As a longtime Sparta resident, I have thoughts about the proposed and approved mega warehouse distribution center to be built in Sparta, NJ. This would be one of New Jersey’s largest at 880,000 square feet. The development would be tied for second tallest in the state at 56 feet. At 49.28 million cubic feet, this warehouse is one of the largest (in terms of volume) on the east coast. The 56-foot clear height brings into question structural safety, worker safety and primarily fire safety.
The optimal warehouse industry utilization rate is between 25-27%. Imagine the toxins that a warehouse storing 12.32 million cubic feet (49.28 million cubic feet multiplied by a 25% utilization rate) of goods (paper, plastics, metals and even toxic red label chemicals) a fire would release. In the event of a fire, would the Sparta Fire Department be able to handle a 20-acre building filled with 12.32 million cubic feet of material? All the fire departments in Sussex and Morris County combined would be hard pressed to control such a catastrophic event.
This warehouse (at 14 miles from I-80) would be located at over 10 miles farther from any interstate highway than all other similar size buildings on the east coast. The average distance from all warehouses on the east coast to an Interstate is less than two miles.
While the developer has not announced a tenant or even multiple tenants, they do anticipate the warehouse will be “rail oriented” with two to three box cars per day moving freight. Using this thesis, they obtained the permission to build a monstrous facility.
A simple calculation says it will take over 2,352 rail cars (at 5,238 cubic foot per box car) to stock the building to the industry standard 25% utilization (and 2,352 rail cars to distribute all the goods), all on one small rail spur into the site. It would take 784 days with two to three rail cars per day to stock the warehouse. This will never happen without another method of transportation to move goods.
Using a simple calculation once again, utilizing 3,390 cubic feet in an average tractor trailer load, it would take 3,634 tractor trailer trucks to stock the warehouse and ultimately an additional 3,634 tractor trailer trucks to distribute the goods. This is an additional 7,268 tractor trailers on Sussex County roads. A good warehouse inventory turnover ratio is between five and 10 for most industries, which indicates that you sell and restock your inventory every one to two months. On an annual basis, using a conservative turnover ratio of seven, there would be 50,876 additional tractor trailer truck trips on Sussex County roads each year. No wonder there are 191 Truck Bays and one railway ramp.
To be fair, the developer anticipates two to three rail cars per day, which would reduce the annual additional truck traffic in Sussex County headed to and from Sparta by 9% or from 50,876 annual tractor trailer trips to 46,297 tractor trailer truck trips or 178 +/- trucks on the road per weekday. The result of this mega warehouse will include a much greater tractor trailer truck presence in and around all of Sussex County as a whole, not just Route 15. Hundreds of trucks a day will emit pollution and jam our county roads as they travel to and from the warehouse and while idling waiting to enter or leave the facility. Trucks will be idle on the already busy Route 15/Lafayette Road. Imagine 20-50 tractor trailers idling on Houses Corner Road or snaking up Demarest Road. With I-80 the closest Interstate at 14 miles away, you could assume many of the 50,876 annual truck trips will originate from I-80 in Wharton. But thousands of truck trips will wind through all Sussex County towns.
There will be more accidents on the roadways. What happens when traffic or an accident (reported via WAZE or Google Maps) reroute I-80 to Rt. 15 tractor trailer traffic off 15 North down Woodport Road through the jug handle and onto Sparta Avenue to 181 or Sussex Mills Road? This issue is not just a Route 15 traffic concern. Sparta and Sussex County will be a less desirable location to live and raise a family. The tax revenue some of the Town Council is seeking, could likely never make up for the loss in tax revenue due to decreased Sparta home values.
The above analysis suggests the rail orientation of the warehouse will be: 9% rail and 91% truck. I do not believe this is what the Sparta Town Council Rail Oriented Ordinance was meant to deliver.
Half the Sparta town leaders appear to be working to stop this mammoth complex, the other half appear to be in bed with the developer. Several officials are very eager for the tax revenue. Rather than reduce Sparta’s high taxes, the officials have plans to spend it already!!