in a June 2021 Council meeting Mayor DiLucia had this to say about the project:

Mayor DiLucia spoke in reference to the Mink Lane Project, which will be located off of Sicklerville Road and proceed back to Mink Lane. This will be a 200,000 square foot warehouse that will yield approximately $400,000. 00 in annual taxes and 39 single family homes to be located behind the warehouse that will yield approximately $300,000 to $400,000 in taxes.

The 39 Homes and Fair-Share Requirements

This is not the first time I’ve seen homes attached to a warehouse development project in South Jersey. I think it’s reasonable to wonder.. why?

One possible reason is New Jersey’s Fair Share Housing Rules and how towns have allocated affordable housing to specific undeveloped properties.

Towns in New Jersey are required to make sure their zoning plan includes space allocated for affordable housing.

This goes back to the 1970s with a famous Mt Laurel Township legal case which was driven by concerns that not every new home in a town should be targeted at upper-middle class. The ruling was that some homes in each town should developed for more affordable budgets. This is known as the Mount Laurel Doctrine.

This evolved over the years in a series of further agreements.

Fair Share housing requirements for Monroe Township (Gloucester County) from a 2021 report.

Today most towns with developable land are in a position to have to negotiate zoning allocations for affordable housing with the Fair Share Housing Center. These plans are then typically approved by New Jersey courts as this provides additional protections for the town.

The interesting thing is the town’s requirement is to allocate zoning to meet the number of required homes , but the town is not required to build them immediately.

Looking at the May 24, 2021 Township of Monroe “Mount Laurel Compliance” document there are three redevelopment areas created for Monroe, each supporting fair-share housing requirements; Mink Lane, Acme Shopping Center, Williamstown Square.

In the case of the Mink Lane Redevelopment Plan the town allocated 42 “future credit” homes.

My understanding is this is a legal agreement for the town and the property, so that if a development is proposed in this Mink Lane redevelopment area, the homes must be developed.

All this being said the word “affordable” is not listed in the agenda for the proposed housing. Monroe Planning used to have a somewhat freeform webpage which provided all of the supporting materials (pdfs) for the upcoming meetings. I remember getting the Taco Bell site plan from town website… that process seems to have changed.

Over in Washington Twp a developer is considering a warehouse behind the Lowe’s there. They have included an oddly placed corner apartment building… for the same reasons.

NJSpotlight news has an excellent summary explainer on New Jersey Fair Share Housing concepts.

History and Resident Concerns

In putting this write-up together I found some interesting history on the properties… but it’s also very confusing to piece together a cohesive timeline.

Going back to the 80s (70s?) there were projects approved, infrastructure work done for projects and never used, multiple lawsuits over the years, zoning changes.

Factor in all of the analysis and documents regarding Fair-Share housing requirements, and it all becomes very confusing.

A 2006 document prepared for the Sicklerville Rd section of Monroe Township shows at the time hopes for a mixed use development of houses, retail, offices… and a large town recreational center where houses are now proposed to be developed,

I even found a 2006 document which at the time showed hope for a walkable retail, office and home community on both sides of Sicklerville Road for these properties. And the area where the homes are proposed today, back in 2006 was earmarked as a future large town recreational complex!

Very specific to this project, a 2016 site evaluation report prepared by Consulting Engineers states that in the early 2000s a single housing development of 31 units was proposed for Block 2201 Lot 11, and was denied by Planning due to lot area and lot frontage. The report states the Planning Board was sued for this decision and the courts later upheld the decision.

Ironically, that property which Monroe Township denied for 31 units twenty years ago as being too small, is the exact same lot they are this month hearing a proposal on for 39 units.

Some Resident Have Concerns.

A group of residents have been following the plans for this property for several years. Decades even.

Recently they have been discussing in town oriented Facebook groups and created a dedicated page. (Facebook). They also have a change.org petition.

I spoke to a few of the residents for this article.

Back in 2017 residents spoke out against another housing project proposed for the property behind the greenhouses. One of the big concerns was the density of the development. More homes were being proposed than zoning allowed.

Residents attended meetings and spoke directly with the board and developers. That project did not move forward.

With the new project the core of that same group is still working to be actively involved in deciding what, if anything, is approved.

An underlying concern is the change in redevelopment plan for the property which took place in early February of this year. Some residents feel they were not properly notified of the change to the Mink Lane redevelopment plan… that they should’ve been mailed notifications as nearby property owners.

Mink Lane coming from Sicklerville Rd. A concern of some residents related to new proposed housing is the narrowness of the road.

Jim Sherrard is a life long resident whose family has a home right at the point where the new access road will go in for the homes.

He explains that in the past the residents had several dozen residents to participate in the Mink Lane oriented development meetings… yet for the February meeting there were no residents present. No one seemed to know.

With the redevelopment change in the beginning of the year, this leads to concerns from residents that the new zoning for the property was rewritten to accommodate this project. To squeeze everything in.

As an example, a home at the bend of Mink lane seems to be only about 150 feet from the wall of the warehouse.

Jim says diesel truck pollution and noise are big concerns also.

For the home aspect, the density of housing remains an issue. Mr. Sherrard is trying to be fair saying the zoning supports a fewer number of homes. “Why can’t we start the discussions there?”, he wonders.

The higher density of homes also brings into question Mink Lane’s current construction. It’s a key road in which is a narrow road, especially at the bend coming off the key Sicklerville road entrance.

For the Sherrard’s it’s even more concerning as the planned access road to the new housing development will run directly behind their barn. A barn that traces back to the 1800s.

They wonder if the almost 200 year old building will survive the soil compacting work that will need to be done to develop the new roadway.

The meeting is on November 29th. It was rescheduled from November 3rd, where it was cancelled close to the meeting time.

Links and Location

Monroe Township Planning Board
Mink Lane Warehouse and Housing
Tuesday, November 29, 2022, 6:30pm
Monroe Township Municipal Building
125 Virginia Avenue
Williamstown, NJ 08094,