At the February 23, 2021 Robbinsville Township Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, the Board granted bifurcated use variance approval to allow Johnson Development Associates Inc. to develop two light-industrial warehouse/office facilities at the existing Mercer Corporate Park.
Mercer Corporate Park is located near the New Jersey Turnpike, just off Interstate 195, and close to the Robbinsville-Allentown border. This site previously received approvals to construct 508,700 square feet of office space, 84,180 square feet of warehouse space and a 160-room hotel. A 61,500 square foot office has already been constructed on the site. The Applicant is instead proposing to subdivide the property into three lots and to develop the remainder of the site with the proposed two light-industrial warehouse/office facilities.
At the hearing, the Zoning Board considered whether or not the proposed light-industrial warehousing use should be permitted on the site. During the hearing, there was a public participation portion where the public was permitted to provide comments on the requested use variance application. Several members of the public appeared and commented on the application. After reviewing the application submitted to the Board, considering the testimony provided at the hearing, as well as the comments from the Board, the Board’s professionals and the public, the Zoning Board granted the use variance relief as requested. These approvals were conditioned upon the applicant coming back to the Zoning Board to obtain site plan and subdivision approvals. Just to be clear, only the requested variance has been approved at this time. The proposed development has not received final approval.
A Resolution, a written documentation of the hearing and the findings of the Board, was prepared for the Zoning Board’s consideration at their meeting on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The Board must approve this resolution memorializing the events and findings of the February 23, 2021 public hearing. The Board memorialized their decision granting the requested use variance via this Resolution. While the public is able to comment on general matters not before the Board and on applications scheduled for public hearing, discussion on a matter where the public participation portion has already been closed is not permitted by State law. The Board may not re-open a matter to the public once action has been taken by the Board.
To advance the proposed light-industrial warehouses, the applicant will need to file the necessary applications, which will be reviewed by the Board’s professionals and will be scheduled for another public hearing. The public will once again have an opportunity to comment on this proposal when it comes back to the Zoning Board for site plan and subdivision approval.
Regarding the environmental concerns which have been raised, the Zoning Board has no jurisdiction over most of these concerns as they fall under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Any approvals by the Zoning Board would be conditioned upon and subject to all necessary State, County and other outside agency approvals. This means that if the applicant fails to obtain the necessary outside agency approvals, which includes the NJDEP, the applicant also fails in meeting the conditions of their approvals. An application cannot advance without meeting all conditions of their approval.
Zoning Board Attorney Michael Herbert, Esq. has prepared letters directed to the various environmental groups and objectors who have reached out to the Township, explaining the jurisdiction of the Board and confirming their opportunity to further comment when the applicant appears again for a hearing on site plan and subdivision approvals.
The public was offered the opportunity to comment on the use variance relief application at the public hearing in February. After those who wished to speak were heard, the matter was closed to the public. While we understand some constituents feel as if they were not given a chance to speak on this matter at last Tuesday night’s virtual Zoning Board meeting, procedurally the public participation portion of the hearing had been closed and it was not the appropriate time to make comments on this particular application.
Rest assured, the public will have further opportunities to comment on this proposed development when the applicant appears before the Board for site plan and subdivision approvals.