From the Garden State to the Warehouse State

As we all known, New Jersey is far more than Newark Airport, the Turnpike, and the oil storage tanks alongside it. From Sussex, to Warren, to Monmouth, there are certainly some beautiful areas to behold.

Unfortunately, as a state, we need to keep a watchful eye out for developers that want to pave over those wonderful open spaces. Over the last few years we have gone from the Mall State to the Warehouse State.

The most recent property under potential attack is Gaitway Farm in Monmouth County; New Jersey’s main training facility for the standardbred horses that race in the state. According to a report by NJ.com, the Manalapan Township Committee voted last week to allow development of warehouses and sports complexes on a 225-acre swath along Route 33; the current location of Gaitway Farm.

Gaitway Farm in Manalapan, New Jersey
Gaitway Farm in Manalapan, New Jersey (credit: Steve Strunsky | NJ Advance Media For NJ.com)

The Committee unanimously voted to adopt the Gaitway Area Redevelopment Plan, which amends local zoning to permit warehousing and indoor recreation southwest of the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Drive. The approved plan preserves 100 acres as open space. The rest will be developed for a variety of uses.

The town mayor and other officials stressed there are no plans to condemn the property and turn it over to a designated developer; a serious concern of area residents. According to town officials, the plan relies on the voluntary development or sale of the properties involved by their owners.

At this point, the wants of the current owners are somewhat unclear. According to Mayor Jack McNaboe, if the owners decide to sell, having a plan in place will help avoid a push for a heavier development plan.

“I’m all in favor of their staying a horse farm, but let’s face it, folks, I don’t see that happening,” McNaboe told the gathering. “I have to be realistic. Money does talk.”

“I have to be realistic. Money does talk.”

Wow. So that’s what we’ve come to as a society, especially in this state. Forget about open space, preserving farmland, or protecting our countryside. It all comes down to ratables.

I don’t know what disgusts me more. The unanimous vote for development or the lack of creativity in the ideas presented to preserve the space. Protecting open space is hard work. It takes out-of-the-box thinking. What about looking at developing a co-op with horse owners? What about a grant from the state? What about, oh I don’t know, maybe talking to the owners and find out what their plans are?

The approved redevelopment plan has a primary and secondary list of proposed uses. The primary uses include warehouses, manufacturing, fabrication, distribution facilities, and agriculture, to name a few. The secondary uses include signage, offices, sound walls, sewage treatment, and basketball courts (no more than four). Wow. warehouses, offices, sewage treatment, and basketball courts. Sounds awesome. Where do I sign up?

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of watching my beloved state get paved over for no real reason other than ratables and politicians saying they can.

So what can you do?

There are a lot of preservation organizations, watchdog groups, and other institutions to help advocate for preservation. Get involved. Attend your local town council meetings; especially zoning meetings, where all the changes take place. Question what is happening in your own backyard. Ask if there is a better way.

Once paradise is paved and the open space is gone, it rarely comes back.

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