Warehouse Update: Exxon does a focus group. How about lots of affordable housing?

While it’s not clear whether ExxonMobil is still pursuing plans to build massive warehouses on its roughly 800-acre corporate headquarters site in Clinton Township, the company seems to be planning to build something. On March 20, Exxon conducted a focus group meeting of around 10 township residents who participated in an “important discussion which will help guide ExxonMobil on the future of their property located in the [sic] Clinton Township.”

It is unknown whether the mayor or township council are aware of the focus group meeting. It is unknown whether Mayor Brian Mullay is still holding secret talks with Exxon.

What’s to be done on the Exxon site?

exxon-focus-groupIn the past two years Exxon has been told by large numbers of citizens that they oppose multiple proposals by the company to sell its property to warehouse developers, one of which was planning in excess of 4 million square feet of warehouse space.

Sometime last year, a State of New Jersey open-space funding source reportedly started negotiations with Exxon to acquire and preserve the bulk of the property. The site is desirable for preservation for, among other things, its prime farmland and wildlife habitat.

Who decides?

Residents from around the township were contacted by phone by a representative who said she was with “National Focus Group.” Later they received an e-mail with details about the meeting, which was held at TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Clinton on Wednesday evening, March 20, attendee Gerry Boylan told ExMayor.com. (The e-mail did not come from the firm’s domain but from a Gmail address.)

Participants were told Exxon “wants to get rid of 500 acres” of its property and were asked what they would like to see constructed. When a question was raised about limestone beneath the property, the facilitator said the limestone area is small.

The facilitator did not disclose negotiations about preservation of the land or that option.

Focus groups are commonly used to create “data” that can be used to later suggest “this is what people say they want.” Sure is easier than taking a project plan to the planning board!

Do you prefer red, or green?

A site map of the property was displayed and attendees were given red and green sticky dots and asked to place green dots on the map to indicate areas where they would prefer to see development and red dots on areas where they think there should be none.

An attendee took a photo of the map with permission of the facilitator. “Out of Scope” indicates areas where Exxon’s own buildings stand and areas the company does not plan to develop .


During discussion, attendees asked about use of the site for office space and scientific or research facilities. Some attendees said they opposed warehouses because they would generate enormous numbers of truck trips. Two attendees said they wouldn’t mind “affordable housing” if it were for moderate-income, but not for low-income, residents.

An affordable housing “solution?” Shhh…

Among the most profitable development projects in New Jersey today are warehouses and affordable housing.

The facilitator did not mention that preservation of the land is an option, but did suggest that attendees should not discuss the focus group meeting with anyone.

It seems Exxon may be queuing up a massive affordable housing proposal that would be presented as the answer to a forthcoming enormous new “obligation” that may be assigned to the township. It would require a change of use of the site by the planning board.

In multiple settlement agreements over recent years the mayor and council have committed Clinton Township to approve and build hundreds of new affordable housing units. (See Mayor Higgins’ 51-second, 805 housing-unit massacre and Fake News: Amended settlement is a “win-win” with less “financial risk”! (NOT!). Recent state legislation suggests Clinton Township’s new obligation will be in the thousands. (See video.)

Plans for any development would have to conform to the township’s zoning, or Exxon would have to apply for use variances. The site is constrained by large limestone deposits which would limit development. The site is also constrained because it is within the Highlands Planning Area, particularly because Clinton Township has opted to conform to the Highlands Regional Master Plan.

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