Hopewell Twp. May Allow Chemical Manufacturing at Bristol-Myers Squibb

June 21st, 2019

Last week, the Hopewell Township Planning Board considered a proposal to change the zoning for Bristol-Myers Squibb Hopewell Campus near the Stony Brook, and the Elm Ridge Park, Princeton Farms, Willow Creek neighborhoods and The Watershed Institute and would allow “production” (i.e. manufacturing) in the fields of chemistry, pharmacology, medicines, and other products. The proposal would also allow this 433-acre property to be subdivided into multiple 20-acre lots to facilitate several manufacturing operations on the site.

The Planning Board found the proposed change in zoning to be INCONSISTENT with the Township’s Master Plan  —  the land is currently zoned for office, research, and agricultural uses (the property hosts Kerr’s Korn Stand).

The town’s Master Plan has been applauded for its focus on “Protecting and maintaining the prevailing rural character and sense of place.” Despite acknowledging that the proposal violates the Master Plan, the Township’s Planning Board recommended that the Township Committee adopt the proposed zoning change; the committee could act as soon as June 24.

The proposed ordinance would allow as many as 90 48-foot trucks and semitrailers of chemicals and other compounds to access the site in a single day (“3 [48-foot] vehicles per day when measured on a monthly basis”) and 350 20-foot trucks of these materials in a day (“50 [20-foot vehicles] per day when averaged over a typical weekly basis”).

Chemical spill on Rt. 18 in Colt’s Neck, NJ. Image credit: Asbury Park Press, EvaJo Alvarez, 2018.

The Watershed Institute believes that the proposed change would be a mistake and is concerned about the potential for chemical spills, unintentional discharges, traffic congestion, and other impacts. We are encouraging the Township Committee to table this proposal. If a buyer for the BMS site comes forward, the town should have the opportunity to evaluate its specific proposal for the site, not approve in advance a vaguely worded zoning change with unknowable consequences from unknown companies. At the very least, the Township Committee should delay action until more information is available and neighboring communities have had an opportunity to consider the proposal.

Please attend the Township Committee’s meeting scheduled for Monday, June 24 at 7:00 pm in the Municipal Building, 201 Washington Crossing-Pennington Road and let the committee know your concerns.

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