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Bayonne warehouse project approved despite objection by IMTT

The plans by Atlantic Cement call for a new warehouse and silo

An aerial view looking toward the southwest facade of the planned building. Renderings by Pratt Design Studio.

The Bayonne Planning Board has approved a new warehouse project, amid other recent industrial redevelopment approvals.

The board voted to approve the project at its August 9 meeting after many months of postponements. The application was presented to the board by attorney for the redeveloper Lisa John-Basta.

The redeveloper is Atlantic Cement Realty, LLC for the site at 6 Commerce Street. Francesco Alessi of the Alessi Organization is a principal owner of the company. The site is in the Constable Hook section of Bayonne, at the end of Commerce Street bordering the Kill Van Kull. 

Site plan specifics

The site currently exists with a truck and marine cement terminal, including a set of eight 155 foot storage silos connected to a conveyor and steel walkway over the water of Kill Van Kull to a tower and three moorings in the water, and 10 parking spaces. 

The development includes a boat ramp and a one-story office. The material conveyor, walkways, and moorings are located in the water. Atlantic Cement will demolish the office and other aspects of the site to make way for the planned improvements.

The redeveloper was granted preliminary and final site plan approvals to construct a two-story 13,016 square foot warehouse building, including 1,538 square feet of office space on the first floor and 3,000 square feet of “gallery” or office space on the second floor, with a roof terrace and other improvements.

The building will be accessed via the drive-in dock door or the overhead dock door on the west side of the building. On the roof adjacent to the second floor office space, there will be a terrace for outdoor activity for the employees and a pergola.

The boat ramp will be repaired and will remain. Additionally, a smaller gangway leading to a mooring device will be used in support of the warehouse building that will be used for marine support activities.  

There will be a loading dock and a drive-in door for the warehouse on the southern portion of the site. Additionally, the improvements will see the repair and replacement of the revetment along the Kill Van Kull. 

There are 29 planned parking spaces for the site. An additional mooring will be added at the end of Commerce Street with a gangway leading to it and a mooring device. The second phase of the project entails the construction of an 185 foot silo. Preliminary and final site plan approval was also sought for that.

Currently, the site is a marine-based type use warehouse, with the majority of deliveries or storage items coming by water. The plans call for it stay that way. Deliveries arrive at the warehouse via the water. Trucks enter the site, load up at the warehouse or silos, then loop around to exit. 

It is estimated that the site will employee two for the cement use and five for the warehouse use. However, the number of warehouse employees may vary depending on the final configuration of the building.

An aerial view looking toward the northeast facade of the planned building.

IMTT objects to site plans

Prior to the presentation, attorney for International-Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT) Kenneth McPherson raised concerns about the project regarding a mooring easement included in the redevelopment area and the notice by the redeveloper for the public hearing. 

“The notice that was provided by the applicant is now eight months old and did not provide to all the properties in the area,” McPherson said. “Beyond that, the property that is the subject of this hearing… includes property that’s not owned by the applicant but is owned by our client. This is an easement for use that the applicant’s going to use as part of their development. This is a dolphin mooring at the edge of the property.” 

McPherson said the easement dates back to 2004 and allows the applicant to use the mooring on the dock on IMTT’s property “in furtherance of their operations.” 

“The applicant is proposing something that’s adding to their development and therefore could be impacting their use of our property,” McPherson said. “When you have an easement, you’re supposed to notice on the easement property. That includes our property… That wasn’t done here.” 

McPherson referenced court cases to make his point, then asked for a postponement. According to McPherson, IMTT was not asked to consent to this application, which he said is usually the case “when you have a relationship such as this when you’re dealing with commercial boats, in this case ships coming in.”

This is a very cohesive area,” McPherson said. “One thing affects the next. I’m just not sure if you want something to go ahead the neighboring property not having a good feeling for it.”

Applicant counters

In response, John-Basta countered: “The easement that has been referenced is completely outside the board’s jursidiction.” She argued that the area in mention in the easement was outside the jurisdiction of the Planning Board.

“The area that was where the existing easement is that’s in dispute is located within a New Jersey regulated waterway,” John-Basta said. “It is not within the jurisdiction of the Planning Board… The easement area… relates to a dolphin that’s in the waterway. It’s not on land.” 

John-Basta added that notice only had to provided to those who neighbor the property on land. She said that notice was provided to neighbors as recent as July.

A rendering of the perspective view from the water.

John-Basta also refuted the idea that IMTT was unaware of the plans. She also countered the idea that IMTT needed to consent to the project because Atlantic Cement has been designated the redeveloper. 

“To say that this was surprised or completely sprung on IMTT is completely inaccurate,” John-Basta said. “There have been multiple discussions with my client and IMTT over the course of the years.”

Chairwoman Karen Fiermonte asked Board Counsel Richard Campisano for his opinion. Campisano said that this late into the process he would defer to the applicant to move forward, but added that he recently discussed things with Consulting City Engineer Andrew Raichl who said that the “land use applications are restricted to the land.”

Campisano ultimately sided with John-Basta: “I think the representations made by Ms. John-Basta with regard to the jurisdiction are correct. I think we can go forward.” 

Board decides to hear application

The board unanimously agreed with no objections. John-Basta then moved forward with the presentation, first hearing testimony from project engineer Samuel Renauro and project architect Brendan Leadbeater. Leadbeater the improvements will modernize the industrial site and utilize the waterfront.

“Our applicant here is not only adaptively reusing, but modifying the site and modernizing the site in an effective way, taking advantage of this great resource and this asset that the city has with the waterway that surrounds the city as a whole,” Leadbeater said. 

Among the planned improvements, the site will be raised four to five feet. Improvements to Commerce Street are planned that will require additional approvals from the city to work in the right-of-way. 

“One of the main purposes of this application is to consolidate the existing structures on site and also to create a safer and more resilient site that will be resilient to future storms such as Superstorm Sandy,” Renauro said. “We want to raise Commerce Street, make it a little more resilient as well.”

The project will see work begin with the new warehouse then the new silo. The existing silos will remain in operation while the proposed silo is constructed, according to Renauro. Project planner John McDonough said that salvageable silos will remain: “the intent is to reuse the silos to extent practical.”  

“Phase One would include the construction of the proposed warehouse and commercial building that will provide support for marine uses, and it provides storage,” Renauro said. “There is associated parking with that building. Then for Phase Two, the proposed silo is on the western-ly portion of the site, 185 feet in height.”

A rendering of an aerial view looking towards the southeast facade of the building.

Variances were granted for the six-foot tall fence height and to allow for barbed wire. There will be no sidewalks or bike racks, which also required a design waiver. There will be street trees however, and a monument sign at the entrance. Garbage collection will be handled by a private hauler with an area for trash and recycling at the entrance.

The redeveloper will be paying in lieu of constructing a waterfront walkway, per the redevelopment agreement, John-Basta said. In addition, the redeveloper agreed to all other asks by the board and board professionals.

Future site operations

Commissioner Thomas Maiorano also asked how the site works, to which Alessi explained that it was for powder cement only. Cement comes into the marine terminal, then is exported by truck. 

“One component of concrete operation known as Portland cement,” Alessi said. “It’s brought in by a marine vessel, either ship or barge, that would moor up against the site in the waterway. Then the cement is transferred into those silos and then would go out by an outside hauler. A third party trucking compnay would come and pick up at that facility. There’s significant queing for trucks waiting in anticipation of getting loaded.”

According to Alessi, the site would see the continued adaptive reuse as a marine terminal, noting that they have been working with IMTT. Todd Heuer, the Vice president of Hudson County Building and Trades asked Alessi if he would enter into a labor agreement for the project.

Alessi said that this proposal was made on behalf of tenant, and that he cannot speak on behalf of them. But in the past, Alessi said they have used local trades and are in support of them when applicable.

LaFarge Holcim is going to be operating the facility. There will also be another tenant for the space which hasn’t been picked yet.  

In conclusion, John-Basta said: “This is going to revitalize this property, that was formerly designated as an area in need, with a new development proposal advancing the goals of the redevelopment plan.”

The Planning Board then voted unanimously to approve the application. The board will meeting for a special meeting on August 22 and then again for its regular meeting on September 13. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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