Breza Road warehouse application withdrawn

Rockefeller Group no longer has parcel under contract


Staff Writer

A two-sentence letter sealed the fate of the Rockefeller Group’s controversial warehouse application in Upper Freehold.

The letter, addressed to Planning Board Administrator Susan Babbitt, came from attorney Stephen Barcan.

“As you know, this office represents Rock-IDI 7A LLC, the applicant in the above captioned matter,” the letter stated. “Please be advised that Rock-IDI 7A LLC withdraws its pending application for general development plan and variance approvals.”

With those sentences, one of the most contentious issues in the township and neighboring Allentown concluded – for now.

The New York City-based Rockefeller Group had plans to construct 1.8 million square feet of warehouse/office space on Breza Road. Township officials approved a general development plan for the 254-acre Breza Road tract in September 2004.

The developer also planned to donate 19.2 acres of the parcel to the township to use for affordable housing.

Planning Board hearings on the project began earlier this year, generating fierce opposition from Allentown residents as well as many others living in the township.

The warehouses became a political issue in this year’s general election, when Upper Freehold resident Mike Renzulli and Allentown resident Micah Rasmussen ran a newspaper advertisement urging the community to vote against Township Committeeman Stephen Alexander, who supported the warehouses. However, Alexander was re-elected.

Some residents also came out in support of the township purchasing the Breza Road tract as an alternative to the Ellisdale Road middle school site, which has some soil contamination issues. A new school referendum would be required, however, since the 2004 referendum was site-specific.

Rockefeller Group representative Clark Machemer said that the application was withdrawn because the company could not come to terms with the property’s owner, Indian Run LLC.

“No one anticipated [the hearings] taking this long,” he said, adding that developing commercial land in New Jersey requires time and flexibility.

When asked how much his company had spent on the application over the past several years, Machemer would only say that it was “a pretty significant” amount of money. He said he did not know what the owner’s plans are for the property, but that the Rockefeller Group no longer has the land under contract.

When asked how the property was currently zoned, Babbitt said the township has shown a “Commerce Park Overlay” zone on the official zoning map since 1995, and the underlying zoning is agricultural/residential. She said the overlay zoning has been in place for many years and was not designed for the Rockefeller Group.

“If someone were going to come in and do a housing development,” she said, “they would be under the current zoning regulations, just as all our developers are.”

The township currently has 3-acre residential zoning with a 35 percent bonus density cluster option. However, proposed revisions to Upper Freehold’s master plan include density transfers to specified areas to preserve agricultural lands along with the creation of village centers or hamlets.

Rasmussen called the withdrawal of the application “a genuine David vs. Goliath victory for generations past, present and future.”

“It just goes to show what neighbors can do when they work together for the common good of their community,” Rasmussen said.