Eyes Wide Open: 150 Allen Road

July 23, 2023

It’s time for Bernards Township residents to pay close attention to a new development trend that’s under way and poised to wreak havoc on our beautiful town. Bernards has joined the long list of NJ municipalities where rich developers smell a chance to build warehouses and make a whopping profit at the town’s expense. The traffic, noise, and pollution from a warehouse has never helped a town’s quality of life and homeowners’ property values, and never will. The risk is now at our doorstep, however, with the proposed conversion of the office complex at 150 Allen Road to a warehouse. 

We can stop them here in Bernards Township, but we need a lot of residents to understand the threat, join the opposition, and make a modest investment by doing just four things: 

  • Show up at zoning board hearings. The next meeting is August 9 @ 7pm.
  • Talk to neighbors and friends. Share this publication with them.
  • Put signs on your lawn. Click here to learn more.
  • Help fund lawyers and experts. Click here to learn more.

While no reasonable person would dispute the need to redevelop properties that are no longer useful, a property’s new use should (1) comply with the rules and (2) be appropriate for the location and the community. The pending proposal would replace the former office building at 150 Allen Road with two structures designed as warehouses or distribution centers.  The applicant claims they have no specific tenants or uses in mind, but the new buildings would have the very high ceilings and 24 of the large loading docks that are part of all new warehouse structures.  As the saying goes: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.  

The neighborhoods that would suffer the most would be those along Mt. Airy Road and along Allen Road in the Hills, but the spillover effects would ultimately reach all Bernards residents as we are confronted with tractor-trailer traffic and reduced home values.  While Covid 19 has driven down needs for office space, this bait and switch by the applicant and attempt to repurpose a property approved for “light manufacturing” and turn it into an active, heavily trafficked warehouse is unacceptable.

Bridgewater and many other municipalities have already made it clear that “light manufacturing” does not include warehouses and distribution centers. Bernards Township has yet to make that distinction explicit, but the definition of light manufacturing in our zoning ordinance seems clear enough: it involves assembling inputs into new outputs, not shuffling and sorting and shipping packages.  

The proposal violates existing zoning rules in many ways and therefore asks for lots of variances and exceptions.  The two buildings would cover 40% more land than is permitted.  They would be nearly five feet taller than permitted.  They would require the removal of 417 existing trees, triggering a requirement to plant 649 new trees, but the applicant asks to be allowed to plant only 176 new trees.  The list goes on and on.  

The next zoning board hearing on the Allen Road redevelopment project will be on August 9 at 7:30 pm in the Bernards Township municipal building.  Please visit the website to stay informed and learn more about becoming a modest investor in our town’s future. Let’s all keep our eyes wide open, and work now to preserve the relatively quiet, residential nature of Bernards Township.

By Bill Knox, BTDC District 16 Representative

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