During a special meeting, the Bayonne Planning Board approved a proposal to build five large solar panel warehouses on the old ExxonMobil site at Constable Hook.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Duke Realty Bayonne Urban Renewal LLC is redeveloping the site at Avenue J and East 22nd Street.
Attorney Michael Miceli explained the applicant is Duke Realty, which is owned by Prologis, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). He called it the largest industrial property owner in the world.
“They develop spaces like this all the time. It’s a top-tier company. They’re going to be here for the long haul. I’m very excited to bring this to you,” he began.
“We have license to cross from the Amazon site to the IMTT site. This project is zoned under the Constable Hook redevelopment plan. We know Bayonne’s past with Exxon. This was an oil refinery for over a century. We had a robust Exxon oil operation.”
However, “that went dark in the 1980s, and really nothing has happened,” he explained.
“This site sat fallow for how long? Since the 80s, it’s just the first step in a redevelopment of Constable Hook,” Miceli argued.
Engineer Michael Sousa described the enormous building sizes. Building one will be about 1,076,000 square feet, the second will be about 151,000 square feet, the third approximately 124,000 square feet, 110,000 square feet, for the fourth building, and fifth and final building would be 219,000 square feet.
Therefore, each of the buildings are projected to be between 48 to 52 feet high.
“This has no tenant attached to it,” he explained, adding that the project will be completed in a multi-phase development to handle parking issues and due to the environmental remediation process.
Sousa also noted that 932 parking spaces in total will be created. 50, or five percent, will be reserved for electrical vehicles (EVs).
The buildings will have 284 loading docks with several trailer stalls. In addition, there will also be a few guardhouses around the property to maintain security. Sousa further stated that they want a variance on signs to add more.
He explained they have been in touch with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the details of the property. Sousa added there will be solar paneled buildings with environmentally friendly LED certification.
“You have no commitments, I can only assume?” Commissioner Thomas Maiorano asked regarding possible tenants.
“Not that I know of,” Sousa joked.
Maiorano wanted details on potential tenants.
“We don’t anticipate a freezer. We’re not anticipating e-commerce now. That would greatly impact our parking. That’s not what we’re anticipating,” Sousa said.
Board member Ramon Velez was curious about a potentially negative traffic impact.
“We submitted a traffic study and it was a conservative estimate,” Micelli said.
“There are no … substantial negative impacts,” Sousa argued.
Velez then asked if they anticipated a window of operations.
“It can be a three-shift. It’s very tenant-driven. A lot of that noise would be contained. The surrounding uses are very industrial,” Sousa noted.
“It’s not going all be built at once. We’re asking for a 20-year rezoning designation,” Micelli said.
Bayonne Planning Board Chair Karen Fiermonte suggested the traffic impact be revisited as time goes on and Micelli said they could do so once tenants are secured.
Fiermonte also said that traffic studies can’t provide realistic projections for 20 years in the future.
“Will the private roads have a public easement across them? Are there any proposed sec checkpoints?” Consulting Engineer Andrew Raichle asked.
“There’s nothing barring them from entering. But it’s not encouraged. Those security points only occur at the loading dock areas,” Sousa said.
Raichle said they have been in talks with the developer for several years and that water-dependent users would be attractive. Raichle added that if there are future environmental issues, they must address them.
“If we hit oil, we’ll call Exxon,” Micelli said.
“The city will not come to your rescue. That’s on you,” Raichle replied.
“When was the traffic study done?” former council president and mayoral candidate Sharon Nadrowski asked during public comment.
“April 19, 2023,” Micelli replied.
“All these other things that have been approved … does that all get factored in? How do you project the numbers?” Nadrowski questioned.
Sousa explained there is a professional handbook with ways to calculate that.
“You’re affecting the flow there,” Nadrowski noted.
“We didn’t identify any improvements that were required,” Sousa replied.
Planner John McDonough explained it’s part of the Constable Hook area and “the heart of the plan is revitalization.”
He continued that the plan would pave the way for a “world-class facility, as well as that an an e-commerce prohibition would be difficult and narrowly defined.
McDonough also said there was a difference between non-sort, which they wanted, versus a sorting facility delivering packages to individuals.
“We’re really trying to be transit-oriented in everything we do. Warehouses are a wonderful addition because they do bring jobs to those who work there. However, we know that traditionally having some warehouses that are far from the common roadways. A shuttle would be really beneficial to encourage light rail usage. I would like to see that shuttle component as part of the condition,” Fiermonte explained.
“We need to work with our city professionals and come back with traffic reports before the phasing. It would be highly encouraged that was not e-commerce. It does not seem like that’s a guarantee.”
“I like the project. I like the idea. I think it’s’ very modern and a good aesthetic,” Commissioner Ahmed Lack said, saying he got the feel that it would revitalize the area.
Board Counsel Richard Campisano said they need to formulate language on the shuttle to the light rail and an outer roadway, which is still in development.
The planning board approved the measure unanimously (6-0).