New Jersey’s State Planning Commission (SPC) has issued new warehouse siting guidelines that urge municipalities to update their master plans as well as local land-use and zoning ordinances to reduce their vulnerability to “poorly sited and scaled” warehouse projects.

“Many towns in New Jersey are finding that their communities are particularly vulnerable to poorly sited and scaled warehousing projects because they zoned large areas of their community, particularly farmland in rural areas, for broadly applied ‘light industrial’ use,” the Planning Commission said in the introduction to the guidelines.

“As a result, many land-use plans and zoning ordinances may be inadequate in their present form to address the pace and scale of new warehousing proposals,” SPC said.

The agency noted that municipal officials in South Jersey have been shocked to learn that projects aiming to build mega-warehouses on acres of rural land largely conform to existing zoning standards.

“Given the scale and intensity of new and emerging warehousing trends and building types, zoning that simply permits generic warehousing may not be sufficient to address the different types of warehousing uses, nor to give a municipality the performance standards it needs to adequately review an application or require developers to properly minimize and mitigate impacts,” the state agency said.

In March, the Township of Mansfield in Burlington County, NJ passed an ordinance banning any more warehouses from being developed in the township beyond those that had already been approved or were already under construction.

Mansfield, a town about 30 miles east of Philadelphia with a population of about 8,500, drew its line in the sand after an influx of eight warehouse projects encompassing a total of more than 5M SF received approval. Four of the warehouses are under construction.

“The township committee of the Township of Mansfield finds that additional warehouse development should not be permitted in the township,” reads the ordinance approving the ban, adopted March 2.

Preserving the rural quality of Mansfield was one of several reasons cited by township officials when they enacted the ban.

The township committee said the truck traffic from warehouses operating in the area is so heavy that it makes houses shake, cracking their foundations. They also said the large footprint of the buildings generates stormwater runoff and impedes the recharging of an already-depleted local aquifer, according to a report in NJ Spotlight News.

Mansfield officials said the township’s master plan was being updated to reflect the warehouse ban and defend it against any legal challenges.