Monday, March 4, 2024

Warehouses Are a Cost of Fast Delivery, Argues Knowlton’s Mazza

Activists helped defeat a 2 million-square-foot warehouse proposal in White Township. Photo by Joe Phalon, 11/2023

Against a backdrop of ongoing debate over warehouses and distribution centers, a Knowlton Township Committee member articulated what a lot of people are thinking, but few say out loud: There wouldn’t a demand for warehouses if there wasn’t a demand for the stuff in warehouses.

“I hate to say this, so I’m just going to say it: How many people buy from Amazon?” asked committee member James Mazza. “How many people order things that get delivered to their house on the daily basis? The warehouses are coming because people want the convenience. That convenience is having effects on each and every town.”

Knowlton officials have continued to voice their concerns with a warehouse proposed in neighboring Blairstown on Route 94 right on the border with Knowlton. The building would be situated on an 8.9-acre triangular-shaped lot, just north of Chef’s restaurant and Frank Arena’s farm stand at milepost number 4 on Route 94.

Mazza said that while there have been many objections to the plan, the reality is that the property is zoned GCI, or general commercial and industrial, which would permit use as a warehouse.

The term “warehouse” has become inexorably linked to the mega-structures that house Amazon distribution centers throughout the country, which facilitate fast delivery, up to same-day in some areas. At about 70,000 square feet, the proposed Blairstown is far smaller than a typical Amazon fulfillment at 800,000, a figure provided by Amazon. The developers have not indicated any committed tenants.

But two warehouses proposed in White Township, to the south of Knowlton, weigh in 1.8 million square feet and 800,000 square feet. These buildings have been before the White Township planning board for more than four years. While the state Agriculture Development Committee this month announced a tentative agreement to purchase the land from the developer for farmland preservation, the prospect of warehouses continues to weigh heavily on the minds of local officials.

Both projects have drawn the ire of Blairstown residents because the resulting truck traffic would likely have to use highways through Knowlton to get to Interstate 80.

And therein lies the reason Mazza says the proliferation of warehouses could be a considered a self-inflicted wound.

“Everybody keeps saying no more warehouses—and they should—but everybody wants stuff online,” Mazza said. The consequence of that convenience, he said, is that the warehouses could be coming to your town.

“It has to start with us,” Mazza said. “You don’t need a TV in every single room. You don’t need 15 phones, 14 iPads.”

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.