Phillipsburg Municipal Building sign generic town council

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. – Phillipsburg's land use board began a public hearing Thursday night for a proposed warehouse to be built on the lot at 170 Howard St.

The hearing took place over Zoom at the board's reorganization meeting and was carried over from the previous year's discussion.

Mayor Todd Tersigni, Chairman William Duffy and Rob Bengivenga recused themselves from the discussion, and Bernard Brotzman was absent, so Tony Austin stepped in as alternate to allow the board to make quorum.

The proposal calls for a 420,000-square-foot warehouse with 88 loading bays and parking for 352 cars. The warehouse would be 1,200 feet long and sit on the 30-acre property between Howard Street and the tracks of the Belvidere & Delaware River Railway.  

There was some disruption early in the evening around 7:40 p.m. when the meeting was "Zoom bombed" by someone sharing pornographic video clips. It took about 10 minutes to block the offending accounts and resume the meeting.

Vice Chairman Keith Zwicker said such occurrences are why he'd like to see a return to in-person meetings "as soon as possible." The meetings, he said, are "very important to the town, very important to a lot of people," and residents should not have their time wasted by offensive content.

Once order was restored, Michael Perrucci, head of Peron Construction, discussed his difficulties in developing the property, which he has owned since 2006. 

Originally, he said, he wanted to build housing, but "after 15 years, I cannot get residential off the ground on this property."

He said part of the difficulty in getting anyone to invest in residential development is the location, which is surrounded by commercial space and abuts a shooting range at one end.

He said the warehouse could bring 200-300 jobs to the area and would be accessible on foot from homes or public transit stops, making potentially well-paying jobs accessible to those who do not own cars.

Perrucci said he understood that one of the main concerns was how much traffic the warehouse development could potentially bring to the South Main Street corridor.

He said most expected traffic would be entering and exiting from McKeen Street and heading east towards Interstate 78, away from Union Square. To facilitate that, he has bought property on the corner of McKeen Street and South Main Street, which would allow for widening of the intersection.

Perrucci's attorney, Mark Peck, said that under the current plan, there would be no extension of Howard Street. The properties on the eastern end of the property are not for sale, he said, so his client would not be able to extend the road even if he wanted to.

The traffic engineer for the project, John Wichner, said the warehouse proposal would likely result in far less additional traffic than a residential development, and a warehouse of the size proposed would average one truck entering or exiting every 8-15 minutes during peak times.

The hearing was carried because of time constraints, and will continue at another meeting on Jan. 27, when there will be time for public comment.

During the reorganization portion of the meeting, William Duffy and Keith Zwicker were voted chair and vice chair, respectively, of the land use board.

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