Many questions about a massive warehouse project were left unanswered at a March 2 public hearing, even after four hours of discussion on Zoom before the Sparta Township Planning Board.
The board never got to hear testimony by the traffic engineer, Adam Gibson, and environmental consultant, Mike Green. The hearing will continue at the planning board’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, when their testimony is expected.
The warehouse project proposed for Demarest Road, on the site of the Sparta Redi-Mix facility, has drawn wide concern among residents about the amount of traffic it could bring to the area, and if the development of neighboring wetlands will contaminate the local groundwater.
Residents outside of Sparta, especially in Lafayette and Andover, say they will be just as affected by the massive project and urged Sparta officials to consider their quality of life as well.
Diamond Chip Realty, which owns the property, plans to cease Redi-Mix operations to build two new warehouses. Building A, the smaller of the two, is approximately 373,600 square feet, and building B is about 506,880 square feet. Both contain about 10,000 square feet of office space.
The smaller building will include 67 dock doors for trucks, and the larger will include 124, according to the site plan application.
The site also includes 307 parking spaces and the extension of a railroad spur on the southeast property line, up to the side of the smaller building.
At the Feb. 22 Sparta Township Council meeting, resident Vivian Perlmutter expressed concern that the warehouse will greatly worsen traffic on Route 15 and the surrounding area.
Jim Ford, representing Diamond Chip Realty, said the key to the project was the extended rail spur. Every box car that pulls up to a warehouse takes about four trucks off the highway, he said.
Traffic will access the site via two driveways. Traffic is designed to flow counterclockwise around the campus.
About 50 parking spaces for trailers will be sited on the west side of the larger building.
’Just overflow space’
Anand Dash, an attorney and Sparta Township resident, tried to cast the project as a trucking terminal, claiming the project does not meet the township’s zoning ordinance.
Ford said the project is “truly a warehouse distribution facility, and that is what it is intended for.”
The parking spaces would not be used by truckers staying overnight, only for trailers waiting to be taken away.
“This is just overflow space in general,” Ford said. “It’s needed because there aren’t enough drivers available.”
Township planner Katherine Sarmad said her review of the application concludes the project is neither a trucking terminal nor cross-dock warehouse.
“This is more of a traditional warehouse facility,” she said.
Ford couldn’t put a number on the jobs the facility might create because the tenant is not yet known. He did say the facility is intended for the storage of raw food products, finished food products, beverages, paper, packaging, and possibly electronics as well.
Ford said the four office pods in the two buildings would allow up to four tenants, but he would prefer to lease the facility to one.
Diamond Chip attorney Steve Gouin stressed that the company is seeking only preliminary site plan approval.
After the planning board approves the project, two more visits to the board are necessary, once for final site plan approval, then again when a tenant comes in.
On Oct. 26, the Sparta Township Council passed a resolution to upgrade water and sewer infrastructure to serve a warehouse complex on Demarest Road. The resolution says the proposed sewer service area “is supported by the goals and objectives of the Sparta Township Master Plan, including economic redevelopment of an existing quarry site and use of existing rail infrastructure and is therefore consistent with the municipal master plan.”
The facility is intended for storage of food, raw food products, finished food products, beverages, paper, packaging, and possibly electronics as well.